On March 8, 2020, the State Hygienic Laboratory at the University of Iowa had its first positive test result for COVID-19. In the year that followed, the University of Iowa has been on the forefront of COVID-19 research, treatments, care, and the vaccine.

Thanks to its experts and health care providers, Iowa has been recognized nationally for its important role in combating COVID-19. And when the pandemic upended traditional educational practices across campus and the country, Hawkeyes proved to be tough, compassionate, and resourceful. Below are landmark moments from the past year that exemplify our expertise and our spirit.

2020 Jan
Scientists, media turn to Iowa’s coronavirus expert

Veteran researcher Stanley Perlman—until recently, one of only 10 full-time coronavirus virologists in the world—leads the University of Iowa’s search for answers on COVID-19.

Story: Scientists, media turn to Iowa’s coronavirus expert

A sampling of Perlman’s writings and quotations from early on in the pandemic:

2020 March
Faculty, staff migrate classes online and get creative to find the best possible ways to teach their students
University students and instructor on a Zoom call

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, students returned March 30 to classes not on campus but at their homes on their computers or other electronic devices. Faculty and staff across the university spent the preceding weeks migrating nearly all courses to a virtual environment. The University of Iowa is no stranger to online learning. It is one of the largest deliverers of online education, ranking in the top 50 in the nation and No. 4 among its peers.

Story: University of Iowa no stranger to teaching and learning online

2020 April
Helping address face shield shortage
University of Iowa College of Engineering faculty member working on face shields

In the early days of the pandemic, health care professionals needed face shields. University of Iowa personnel acted quickly: the College of Engineering delivered more than 1,000 shields to UI Health Care, and the University of Iowa’s medical device design business used materials provided by Iowa manufacturers to build the coronavirus-fighting tools by the thousands.


Special reservoir to be used for coronavirus research
University of Iowa researcher David Soll with materials at the University of Iowa’s Developmental Studies Hybridoma Bank

Biological agents at the University of Iowa’s Developmental Studies Hybridoma Bank (DSHB) are being enlisted in the quest to fight the novel coronavirus. The DSHB distributed antibodies to researchers racing to learn more about the coronavirus and to potentially find ways to blunt its ability to wreak havoc in humans.

Story: Special reservoir to be used for coronavirus research

Carver-Hawkeye Arena opens space for blood drives
health care professionals and participants at a blood drive held at the university of iowa's carver-hawkeye arena

When typical blood drive locations—schools, community centers, campus buildings—closed due to the pandemic, the University of Iowa Department of Athletics stepped up, offering space in the Feller Club Room of Carver-Hawkeye Arena that was not otherwise being used.

Story: DeGowin Blood Center holding weekly blood drives at Carver-Hawkeye Arena

UI Health Care participates in remdesivir clinical trial

University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics, the patient care mission of University of Iowa Health Care, became the first in the state of Iowa to participate in an international clinical trial for a remdesivir, believed to be the most promising drug available to treat COVID-19.

Story: UI Health Care participates in remdesivir clinical trial

2020 May
Commencement goes virtual
University of Iowa graduate Morgan Dibert smiles and waves in her home during virtual commencement ceremonies

Inside homes across the country and around the world, friends and family of more than 5,400 graduates celebrated a historic virtual commencement for the University of Iowa class of 2020. “We are recognizing your college graduation this year in a very unique way. But our pride in your accomplishments remains as strong and bright as any Iowa commencement,” said UI President Bruce Harreld. “As always, we stand together as Hawkeyes today with strength, purpose, and pride.”

Story: Spring 2020 graduates celebrate commencement virtually

Debunking myth that vaccines will cause genetic modification

In May, widely shared claims on social media linked to a video alleging that a future vaccine against COVID-19 would “genetically modify” humans. This claim is scientifically untrue. Paul McCray, professor of pediatrics, microbiology, and internal medicine at the University of Iowa, was among those to offer explanations on how the vaccines would work.

Read the Reuters story: False claim: A COVID-19 vaccine will genetically modify humans

2020 June
Med school grad launches platform to match health care providers with places in need

Jon Lensing always knew he wanted to pursue a career in medicine. But deep into his medical-school path, he focused on launching a business—one he and his co-founders designed to meet a need in the medical industry—and soon saw its numbers skyrocket due to COVID-19.

Story: Med school grad launches Apollo platform

Respiratory Illness Follow-up Clinic treats patients with long-term complications from COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic caused a growing need for specialized follow-up care for a subset of patients experiencing long-term effects from the disease. In June, UI Health Care became the first health system in the state, and one of the first in the country, to establish a dedicated post-COVID-19 clinic.

Story: Respiratory Illness Follow-up Clinic treats patients with long-term complications from COVID-19

2020 Aug
Manufacturing drugs for coronavirus treatment

The University of Iowa emerged as a preferred manufacturer for companies seeking new drugs to treat patients with the novel coronavirus. UI Pharmaceuticals has partnerships with multiple firms to manufacture and test their drug products for potential treatments.

