Villanova Faculty Share Their Expertise on the Coronavirus Pandemic


During this unprecedented time with the public looking for the latest accurate and timely information on coronavirus (COVID-19), Villanova University faculty have been active in sharing their expertise on various aspects of the pandemic, including health, psychology, history, education, economy and more.

Below are faculty from across the University who can offer expertise on these areas. To see comments from Villanova's faculty in the news, click on the Experts in the Media tab.

If you're interested in speaking with any of our experts, email and we would be happy to help setup an interview.

Heather Coletti, PhD, Adjunct Professor, Philosophy

“In heteronormative households, women do the overwhelming bulk of caring labor for both children and adults-- the statistics for this are consistent and slow to change. Today, most of these women have full-time jobs as well. When these heads-of-household are both working from home, very consciously trying to prove their value to their employer while working remotely, I think families are going to face very intensely the frustrations of the sexual division of labor over the next few weeks."

Katherine Iacocca, PhD, Assistant Professor, Management

"I don't think that you'll see any issues. In uncertain times like these the human condition causes us the rally together; not exploit for profit. At this time, pharma companies are focused on doing what they can (e.g. work on a vaccine)."

Kevin Minbiole, PhD, Professor, Chemistry

From Insider:

According to Minbiole, soap also helps kill germs because of the polar and nonpolar ends in its molecular structure. The polar end helps soap dissolve in water, and the nonpolar end helps grab oil off your hands and carry it down the sink. It's the nonpolar end that disrupts the outsides of bacteria and viruses, causing them to burst and die. 


Bob Leggiadro, MD, Adjunct Professor, Biology

"It is believed that the virus spreads mainly from person to person among close contacts, which is defined as about six feet, through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Persons are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic."

Libby Mills, MS, RD, LDN, FAND, Registered Dietician, Nursing

Many restaurants are minimizing exposure to the virus by doing exclusively takeout, which can limit your direct person-to-person exposure to just the person handing you the food curbside or at the point of delivery.  The risk with the hand off can be lessened further if you tip electronically.

Doing takeout limits your direct contact with surfaces that could be contaminated, such as door handles, tabletops and menus since ordering can be done from a personal computer or phone.  Though some research has shown that the virus can live on surfaces for up to three days, there are many variables that can shorten its life like time, temperature and exposure to ultra violet light. 

Though there is currently no evidence that the virus is transmitted via food or the packaging, washing your hands before and after unpacking your food delivery and always before eating is a good idea.  Wash the surface where the package sat with soap and water.


Bob Leggiadro, MD, Adjunct Professor, Biology

"Healthcare personnel should care for patients in an Airborne Infection Isolation Room. Standard Precautions, Contact Precautions, and Airborne Precautions with eye protection should be used when caring for the patient."

Melissa O'Connor, PhD, Associate Professor, Nursing

From Parade:

For new or urgent issues, Melissa O’Connor, PhD, a registered nurse and an associate professor at Villanova University's College of Nursing, recommends “calling a Medicare-certified home health agency to request an evaluation by a visiting nurse and/or a physician office that offers home visits.” You can also, she says, consider a telehealth visit, which many home health agencies and some retail pharmacies offer.”


From Bloomberg :

Home-health agencies are telling workers to screen new patients by telephone for Covid-19 symptoms when they call for service and prior to each visit, said Melissa O’Connor, who chairs the board of trustees at the Visiting Nurse Association of Greater Philadelphia. “We’re also telling nurses, if you are not well do not go to work.”

Katherine Luctatoro, DNP, RN, Clinical Assistant Professor, Nursing

“We are cooped up with each other and we didn't ask to be. It is not like a planned family vacation. However, it is being socially responsible in the midst of a very uncertain time and we agree this is what is most important. It is also 'claiming our own work territory' in our small home so we can keep up with our daily work and school demands. It is navigating around each other’s needs and respecting each other in a new way. Home has become the 'office' so we are learning about the daily demands we all experience - and may be cause for coming home in an irritable mood once in awhile.”

