Designing for infectious disease and COVID-19 research
Laura Halverson’s MSOE journey has taken her from a rural town outside Green Bay, Wisconsin to the forefront of the fight to defend against COVID-19.
Halverson, a 1995 graduate from the architectural engineering program, is using her MSOE education to design mechanical systems protecting researchers who could be directly exposed to the virus causing COVID-19 as they work to find a vaccine.
In her current role as a principal at Affiliated Engineers Inc. Halverson’s work focuses on laboratory design and projects that support research for infectious diseases, cancer and many other health and social issues. She said it’s been a rewarding career knowing that lifesaving medications, vaccines and therapies are discovered at these facilities.
In late February when the outbreak of COVID-19 was starting to spread in the U.S., Halverson started working with a client on a laboratory concept for high pathogen influenza as part of a grant for the National Institutes of Health. However, as the landscape of the pandemic quickly grew her team turned the focus of that project to COVID-19 and the system designs required to prevent Laboratory Acquired Infections.
Halverson says the HVAC systems being designed for the laboratory will provide 100% exhaust for the lab space. It will also include an effluent decontamination system that will collect and treat all liquid waste from the lab. The mechanical design will also provide a barrier that is designed to support the safety of the researchers working in the lab.
Despite the challenges evolving each day in the fight to contain the COVID-19, Halverson remains positive about the scientific work being done to find a solution.
“It is easy to look at things in retrospect and say what you or others should have done differently but we should also recognize the effort being put in by the scientific community. Everyone is pulling together, and the sharing of research is unprecedented. I expect we will see changes in lab design and health care design in the future specifically for respiratory viruses."