COVID-19 Research Conducted by ASU Honors Alumnus Tyshawn Ferrell

This summer, an Albany State University honors alumnus conducted coronavirus research at the University of Texas at Austin in Austin, Texas. Before graduating last fall, Tyshawn Ferrell, a biology major from Atlanta, Georgia, participated in the university’s Cyberinfrastructure Research for Social Change Research Experience for Undergraduates Program which was held from June 8 to August, 2020. 

Tyshawn Ferrell

Only ten undergraduate students throughout the nation were selected to participate in the virtual program. Students gained skills in advanced programming and problem solving and conducted cutting-edge research in engineering, science, and computational medicine. Research projects emphasized advanced computing as a tool to power discoveries that will impact social change for future generations.


Ferrell examined the viral infection trait of COVID-19, which allows the virus to enter into cells and thus initiate infection. The examination of the trait is instrumental in targeting an antiviral treatment. Specifically, Ferrell examined the trait in animals. Identification of the trait in animals can prevent infection of domesticated animals that come into contact with large human populations. Ferrell used data from online protein databanks, and processed it using Texas Advanced Computing Center resources, including Frontera—the 7th largest supercomputer in the world.

 “I will always value the fact that I had the opportunity to examine an aspect of COVID-19 that could potentially affect treatment,” said Ferrell. “I was honored to be a participant.”

The director of the ASU Honors Program, Dr. Florence Lyons said, “During his time at ASU, Tyshawn was an exceptional student and we are very proud of his research and its substantial impact.” 

During the program, Ferrell presented his research at a virtual symposium where scientists from the Center for Disease Control and University of Texas professors provided valuable feedback.