“But social isolation is also forcing us to slow down a bit. Beyond catching up on Netflix, we talked about playing games, baking, and doing crafts. We discussed the importance of taking a walk as a way to decrease stress but also a way to enjoy nature and the beauty of the upcoming spring. We all seem to talk about what a fast-paced world we live in. Perhaps there may be a bit of a silver lining in this very tumultuous time. Having to STOP may be the way we learn to enjoy each other's company in a new way, to be more empathic, loving and to prioritize what is most relationships."

Sunny Hallowell, PhD, PPCNP-BC, IBCLC, Assistant Professor, Nursing

"Social distancing does not apply to newborns.  The most effective way to protect a newborn from COVID-19 is to breastfeed.  COVID-19 has not been detected in breastmilk."

"Some hospitals may require mothers to be temporarily separated from their infants if they actively symptomatic with COVID-19 of until their screening test is returned and is negative.  Infants can still benefit from their mothers’ expressed breastmilk, but mothers need to practice vigilant handwashing before and after handling their infant. However, an infected mother can still choose to breastfeed but she should wear a face mask and wash her hands."

Taunya Tinsley, PhD, DMin, NCC, LPC, Assistant Teaching Professor, Counseling

From The Philadelphia Inquirer:
Tinsley, the Villanova professor who is still having virtual sessions with patients of her Paoli practice, Transitions Counseling Service, said there are reasons to be optimistic, even if they may be difficult to find right now.

She worries about people’s mental health during this period of isolation, she said, but she’s also hopeful.

“We’re dealing with a crisis and a traumatic event.,” she said. “Can people be resilient to crisis and traumatic events? Absolutely."

While there’s a lot that people are no longer able to do — including cheer on their favorite sports teams — she said she encourages them to be grateful for what they do have. Perhaps that’s more family bonding time, more time to call people they’ve been meaning to.

Michelle Kelly, PhD, Assistant Professor, Nursing

"I am acutely worried about the mental health of children and adolescents whose lives are already so stressful. Before COVID19 we had asignificant pediatric mental health crisis with limited access to qualified health care providers. Over the next few weeks, as this plays out across America, we will have a significant spike in anxiety and depression in children of all ages. With schools and primary care offices closed, access will reduce further. One solution is to increase access to providers via tele-health – but tele-health visits only work if there is an access point, and a provider on the other end of the line."

Joseph Comber, PhD, Biology, Instructor

"The data indicate that as the virus makes its way into a new area, cases rise incredibly fast. This will put a tremendous strain on the health-care facilities in the United States. Hospitals are already working under tight conditions with number of beds available for patients and an surge in cases will definitely stress the system."

Ruth McDermott-Levy, PhD, Associate Professor, Nursing; Director of Center for Global and Public Health

From: Arise! With Bill Fletcher (March 20)

“This is a pause for us to think about how we’re living, what we’re doing to our planet, how we live within our communities, and how we might think about that differently to prevent more infectious diseases.”

Jie Xu, PhD, Associate Professor, Communication

From Good Housekeeping:

“I suggest signing up for the alert systems provided by your local government," says Jie Xu, Ph.D., professor of communications who conducts public health research at Villanova University in Pennsylvania. "Don’t argue with people on Facebook, which just adds another layer of stress, and consider limiting your time on social media so you avoid misinformation and constant bad news.”


Heather Coletti, PhD, Adjunct Professor, Philosophy

From The Philadelphia Inquirer:

Remember, Coletti said, we’ve never seen a pandemic of this proportion in modern times. It is stressful. There are going to be days when we’re going to sleep in, work straight through without breaks, and stay up until 3 a.m. Netflixin’. And that’s OK. “The best thing we can do is forgive ourselves when we stumble, accept this as our new normal, and treat each other — and ourselves — with grace.”

Zuyi "Jacky" Huang, PhD, Associate Professor, Chemical Engineering

"While vaccines are in clinical trials to trigger human bodies to generate antibodies for combating COVID 19, it is expensive and time-consuming for vaccine development. An economic and efficient therapeutic strategy is to repurpose existing drugs. The scientific community is in a race to develop antiviral agents for the aforementioned steps that are essential for the rapid replication of COVID 19 in human cells. For examples, Arbidol and remdesivir are in clinical trials for testing their capability to prevent viral entry into host cells and inhibit RNA synthesis, respectively. However, these antiviral agents have relatively low binding affinity with their targets."

