University of Nebraska Medical Center

Beam Helmet Project Team


Improved Powered Air Purifying Respirator (PAPR) Designs for Healthcare

The Beam Helmet Project Team is developing two prototypes to allow health care workers and their patients to breathe safely in hazardous conditions. The team currently has two grants to allow for research and development of the projects.

About the investigators:

Elizabeth Beam, PhD, RN, is an associate professor at the UNMC College of Nursing. She has worked on an emergency preparedness grant at the College of Nursing since 2005. In that role, she became involved in the Nebraska Biocontainment Unit and was the educator for the unit in 2014 when the Ebola virus disease was treated in the United States. Dr. Beam has gone on to do further research on healthcare worker behaviors and respiratory protection for situations like the COVID-19 pandemic. She also co-leads a group at UNMC called the Nebraska Virtual Reality Network for Education and Research.

Bethany Lowndes, PhD, is an assistant professor in the Department of Neurological Sciences at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. She completed her dissertation and post-doctoral research at Mayo Clinic where she measured physical and cognitive workload through surveys, observation, and activity monitoring in order to design interventions and technologies to improve health care delivery. As a team scientist, she has led and collaborated on projects funded through NIOSH, AHRQ, NIH and industry. Dr. Lowndes is currently interested in measuring and improving the interactions between healthcare providers, patients, caregivers, technology and the environment in order to advance health across different levels of care.

Current Grants:

Title: Beam Helmet user needs: Applying Human Factors through Analysis of Failure Modes and Clinical Usability Testing of a Head-Mounted, Flip-Up Powered Air Purifying Respirator (PAPR) Prototype

Funding: The project described is supported by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, U54 GM115458, which funds the Great Plains IDeA-CTR Network. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIH.

Project summary: Usability testing on a current prototype of a powered air purifying faceshield (PAPF) designed to protect healthcare workers and their patients in healthcare facilities. This prototype was built using the UNEMED Back-o-the-Napkin Contest.


For more information about the project, contact Bri Parr, MPH student and research assistant at briparr@unmc.edu.

Title: Prototyping of a ruggedized powered air purifying respirator (PAPR) for healthcare use in austere conditions.

Funding: Funding is provided by the Nebraska Research Initiative, a State of Nebraska allocation to the University of Nebraska intended to spur faculty research innovation across the University of Nebraska’s four campuses.

Project summary: Prototyping a new design to protect military & civilian partners in healthcare which is more ruggedized for austere environments. This research is focused on how to make it easier to put on, use, clean, and store than current powered air purifying respirator (PAPR) products. Through interviews with healthcare workers, the research team will assess the design and learn about opportunities to improve the features or labeling to improve use and safety.


For more information about the project, contact Sarah Dunsmore, PhD, coordinator, at sarah.dunsmore@unmc.edu.