James Sutherland and Tony Saad have gotten to know the stages of Capitol Theatre and Abravanel Hall quite well — but they haven’t performed at those venues.

The two chemical engineers, researchers at the University of Utah and experts in “computational fluid dynamics,” are helping musicians of the Utah Symphony and Utah Opera perform with less risk of spreading COVID-19 to each other or their audiences.

“The basic question is: How do you reduce risk?” said Sutherland, a professor of chemical engineering at the U. “To answer that question, you need to know: Where is the air going? So you understand: If there are emissions occurring, where do those emissions end up?”

The engineers’ work was an aid in launching Utah Symphony’s season in mid-September in Abravanel Hall — and it’s being applied to the opening of Utah Opera’s 2020-21 season, on Friday, Oct. 9, the company’s first performances since the pandemic started in March.

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