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2011 Summer Research Snapshots

This year the Graduate School was fortunate to be able to fund 141 summer research fellowships for Ph.D. students in the humanities and social sciences, forty more than in summer 2010. The fellowships, which are funded through endowments and private donations to the Duke Annual Fund, help relieve the financial burden for students who are guaranteed only nine months of support during the academic year. This prevents interruptions in their graduate careers due to financial need, and allows a more seamless progress toward degree completion. Students use these fellowships in a variety of ways; some travel to sites where they can review firsthand original documents, while others take advantage of the time to make the last big push before graduation. For this issue, we asked summer research fellows to share with us how they spent their time this summer.

I study 18th century British literature in Duke’s Literature department and am writing a dissertation on the history of the fantastic in prose fiction. This summer, I used the generous Summer Research Fellowship to travel to London, where I worked on original source material in the British Library archives. I also took a trip to Strawberry Hill, the first Gothic revival home. It was commissioned by Horace Walpole, who also wrote The Castle of Otranto, the first Gothic novel. As Walpole’s summer home, Strawberry Hill was meant to create an immersive experience for visitors, rich in associations with episodes from England’s mythological and literary history. The house just reopened to the public in 2010 after extensive reconstruction and refurbishment to more closely match its original state.

–Ryan Vu, Literature

Because of my summer research fellowship, I was able to travel to England and visit the Wellcome library in London to look at rare eighteenth- and nineteenth-century psychology books, pamphlets, periodicals, and images. I was researching early-nineteenth-century debates about the narrative of mental processes and what makes up a “person,” and the Wellcome library has a vast collection of resources (including some fabulous large phrenological “maps” of the mind divided into over 30 different “people” or separate characters). Because of this fellowship I was able to access the research materials I needed and write the chapter, which looks at narrative in the early-Victorian novel in the context of these empirical debates about the mind.

–Anna Marie Gibson, English

In the summer of 2011, a Graduate School Summer Fellowship allowed me to complete a year of interviews with commercial and recreational fishermen in Carteret County, North Carolina. In addition to interviews I also engaged in participant observation on fishing trips, at fisheries commission meetings, and in the community. The Fellowship enabled me to spend a lot of time with fishermen and to produce quality social scientific data about the complex socioeconomic, political, and regulatory issues that fishermen are currently navigating.

–Noelle Boucquey, Environment

My summer fellowship enabled me to work on my dissertation and revise one chapter for separate publication, under the title “A Eusebian Reading of the Testimonium,” in a forthcoming collection of articles on Eusebius edited by Aaron Johnson and Jeremy Schott to be published by the Center for Hellenic Studies Press.

Ken Olson, Religion

I spent most of the summer in Boston working on my PhD dissertation. The subject is how state Certificate of Law requirements impact hospital technology adoption decisions, as well as their impact on the quality of care. The fellowship was very helpful as it allowed me to focus all of my energy on my dissertation, instead of needing to work as an RA or TA over the summer.

Chris Geissler, Economics

This summer, the bulk of my research examined who is more likely to become emotionally polarized by politics and when polarization is more likely to occur. For example, I find that evaluations of political figures are not constantly polarized, but instead become polarized for people who should feel more personally connected to candidates and when inter-party competition increases.

Melanie Freeze, Political Science

I am examining “artistic” color photographs made in the Mississippi Delta and relatively nearby urban centers (New Orleans, LA, Memphis, TN, Jackson, MS, and Columbus, MS) between 1965 and 1995. I am using these photographs to study the relationship between the New York art world’s acceptance of color photography as an artistic medium in the 1970s and nationwide approaches to race relations following the 1965 passage of the Voting Rights Act. Some white photographers working in the Mississippi Delta were using the camera and color film in the late 1970s and 1980s as a way of entering black communities that seemed exotic and forbidden, producing “artistic” color photographs from their encounters. Other photographers from the region made deeply saturated color prints that seemed to evoke the region’s history in the form of the gothic and the grotesque. My dissertation will situate both approaches to making color photo-art in this region in the context of the busing crises of the 1970s and the re-segregation of public schools and residential housing patterns in the 1980s and 1990s, both in Mississippi and nationwide.

