University of Oulu research related to the coronavirus pandemic

The effects of the corona pandemic extend to all sections of society. Researchers at the University of Oulu have made numerous new research openings amid the corona situation. We respond to common challenges and want our expertise and research results to be available and actively used.
Close-up picture of pipetting in bio-medicine laboratory

Medicine, diagnostics, health

New, affordable and quick diagnostic test for COVID-19 and other virus infections

Principal investigator: Professor Simo Saarakkala, Project manager Lassi Rieppo

A new, rapid diagnostic test will be developed to detect coronavirus infection from respiratory secretion samples. The test is based on infrared spectroscopy and the development of the test makes use of artificial intelligence. The advantages of the new test include rapidity, ease of use and affordability. Once finished, the test may significantly increase the testing capacity associated with coronavirus infection from the current one. Later on, the method will be easily applied to other viral infections as well.

Stage of the study: Advanced


Principal investigator: Dr Florence Naillat in collaboration with VTT and University of Oulu (Dr Henrikki Liimatainen, Professor Seppo Vainio, Ilkka Kaisto VTT)

Today, better diagnostic tests are needed on the market for early detection of coronavirus infection. Towards such strategy, a novel genetic test will be developed based on nucleic acid detection using respiratory secretion samples. Such test will be highly sensitive, reproducible and easy to use because it does not require any sample preparation beforehand. Providing mass testing is one of our targets and based on the characteristics of this test we should deliver the results within few hours. Such rapid diagnostic test will open new door to any other diagnostic tests for viral and bacterial infections. The project is funded by European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

Stage of the study: Finished

Coronavirus infection during pregnancy

Principal investigator: Adjunct Professor Terhi Tapiainen

The research provides new information on the effects of antenatal coronavirus infection on pregnancy, risk for preterm birth and health of the newborn.

Stage of the study: started 

Deep Immune cell characterization to identify a sub-population of immune cells to be predictive of poor response to SARS-CoV-2 infection

Principal investigator: Associate Professor Zhi Jane Chen

Immune responses are critical in SARS-CoV-2 virus infection. Deep analysis of single cell protein expression to characterize immune cell population changes in different stages of SARS-CoV-2 infection will provide essential information for precision treatment and determine strategies for vaccine development.

Stage of the study: Not started 

Female health survey 1986

Principal investigator: Professor Terhi Piltonen

To assess stress levels and family planning related to COVID-pandemic. We will invite 4500 women for a clinical check-up. 

Stage of the study: The data collection has started in 05/2020.

Biobanks as a sample collecting infrastructure for the whole COVID-19 research community

Principal investigator: Adjunct Professor Raisa Serpi 

The susceptibility of individuals to the most severe forms of COVID-19 varies depending on age, some chronic illnesses, life style habits and/or genetic factors. As there are many potential leads, large enough sample collections from individuals affected by COVID-19 are fundamental for research. In the biobank concept, samples and data is collected based on informed broad patient consent and the collected samples can be used for a variety of future research needs, thus making the use of resources cost-effective. The samples in biobank will be widely available to the academic and industrial partners for studies that deal with various aspects of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the COVID-19 epidemic.

Stage of the study: Ongoing

Novel early stage diagnostics, vaccination and anti-viral therapies against SARS-CoV-2

Principal investigator: Professor Seppo Vainio

Obtaining very early stage non - invasive diagnostic capasity for SARS-CoV-2 and a novel platforms to proactively develop therapeutic tool box. The research project includes in the Academy of Finland’s Flagship Programme GeneCellNano.

Stage of the study: Started  

Antibody response in COVID-19 patients in the Kainuu region

Principal investigator: professor Vesa Virtanen

The project is a collaboration with Kainuu Social Welfare and Health Care Joint Authority. The goal of the study is to gain knowledge about the formation of anti-corona antibodies and about the duration of the response in patients who have had the COVID-19 disease. One of the main objectives is also to study the possible impact of high age on the antibody response. In addition, the effect of vaccination on anti-corona antibodies will be studied both in healthy persons and persons who have had COVID-19 previously.

Stage of the study: Ongoing

The biopsychosocial consequences of Covid-19 pandemic in the Northern Finland Cohorts   

Principal investigator: Professor Sylvain Sebert

Researchers from the University of Oulu have started to examine the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the members of the Northern Finland Birth Cohort born in 1966. The study includes an online survey and cognitive performance tests. The survey collects information on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the subjects’ everyday life, health behaviour, social relationships, economy and working life as well as their mental health and quality of life. The cognitive tests are used to measure memory and learning. The members of the cohort have been followed through life, and there is already a wealth of research data and samples of the subjects. All of this provides a great starting point for investigating the impact of the pandemic on the development of health and well-being from a life-cycle perspective.

