Eldesouky’s study is one of 10 research projects the American University in Cairo recently started to fund as part of an effort to support coronavirus-related research in various disciplines, such as physics, biology, psychology, sociology, education and business administration.
The university has allocated a budget of about 25 million Egyptian pounds (about $1.6 million) to support this research, which focuses on serving the Egyptian community and providing sustainable short and long-term solutions to the Covid-19 crisis.
“We can transform our knowledge into a societal value,” said Alaa El-Din Adris, a professor of practice and associate provost for research, innovation and creativity at the American University in Cairo.
Studies of Scientific and Social Topics
Some of the funded projects focus on scientific subjects, such as a study of enzymes that affect the ability of the virus to reach the lungs, in an attempt to explain the pandemic’s prevalence and the difference in mortality rates between the sexes and between Egyptians and people of other countries.
“What we are trying to study now is whether there are genetic mutations in the Egyptian people that lead to fewer infections,” said Anwar Abd Elnaser, an assistant professor and researcher at the AUC’s Institute of Global Health and Human Ecology. “We do this study mathematically based on data from 1,000 healthy Egyptian people and compare it with the genetic map of other peoples.”
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Other research focuses on the social aspects of the health emergency, such as a study on social protection for people facing irregular employment because of the pandemic, another on designing a roadmap for business growth in the time of Covid-19, and another on the response of social media to the pandemic.
“We are currently witnessing a lot of business turmoil and a state of uncertainty, whether at the social or economic level,” said Mohab Anis, a professor of electronics and communications engineering at the American University in Cairo who is in charge of the business-growth study. “We are focusing on studying the forces affecting the private sector in general and the services sector in particular.”
The projects that professors and researchers will undertake at the university were chosen based on several criteria, including an assessment of their potential impact, the quality of the work plan, the realism of the research’s idea, the effectiveness of budget estimates, and the skill set of the team submitting the research proposal, according to Adris, the associate provost for research.
“All this research is working to analyze and understand the effects of the current crisis in a way that helps prepare for the next stage,” he said.
Emphasizing the Importance of Research
Egypt suffers from a lack of resources allocated to research in general. The nation’s spending on research is less than 0.7 percent of its gross domestic product, according to Unesco statistics. That level is contrary to the Egyptian constitution’s stipulation that the percentage should not be less than one percent.