"Our group at Villanova is implementing computational approaches to identify FDA-approved drugs that can be used to inhibit the functions of known COVID-19 proteases. Identifying effective drugs is like finding the right key for the lock (i.e., COVID-19 proteases). The computational platform developed at Villanova can significantly accelerate the process to identify COVID-19 protease inhibitors. Thirteen compounds along with the common crystal structures have been identified by the Villanova team for inhibiting COVID-19 protease. The Villanova team is seeking clinical collaborators to test the identified compounds and their structures. If succeeds, it will be of great value to help people combat the COVID 19 pandemic."

Beth Vallen, PhD, Associate Professor, Marketing

"I think that this will change the way in which people shop—particularly younger people. We have grown accustomed to having everything we want and need when we want and need it. Out of laundry detergent? It can be delivered to your door the next morning by 9 am. Hungry and not liking what’s in the pantry? A local restaurant will deliver exactly what you crave right to your door. For many, this is the first time we’ve encountered disruptions to the supply chain, and as a result anxiety about not having the things we need (or want). For the first time many families are stockpiling necessary supplies and considering have emergency stores of food—in direct contrast to the just-in-time delivery models upon which we typically rely. I would expect people to approach stockpiling differently in the post-COVID-19 era."

Sutirtha Bagchi, PhD, Assistant Professor, Economics

Dr. Bagchi can discuss how the spike in unemployment is likely to stress state unemployment trust funds, which are largely funded and managed by state governments or how the steep drop in the stock market from its recent highs is going to stress public-sector pension plans even more.  

Kathleen Iacocca, PhD, Assistant Professor, Management

"The supply chains are going to be massively disrupted. But supply chains are a well-oiled machine, living through lean manufactuing, just-in-time, analytical forecating and mass customization. Watch how fast those shelves are restocked given the explosion of demand. Products that can be manufactured will have shortages in the short run, but will recover quickly. Face masks are an example of this. The huge spike in demand now can't be absorbed but the supply chain will rebound quickly. Drugs that are needed will be the same way. The bigger issue is the supply or things that can't be manufactured - like hospital capacity or labor. This shortage is where the real threat lies, because the supply chain cannot help here."

Sutirtha Bagchi, PhD, Assistant Professor, Economics

David Fiorenza, Assistant Professor of Practice, Economics

From NBC Philadelphia:

Villanova Economics Professor David Fiorenza said the uptick makes sense. "We are a very big tourism and hospitality state. We are one of the top states in the country. Restaurants and casinos closed, that's a lot of jobs right there," Fiorenza explained.

According to Investopedia, Pennsylvania's tourism industry provides jobs for 490,000 people.

And those looking for new jobs may encounter another bump in the road.

"Some people have limited skill sets. They also may not be able to telecommute or shift into other industries. They may also have difficulty commuting, since their income levels may not support having a car," Fiorenza said.

Narda Quigley, PhD, Professor, Management

"Upon transitioning back into their regular working lives, women may find themselves further than ever from their next promotion. Organizations must be cognizant of this and understand that there are likely “hidden” ways that women are contributing to their ongoing ability to operate- and without this activity, their ability to continue with business-as-usual would grind to a halt. However, this would require a fundamental, culture-wide rethinking of how we value what types of work in this society, as American cultural norms are so strongly gender-specific."

Michael Moreland, JD, PhD, University Professor of Law and Religion

From Deseret News:

Policies don’t violate religious freedom laws if they’re created in order to save people’s lives, said Michael Moreland, director of the Ellen H. McCullen Center for Law, Religion and Public Policy at Villanova University.

“So long as those restrictions are neutral and applicable to everybody, religious institutions have to abide by them,” he said.

