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Mobilizing Knowledge

Geography graduate student Ibrahim Lacin is researching the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on human mobility patterns. Lacin’s research project investigates Michigan communities’ response to the pandemic and seeks to explain why human mobility varies from community to community. Using his knowledge of geography, he is creating a dashboard, or a visual display of data, to understand the connection between human movement and socio-demographic characteristics, like age, race, and ethnicity. 

To create the dashboard, he gathers human mobility data collected from cell phones in Michigan. Lacin organizes and analyzes the data so he can develop a better understanding of the relationships at play. Lacin’s data visualization method helps him understand how COVID-19 restrictions, like social distancing and the stay-at-home order, impact the frequency with which individuals leave home. Before beginning his study, Lacin speculated variation in mobility patterns would relate to an individual’s circumstances. Some may be equipped with high-speed internet to work from home, while others must go into the office to complete their work. Some can afford grocery delivery, while others must travel to the store. His dashboard can help explain how geographic location and socio-economic factors, such as income and education, further contribute to the pandemic’s impact on human mobility. 

While data gathering and analysis is a time-consuming, tedious task, Lacin pushes forward to deepen our understanding of the COVID-19 restrictions’ impact on mobility, economic activities, and communities. By the end of his study, he also hopes to more fully understand the spatial patterns of disease transmission. With this knowledge, public health experts could tailor risk communication accordingly and better protect Michigan communities.  

At CMU We Do Research, We Do Real World

Story by ORGS intern Brittney Rudat

May 2021