Giving Back

White used a 3D printer to create P.P.E. for local hospitals.

    When the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020, DEC member Doug White knew how he could make a difference. He began folding. The Lewes resident didn’t fold clothes or ingredients into a cake — instead, he began folding proteins as part of the international [email protected] Initiative. 

White used 16 home computers to set up complex protein folding simulations, which can be used by scientists to better understand the virus that causes COVID-19. White and other Initiative volunteers hoped the simulations would provide researchers with critical data that could be used 
to design therapeutics to treat COVID-19.  

As a Navy veteran who worked on nuclear submarines and the current manager of research computing at the University of Delaware’s Ocean Information Center in Lewes, White wasn’t going to be satisfied being idle while in quarantine.

“I was going nuts at the house trying to figure out what I could do to help. You couldn’t leave, you couldn’t go anywhere, so I started cobbling together parts so I could stand up as many computers
as I could.”

The role he played as a citizen scientist during the pandemic wasn’t the only way he was able to give back. As Delaware medical providers scrambled to find masks and protective equipment last spring, White used a gift provided to UD to purchase two 3D printers. 

The printers were used to print masks, face shields, ear savers and other supplies. White also fashioned UV-C light decontamination boxes for his neighbors, doctors and nurses, to help reduce surface contamination on phones, keys and other personal items. As if that wasn’t enough, the Lewes resident also set up two large kegerators in his garage, filled them with beer, and held socially distanced happy hours outside his home. These Friday night gatherings helped medical professionals and friends safely unwind during a difficult time. 

“It felt awesome to give back. So many people were in despair. Going back to my experience in the military, this was an all-hands- on-deck situation. I wanted to do something to keep things moving forward and solve problems. I saw something that needed to be done and I did it. That’s what you do,” says White.