Derek Arnold, Senior Instructor, Communication

"Knowledge is power, even if it's dramatized and misleading because we really want to believe that we invest time reading and watching stories for good reason--they tell the 'truth,' and we were privileged to witness the account of it we saw/read/heard etc. And anything to give us reason to feel better about ourselves, as we are so often not able to possess that kind of power, the more likely we'll buy into these accounts, to blame someone else for our difficulties or just to assure ourselves that we 'know' the truth--so we'll still prize the 'fascinating' over the 'sad'."

"I've also been studying and introducing memes into my classroom teaching. They play really well into conspiracy theories, because they are quick and feed into the people that are already leaning in that political direction to agree with, and that those same people 'get it' as far as the humor/joke/message that 'others,' typically those who don't share the same political or even philosophical leanings, won't get and therefore aren't in on the joke or gain that sense of 'power'." 

Deborah Seligsohn, PhD, Assistant Professor, Political Science

Op-ed in The Washington PostThe U.S.-China collaboration on health collapsed under Trump. This is the cost.

From The Atlantic:

When SARS hit southern China in late 2002, the Bush administration played a crucial role in Beijing’s response. Deborah Seligsohn, a Villanova University political scientist who worked on science and health issues at the U.S. embassy in Beijing from 2003 to 2007, told me that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta sent 40 experts—under the auspices of the World Health Organization—to assist China in battling SARS. “They provided the majority of the international advice in combatting the disease,” Seligsohn said. The Americans helped their Chinese colleagues “create records, do contact tracing, do proper isolation—all the stuff you needed to do.” The effort, she said, “turned out to be strikingly successful.”

Sally Scholz, PhD., Chair, Philosophy

"These students have comforted and supported each other, emphasized the positive aspects of their time together, supported each other during bouts of anxiety and sadness and helped each other to find their way home. In addition, many of my current and former students have sent emails, called or met me on Zoom just to say hello and say they are thinking about me. The emails are wonderful reminders of how open and appreciative students are, even when they don’t always find the words to express it. They have taught me that the many in-person office visits—just to say hello—were not merely greetings, and they most definitely are not simple distractions from their work or mine. They are fundamentally human connections that emphasize the value each of us is to each other. Since they cannot stop by, they have found another way—this generation of “overly connected” students—to express the human side of that connection."

Jill McCorkel, PhD, Professor, Sociology & Criminology

Dr. McCorkel can discuss:

  • Her experience of conducting research in prisons during the 1990's with drug-resistant tuberculosis. 
  • In addition to concerns and shortages of hygiene and protective equipment, there is little to no air circulation in many prisons, particularly new prisons. The close proximity that prisoners are kept in are also a concern for the spread of coronavirus. 
  • Locking down prisons neatively affect prisoners from receiving outside resources (research and education), legal services and visitors. 


Christa Bialka, EdD, Associate Professor, Education

"The biggest issue is that during a school “closure,” the school doesn’t have to provide special education services. There are additional implications (both from functional and systemic standpoints) regarding parents providing academic/emotional support while also having to work remotely—or if the parent still has to physically go to work, but the child is home. In line with so many other issues coming out of the pandemic, equity (or lack thereof) is a huge problem."

Jason Steinhauer, Director, Albert Lepage Center for History in the Public Interest

“Misinformation during the coronavirus pandemic is functioning almost identically to how it operated during other seismic events of the social media era: the 2016 Presidential election, Brexit, etc. There are hundreds of ‘fake news’ websites publishing fictitious stories, and unsubstantiated or misleading content is rapidly circulating through social media.

The structures of the social media platforms and the interconnected nature of the online media environment enable these phenomena time after time. So, at the same time that we think about how to get through this current crisis, this also should be an eye-opener for all of us: Despite the rhetoric against misinformation over the past five years, what actions do we still need to take to ensure information integrity when the next crisis comes?” 

Jie Xu, PhD, Associate Professor, Communication

"With coronavirus we're experiencing the first "infodemic" (a pandemic but from a communication perspective). There is so much misinformation, and the whole thing has been so politicized both here and globally with social media. Social media iss ubiquitous- you cannot avoid it at all unless you're really trying."

