Last year, amid an initial wave of Covid-19 infections and as mask wearing became mainstream, Georgia Tech researchers set out to design a better face mask to improve comfort and protection for the wearer.
Now, they are recruiting 200 Georgia Tech students to participate in a six-week research study this semester sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). All study participants will receive $150.
Participants will be divided into two groups. One will continue to wear whatever mask they currently use, whenever they would usually wear one. The other group will be asked to wear a mask provided to them. Using a simple online Qualtrics form, both groups will log their daily activities, as well as any health symptoms that may arise during the six-week study.
“There were a lot of misconceptions early on in the pandemic with the role of masks,” said Sundaresan Jayaraman, professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Materials Science and Engineering. “Our desire and hope is to dispel misconceptions around masks and show how effective and useful they are.”
But the project goes beyond function. The mask designed by Jayaraman and Sungmee Park, principal research scientist in the School of Materials Science and Engineering, is meant to be comfortable and stylish as well. They also want to learn how masks affect social and psychological elements of the wearer’s life.
“We want to get a feel for, ‘What is their view of masks? Does the mask affect their social life? Does it make a difference if the mask matches their outfit?’ Park said.
The study will include three phases. In the first two weeks, all participants will wear their own face coverings and continue their usual habits. The second two weeks will have half the cohort wear the masks provided by the research team. During the last two weeks, all participants will return to their usual habits — wearing their preferred mask, whether it’s the new one or not, and logging their activities and any symptoms.
The study is approved by Georgia Tech’s Institutional Review Board and is registered as a clinical trial with clinicaltrials.gov. Those interested in participating can learn more and sign up at maskstudy.gatech.edu. For questions, email firstname.lastname@example.org.