Stage of the study: Started

Six-month Survival after Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation for Severe COVID-19

Principal investigator: Professor Fausto Biancari, Professor Tatu Juvonen

This is a multicenter study including 132 patients (mean age 51.1±9.7 years) who were treated with extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) for severe COVID-19-related acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) at ten European centers. ECMO treatment was performed for a mean of 14.6±11.0 days. Sixty-three (47.7%) patients died on ECMO and 70 (53.0%) during the index hospitalization. Six-month all-cause mortality was 53.0%. Age > 60 years and arterial pH < 7.23 were associated with increased risk of 6-month mortality. This study showed that about half of adult patients with severe COVID-19-related ARDS can be successfully managed with ECMO with sustained results at 6-month. Decreased arterial pH before ECMO and advanced age were significantly associated with mortality. 

Link to research publication: Six-month Survival after Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation for Severe COVID-19

Stage of the study: Ended

Virus disinfection and contact tracing

Self-disinfected nanopatterned surface

Principal investigator: Associate Professor Wei Cao

Contaminated surfaces are contagious but easily overlooked transmitters. An ever-clean surface is critical to prohibit virus transmission and keep a virus-free ambience. This project is aimed to realized self-disinfected clean surfaces by introducing 3 folders virus removals via hydrophobic detachment, porous screening, and photocatalytic disinfection. It benefits surface engineering, synthetic materials, and clean energy applications. The nanopatterned surface provides clean and common media where virus will hardly stay and thrive. 

Stage of the study: Not started


Principal investigator: Associate Professor, Academy of Finland Research Fellow Denzil Ferreira

Create a private, cross-platform, decentralised mobile application for contact tracing, allowing health authorities to notify quickly potential risk of exposure without revealing one's identity.

Stage: Started

Social and societal effects, learning

“This doesn’t concern me” Distance, relationality and responsibility amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic

Principal investigator: Post-doctoral research fellow Johanna Sitomaniemi-San

This philosophically, theoretically, and historically oriented project examines the cultural politics of concern amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. The project attends to concern as a spatial and relational question that plays out, for example, in cultural negotiations around pandemic solidarity and disregard, such as when it is suggested that “we’re all in this together” or “this doesn’t concern me”. Through a Foucauldian genealogical approach, the project engages a problematics of distance to examine the historical conditions of possibility for us to relate to the pandemic as something of concern and of relevance.

Stage of the study: Ongoing

Urban Planning as Means for Pandemic Prevention (RECIPE)

Principal investigator: professor Helka-Liisa Hentilä

Despite many previous and recent pandemic outbreaks in urban areas and rapid global urbanization, consideration of infectious disease prevention in urban planning has largely been neglected. The RECIPE project explores the role of urban living environments and the potential of urban planning in anticipation and prevention of infectious diseases and thus pandemic outbreaks. The project is funded by the Strategic Research Council at the Academy of Finland.

Stage of the study: Started

Dealing with pandemic in local, national and global contexts: COVID-19 responses, politics and history in Sub-Saharan Africa

Principal Investigator: Adjunct Professor Markku Hokkanen
The research will integrate the study of COVID-19 with histories of epidemics (including Ebola, HIV/Aids and Spanish influenza), politics, medicine and healing in Africa and its global connections. We ask 1) how local, national and transnational agencies interact in responses to COVID-19 in sub-Saharan Africa, 2) how responses are informed or shaped by knowledge and interpretations of past epidemic experiences, and 3) what can be learned from histories of disease, medicine and politics during the current pandemic.  

Stage of the study: Ongoing (Sub-project funding period 1.8.2020-31.12.2021. Research ongoing as part of “Mobile healers, politics and development in Sub-Saharan Africa”-project /Academy of Finland, 2019-2023)

Economic Resilience (EconRe) 

Principal investigator: Associate professor Jaakko Simonen

How can we take advantage of the opportunities offered by technology to strengthen our ability to adapt to various shocks that shake the economy, such as the COVID-19 pandemic? Our research focuses on regional resilience and how digital technologies and humans co-create socio-economic development. We study how people, communities and societies can be made stronger and more resilient as they use and develop intelligent and digital technologies. Resilience research team is focusing specifically on how resilience is realized at regional, organizational and individual levels. How human resilience is impacted by technological development and what potential roles new technologies can play in the development of resilience, especially in labor markets? We also study the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the recovery processes in the Arctic regions, especially in the Arctic 5 cities.

The research team is actively working within the University of Oulu profiling theme Generation Z and beyond: Co-evolution of human capabilities and intelligent technologies in the 21st century (GenZ). 

Stage of the study: Ongoing (started 1.3.2020)

When does strategic learning matter?  Temporal analysis on high school students’ regulated learning

Principal investigator: Assistant Professor Jonna Malmberg

The project aims to identify what self-regulatory processes are needed for learning success in individual and collaborative learning. The main idea is to collect multichannel digital learning data and use process analysis methods that can elucidate markers of self-regulated learning success.  The project provides practical ideas for the development of learning activities in ways that foster students’ awareness of their regulated learning. Thus, it provides learners opportunities to develop their own learning skills in a face of challenges.

Stage of the study: Started

Make-a-Difference (AoF)

Principal investigator: Professor Netta Iivari

Make-a-Difference project examines how children of today can be empowered to develop an identity of critical designer and Maker that is pursued by introducing children to the worlds of digital innovation and fabrication as well as critical design and critical making. Collaboration has been established with the City of Oulu and for the next year, three comprehensive schools have been selected, in which the project will address the societal problem of bullying at school, inviting children to act as critical designers and Makers, harnessing design and technology for preventing or decreasing bullying. Currently the impact of COVID-19 on children’s everyday life, their education and their relationship to digital technology is explored. Currently the study is progressing with adult stakeholders, while later on in collaboration with children themselves.