"From a mental health perspective it may be good to dial down on your social media activities and all you see and hear is bad news, but at the same time we need info and guidance. We can only rely on what the scientists say. Screen time is going up and up for average Americans and globally as well, also people are…sometimes you are living in a bubble. We tend to socialize and be part of a group with opinions that are similar to ours. You're tying to hear what you want to hear. This reinforces preexisting positions, opinions or ideas you already have. Its hard too beak the cycle which is dangerous, especially if your information is inaccurate."

Sarah-Vaughan Brakman, Ph.D., Professor of Philosophy

"Solidarity is an ethical virtue. It refers to the decision to protect the common good (as opposed to the “greater good” a term that can entail the sacrifice of the good of the few for the good of the many). There is a significant social justice component to solidary here, as the vulnerable and marginalized among us will require assistance so that the common good is protected and promoted. This sense of solidarity rings out loud and clear in Former Vice President Joe Biden’s words from last week’s Democratic primaries speech:  “Keep your social distance to slow the spread of this virus…[it is] a moment where the choices and decisions we make as individuals are going to collectively impact on what happens…We need to work together as Americans…. We are all in this together. [Let’s] look out for our neighbor, to understand the fear and stress so many are feeling. We have to step up and care for one another.”  

"Framing social distancing in this way reinforces our commitment to stay the course for the longer haul. "

Marc Gallicchio, Ph.D, Chair, Department of History

"Presidents find it difficult to require sacrifice from the public. They know that the hard hand of the government will be resented so they try to rely on public coercion and peer pressure, bond rallies, propaganda messages and the like. The trick is to get Americans to think about the general welfare, even if it means personal sacrifice, when the entire economy and popular culture is geared towards telling them they should have what they want. That is a big reason why the United States partially mobilized in the Korean War and refused to call up the reserves and National Guard in the Vietnam War. Recall George W. Bush’s summons to Americans to go shopping."

"Americans were more united in WWII than most of their military ventures. There was no significant antiwar movement as there was in Vietnam and WWI. So WWII was different. But American leaders, notably FDR and General George Marshall constantly worried about losing support from the public if the war dragged on. In fact their strategy for winning the war was based on the assumption that public support was a wasting asset."

Marta Guron, PhD., Professor, Chemistry

"In terms of keeping things clean and sanitized, polymers are easier to clean than other materials. One of the benefits of plastics is that they tend to be relatively smooth and clean. They are engineered to be easy to clean. They are solid. As opposed to getting bacteria trapped in a soft texture (like a couch) if you have a harder plastic they are going to be easier to sanitize. Like in hospitals and healthcare facilities you already see this- there are no rugs, or soft surfaces. I have a feeling that there is going to be a spike in products that are easier to clean."


Kabindra Shakya, PhD, Assistant Professor, Geography and the Environment

From 6ABC:

"In terms of air pollution, there are a lot of different types of pollutants, but it's the ozone," said Kabinda Shakya, an assistant professor of environmental science at Villanova University.

Shakya published a report on air pollution in the city's different neighborhoods last year.

He says the usual high volume of cars is one of the reasons the American Lung Association gave the city an F last year in its annual "State of Air" report.

That's why he says while COVID-19 has been an awful and devastating pandemic, a byproduct of the quarantine is a break for the environment.

"One of the very few positive things we have seen from this COVID-19 is improvement in air quality that has been show in China and Italy," said Shakya.

Hasshi Sudler, Adjunct Professor, Electrical Engineering

"As individuals travel across borders, medical facilities need immutable, trustworthy medical data quickly and electronically. A critical requirement to contain coronavirus is to track any individual having tested positive and to track the health of anyone who has come in contact with that individual, even if those encounters were across borders. The blockchain can be a common source of data that allows medical facilities to share immutable information internationally."

"In the event of a pandemic, misinformation can be extremely dangerous. The public needs a way to confirm official statements made by reputable sources... The blockchain can serve as a means to verify quality advice the public should follow versus false claims the public should disregard."

Ilia Delio, O.S.F., Ph.D., Chair, Christian Theology

"With regard to the coronavirus and surveillance, the Chinese may be better off as they have no problem with technology monitoring their every move, including facial recognition screening and all other types of body surveillance. Confucianism supports this type of surveillance since it maintains many gods watching over every aspect of life. We in the west are having a harder time due to our individualism and right to freedom that we safeguard at all costs.  Our individualism and freedom is costing us in some ways by preventing a type of government regulated surveillance."