Story: Manufacturing drugs for coronavirus treatment

University of Iowa participates in clinical trial of COVID-19 vaccine
A University of Iowa employee in a medical setting

The University of Iowa participated in a large-scale, international clinical trial to study the safety, tolerability, immunogenicity, and efficacy of vaccines against COVID-19. The study tested an experimental RNA vaccine developed by drug companies BioNTech and Pfizer.

Story: University of Iowa to participate in clinical trial of COVID-19 vaccine

2020 Sep
UI employees step up to help State Hygienic Lab with COVID-19 testing
Three University of Iowa employees who were temporarily reassigned to work at the State Hygienic Laboratory stand outdoors, following social distancing guidelines

Temporarily reassigned University of Iowa employees helped fill critical roles in the testing process at the State Hygienic Laboratory over the summer of 2020. “These individuals have continued to work in Test Iowa outside of their normal work hours and on weekends,” says Ryan Jepson, SHL’s microbiology lab supervisor. “They have been essential to keeping testing moving at night and even training new staff.”

Story: UI employees step up to help State Hygienic Lab with COVID-19 testing

2020 Oct
Collaborating to save pregnant woman with COVID-19
Aquarius Bunch with her child

University of Iowa Health Care experts and specialists collaborated on a Waterloo woman’s life-or-death case, which involved an astounding recovery and a healthy baby.

Story: Pregnant with COVID-19

2020 Nov
Keeping safety at the forefront of the race for a COVID-19 vaccine
Pat Winokur, MD, executive dean of the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, standing outdoors, wearing face mask

In November, Pfizer pharmaceutical company announced promising preliminary results from clinical trials of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate. Pat Winokur, executive dean of the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine and principal investigator for the UI study site of the Pfizer vaccine trial, followed Pfizer’s announcement with an editorial to offer clarity and reassurance about how we reached this point—and what comes next.

Story: Keeping safety at the forefront of the race for a COVID-19 vaccine

Dance Gala stays in motion on virtual stage
Scene from University of Iowa's Dance Gala 2020 dance rehearsal

Dance Gala maintained its high level of professionalism and artistry while offering a slightly different viewing experience. Instead of watching at Hancher Auditorium or Space Place Theater, audiences tuned in online to watch more than 35 students bring to life works created by six Department of Dance faculty members. The works were filmed in the Theatre Building’s E.C. Mabie Theatre and outdoors around campus.

Story: Dance Gala stays in motion on virtual stage

2020 Dec
Iowa in national spotlight as UI Health Care begins employee vaccinations

During the first day of COVID-19 vaccinations, 178 University of Iowa Health Care employees received the first of two doses of the vaccine, which UI Health Care tested in clinical trials.

Story: UI Health Care begins employee vaccinations

Numerous media outlets covered the vaccination of UI Health Care employees:

Four UI experts named to state advisory council

The Iowa Department of Public Health has selected four University of Iowa experts to serve on its Infectious Disease Advisory Council. The council, which brings together more than 20 subject matter experts from across Iowa, will assist the state in developing COVID-19 vaccine distribution guidance and prioritization of populations for early in the response when vaccine supply will be limited.

Story: UI experts appointed to state’s Infectious Disease Advisory Council

Helping to maintain bed capacity during COVID-19 surge
Dr. Bradley Manning and Dr. Andrew Bryant, University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics

When cases of COVID-19 surge, one potential solution that may allow hospitals to care for more patients with the virus without exceeding their bed capacity is a “virtual hospital” model, such as the one used by University of Iowa Health Care’s Home Treatment Team.

Story: Helping to maintain bed capacity during COVID-19 surge

New York Times turns to Iowa expert to reassure older Americans about vaccines’ safety
clasped hands in lap

In December, experts on a CDC panel, including the University of Iowa’s Stanley Perlman, said all available evidence indicated the Pfizer vaccine is safe and effective for nursing home residents, and older Americans generally. “The vaccine seems to be performing as well as one would like, even in very old populations,” said Perlman.

Read the New York Times story: The Next Vaccine Challenge: Reassuring Older Americans

2021 Jan
Now Novavax: UI Health Care’s role in a new COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial

UI Health Care experts again lend their expertise in clinical research to participate in a COVID-19 vaccine trial, this time a large, Phase 3 trial for a new COVID-19 vaccine made by Novavax, Inc.

Story: Now Novavax: UI Health Care’s role in a new COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial

2021 Feb
State Hygienic Lab exceeds 1 million COVID-19 tests since start of pandemic in Iowa
staff at the state hygienic laboratory at the university of iowa

March 8, 2021, marks one year since the State Hygienic Laboratory detected the first case of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and the lab has processed more than 1 million samples since that fateful day. And as vaccines for COVID-19 work their way across the country, SHL isn’t slowing down.

Story: State Hygienic Lab exceeds 1 million COVID-19 tests since start of pandemic in Iowa

Dance Marathon vows to ‘rise with resilience’
chalk art for University of Iowa Dance Marathon, including the slogan FTK, or "for the kids"

The coronavirus pandemic has paused many things, but pediatric cancer is not one of them. Despite COVID-19, University of Iowa participants in one of the nation’s largest student philanthropies are as committed as ever to helping young oncology patients, raising $1.4 million while using a virtual format for the Big Event.

Story: Dance Marathon vows to ‘rise with resilience’