Project Description

The Labor, Health, Equity, Action Project (LHEAP) is a team of interdisciplinary researchers from across University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, coalescing at the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology. Its core members include Professors Jessica Brinkworth, Korinta Maldonado, Ellen Moodie, from the Department Anthropology and Rachel Whitaker, from the Department of Microbiology, as well as Gilberto Rosas, in the Departments of Anthropology and Latina/o Studies. It also includes Community Researchers: Sofia Bolaños-Robinette, Paty Kamenga, Diana Mendoza and Sylvia Mateo, project manager Susan Thomas, and Testing Coordinator, Danisa Nieto. The team pursues a dynamic research agenda on the intersections of the structural, socio-cultural, and immunity factors involved in transmission of SARS COVID 19, as it affects essential laborers in agriculture, pork processing, and related industries, who are often racial minorities. Central to this project and as form of committed reciprocity and Public Health, the team coordinates free pop-up COVID testing in Champaign County with a focus on people who live and work in Rantoul, Illinois with limited access to testing drawing on a network of committed community partners and volunteers. 



  • UIUC CSBS  Small Grant Program  ““Essential Work, Expendable Life? Identifying SARS-CoV-2 Critical Control Points in Rantoul and Surrounding Communities” 


Funded by the following UIUC donors

  • IGB
  • OVCR
  • College of ACES
  • Illinois Pork Producers Association
  • Illinois Humanities Institute
  • Anonymous donors


LHEAP Team (alphabetical order)


  • Jessica Brinkworth (Anthropology, IGB)
  • Korinta Maldonado (Anthropology, IGB)
  • Ellen Moodie (Anthropology, IGB)
  • Gilberto Rosas (Anthropology, IGB)
  • Rachel Whitaker (Molecular and Cellular Biology, IGB, IGOH Theme leader)

Project Manager

  • Susan Thomas (IGB)

Community Research Assistants

  • Sophia Bolaños
  • Paty Kamenga
  • Silvia Mate
  • Diana Mendoza

Graduate Students

  • Grace Shaw (Anthropology)

Testing team

  • Tricia Avent (Anthropology)
  • Priya Bhatt (Anthropology)
  • Tori Boyle (Molecular and Cellular Biology)
  • Kalina Brzostowski (Applied Health Sciences)
  • Katie Frye (Molecular and Cellular Biology)
  • Haley Fuoco (Molecular and Cellular Biology)
  • Emilia Gibes (Anthropology, CS+)
  • Rithik Prakash (Anthropology)
  • Sophia Rivera (Anthropology)
  • Jocelyn Rubi (Evolution, Ecology and Behavior)
  • Rachel Rusen (Anthropology)
  • Grace Shaw (Anthropology)
  • Negin Valizadegan (Anthropology)
  • Lily Velez (Anthropology)
  • Cris Medrano, MD


  • Denise Jayne (IGB)


  • Danisa Nieto (former testing coordinator)





  • WCIA (final 3 minutes)
  • NPR The 21st (Speaking: Kora Maldonado, Jessica Brinkworth)