Jie Xu, PhD, Associate Professor, Communication

In China, most are supportive of this type of extreme face recognition, and the app that [scans your face and tells you via color ] where you can be going. That would never work in the US, for us that is too much privacy infringement. In China, Confucianism reinforces a collectivist culture. In America we think life is individual- you have sole ownership of your life, but in Chinese culture you tend to think you belong to a bigger family, your life is not your own. Coupled with a one party authoritarian political system and these unprecedented challenges facing people- every culture is different, we need to find out the policies and actions that could be more effective here in the US, because it may be different from what works in China.


For Shut-In Pilgrims, the World’s Holiest Sites Are a Click Away
New York Times (Frank Klassner, Computer Science)


Trump’s Break With China Has Deadly Consequences
The Atlantic (Deborah Seligsohn, Political Science)


So, Now You’re In Video Meetings: The Do’s And Don’ts
Forbes (Joyce E. A. Russell, Management)


Iran uses teleconsultation via WhatsApp to screen, triage for COVID-19
MD Alert (Ruth McDermott-Levy, Nursing)


Social distancing will impact air quality in Philly, experts say
6 ABC (Kabinda Shakya, Environmental Science)


Coronavirus Will Change the World Permanently. Here’s How.
Politco (Mark Lawrence Schrad, Political Science)


Swamped ERs Mean Opportunity and Danger for Home-Care Industry
Bloomberg (Melissa O'Connor, Nursing)


How Philly Catholics will celebrate Easter now that archdiocese has canceled in-person Masses
The Philadelphia Inquirer (Sean McElwee, Campus Ministry)


How to reset your routine, keep your energy up, and stay motivated while social distancing
The Philadelphia Inquirer (Heather Coletti, Philosophy)


We asked an economist about the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus and what his biggest concerns are right now
KYW (David Fiorenza, Economics)


Dear Students
Activist History (Op-ed: Rebecca Makas & William Horne, Augustine and Culture Seminar)


Solidarity and Social Distancing
Catholic Moral Theology (Op-ed: Gerald J Beyer, Theology)


A Timely Model For New Home Buying: Taking The Giant Mark-Ups Out Of Upgrades In A Post- Corona Virus World
Forbes (Op-Ed: Charles Taylor, Marketing)


8 Ways to Support the Local Economy During the Coronavirus Shutdown 
Philadelphia Magazine (David Fiorenza, Economics) 


Yes, the government can force churches to close. Here’s why 
Deseret News (Michael Moreland, Law, Religion & Public Policy)


How to Help Loved Ones Who Have Regular Doctor's Visits During the Coronavirus Outbreak
Parade (Melissa O'Connor, Nursing)


Does soap expire? Yes, but it's likely still effective
Insider (Kevin Minbiole, Chemistry)


What will come in the aftermath of coronavirus for economy? I’d worry about stagflation
CNBC (Victor Li, Economics)


Coping with the coronavirus in sports-crazed Philadelphia: Fans turn to humor, hope, and replays of Eagles’ Super Bowl win
The Philadelphia Inquirer (Taunya Tinsley, Counseling)


Five things church leaders should do about coronavirus
Catholic Philly (Op-ed: Matthew Manion, Church Management)


‘Only a Matter of Time.’ At This Washington State Immigrant Detention Center, Attorneys Believe a Coronavirus Outbreak Is Inevitable
TIME (Ruth McDermott-Levy, Nursing)


Coronavirus, social distancing and the company of the faith
National Catholic Reporter (Massimo Faggioli, Theology)


Nursing homes have unique challenge in limiting exposure to coronavirus
KYW (Melissa O'Connor, Nursing)


Coronavirus makes homeless people vulnerable like never before
San Francisco Chronicle (Stephanie Sena, Peace & Justice)


Here’s How You Can Help Prevent the Spread of Coronavirus, According to Experts
Good Housekeeping (Jie Xu, Communications)