Stage of the study: Ongoing

EmReg – Emotion regulation in secondary school pupils' learning

Principal investigator: Associate Professor Hanna Järvenoja

EmReg project has explored how successful emotion regulation manifests, how it is constituted and how it affects the secondary school students’ learning activities. The importance of emotions among school-aged children became evident already prior to COVID-19, as research has constantly shown that particularly Finnish pupils experience a growing amount of challenges with managing school demands with costs in their wellbeing (e.g. PISA). In the COVID-19 situation, the role of emotion regulation as an integral part self-regulated learning has become more evident than ever as children around the world moved to study from home and, for the big part, by themselves. Understanding the processes of emotion regulation among school-aged children can help prevent challenges, such as drop-out and to develop ways and tools for supporting children’s motivation and self-regulated learning.
The Emreg project (funded by the Academy of Finland) is ending in August 2020. Today, due to the COVID-19, the topic of the project is more current than ever. Both education and work life are adjusting to the new situation with uncertain future prospects. In this light, it would be extremely topical to continue this research, with a special emphasis on the challenges distance learning creates and how existing results could be implemented to support children’s emotion regulation in motivationally challenging situation that calls for self-regulated learning skills. 

Stage of the study: Finished

Researching and supporting socially shared regulation in collaborative learning (SHARP)

Principal investigator: Professor Sanna Järvelä

The aim of the project is to research socially shared regulation (SSRL) in collaborative learning groups and develop solutions to support groups’ regulation. We target trigger regulation situations in collaboration with the help of multimodal methods and make invisible mental cognitive, motivational, and emotional learning processes visible for learners and teachers in order to allow them regulate those processes and learn more efficiently. The study complements current understanding of how people learn successfully in groups and especially in on-line collaboration. 

Jacobs Foundation grant has given to establish the Center for Learning and Living with AI (CELLA) to support international research collaboration in between the LET and Radboud University, The Netherlands, Technical University Munich, Germany; Monash University, Australia and Florida State University, US. The CELLA works on AI and learning which focuses on K-12 education, collaborating with learners, teachers, and companies. The goal is to equip young learners to learn, live, and work in the age of AI. 

Stage of the study: Ongoing

Interactional organisation of break-taking activities and social support in a changing workplace environment (BREAK project)

Principal investigator: University Lecturer Mirka Rauniomaa

The project examined the kinds of interaction and activity that workers engage in during breaks from work as well as the significance that breaks may have for the professional and social community formed by the workers. In the project, data were collected by video recording and observing real-life breaks and by interviewing members of work communities. Among the research interests of the project were various changes in the work environment that also affect the break-taking practices of a work community. For instance, the recommendation to work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic dramatically transformed the break-taking practices of many work communities as taking breaks together moved from break rooms at the workplace to video-mediated virtual spaces. At the same time, the change made visible the significance of shared breaks for workers.

Stage of the study: About to end (April 2022)

Crisis management in a hospital organization during a COVID-19 pandemic

Principal Investigator: Adjunct Professor Outi Kanste

Crisis and exceptional situations bring major changes in the way hospital organizations operate. This requires flexible, resilient, and adaptable management as well as strong management and leadership competence,taking into account digitalization and hybrid work. These themes will be addressed in this project, which will provide information on crisis management and the factors influencing its success, the management and leadership competence required and the work wellbeing of managers during the COVID-19 pandemic. The information can be used in managerial work, strengthening competence and work wellbeing, education, administrative decision-making and further research.

Stage: Ongoing

Technology-rich everyday life

Principal investigator: Associate Professor Marianne Kinnula

Coronavirus has made it very visible that digital technology solutions have an important role in how we manage in our everyday lives. People’s skills and knowledge related to digital technology vary, however: some people lack both devices and skills to use them, whereas for some people digital technologies are comfortable daily tools. This applies to people of different ages and life situations – children at school, students, working people, and elderly. In this research, the main focus is in understanding of how and what kind of skills should be taught to children for them to manage in their technology-rich everyday life now and particularly in the future, as technology is increasingly permeating all parts of our lives. Another focus area of this research are people’s survival strategies in coronavirus time from digital technology viewpoint.

Stage of the study: Ongoing

COVID-19 outbreak media exposure and future travel intentions: A cross-country analysis 

Principal investigator: Assistant Professor Siamak Seyfi  

National responses in coping with the COVID-19 pandemic have triggered media coverage and public concern and comparison across the globe. The perceptions formed towards a particular destination will substantially affect travel intention post pandemic. Through a cross-country analysis of ten countries with different coping strategies, numbers of positive cases and mortality rate, this research sought to investigate the impact of perceptions towards trust, crisis management, health care system, and solidarity on willingness to support a destination and travel intention post pandemic. The project was a collaboration with the researchers in New Zealand, Malaysia and Australia. 

Stage of the study: Finished