The Summer Research Fellowship enabled me to visit and interview the photographers I’m writing about. I was also able to conduct archival research at the New Orleans Historical Collection and Williams Research Library, and the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. Additionally, I was able to view in person the landscapes in which these photographers have lived and worked, including the metropolitan Memphis, Jackson, Baton Rouge, and New Orleans areas, Louisiana cemeteries, and communities along Highway 61, including Clarksdale, MS, Cleveland, MS, and Mound Bayou, MS.

 –Anna Kivlan, Art, Art History & Visual Studies

The 2011 Fellowship allowed me to analyze sociolinguistic data documenting an emerging variety of Hispanic English in Durham. Data for my dissertation came in the form of 72 interviews collected with the support of the North Carolina Language and Life Project (NCLLP) from students at three schools in the triethnic community of Durham, NC: EK Powe Elementary, Rogers-Herr Middle School, and Chewning Middle School. Based on this analysis, I was able to submit a paper to a leading journal in the field of quantitative sociolinguistics, “Language Variation and Change,” titled “Interlanguage and Ethnic Dialect Stabilization: Hispanicized English in the Southeastern US.”

–Erin Callahan-Price, English

I stayed at Duke the whole summer to work on my job market paper, as I need to be on the market this fall. The fellowship helped me focus on my work in the summer and make substantial progress with my own research project, which models balance sheet dynamics between financial and non-financial sectors in the United States.

Jeremy Chiu, Economics

After partaking in an archaeological excavation in Sepphoris (Israel) led by Professors Carol and Eric Meyers (Duke), I spent the rest of my summer doing research at Dumbarton Oaks (Washington, DC) on the issue of the exile of fourth-century Syriac bishops during the Trinitarian Controversy.

Emanuel Fiano, Religion

Over the summer, thanks to the Graduate School’s Summer Research Fellowship, I was able to work on my dissertation and job market materials. I transcribed interviews, organized my dissertation, created presentations for the 2011 American Sociological Association meeting, and applied for jobs. Now, as the semester begins, I feel more prepared for my final year at Duke.

Sarah Mayorga, Sociology

The summer fellowship allowed me to learn a new literature (family structure over the last century and family processes/developmental processes) that I will now be able to integrate with my original focus area (social networks). I will combine the two in my dissertation.

–Robin Gauthier, Sociology

The Gurney Harriss Kearns Summer Research Fellowship I received this past summer has been a wonderful support in my academic and professional pursuits. Thanks to the receipt of this award, I was able to travel to the UK for just over two weeks in August. The first of these was spent on manuscript research at the British Library, where a number of the oldest, rarest and, to my research, most exciting manuscripts are housed. Among other things, I was able to handle the oldest dated Syriac manuscript in existence, a codex written in Edessa in 411 C.E. I was also able to obtain scans of a homily attributed to Basil of Caesarea and extant only in one of the BL manuscripts that will form the basis of some of my research this fall. The second week of my time in the UK — a week that, tragically, happened to overlap with the London Riots — was spent at the 16th International Conference on Patristic Studies at Oxford, the single largest conference in my field of study. Given that “Oxford Patristics” only gathers once every four years, this was my first opportunity to attend, present my work, engage with colleagues from a wide range of countries and specializations, and get a better feel for the state of scholarship in my discipline. Returning to Durham with the various “spoils” of my trip — manuscript evidence, professional contacts, etc. — I can only voice my delight and appreciation of the generous support that made this journey possible. Many thanks!

–Maria Doerfler, Religion

I used the summer research fellowship to make a big push and finish up my dissertation. I defended over the summer.

Mark T. Buntaine, Environment

This summer, I used my graduate school fellowship to travel to several places for research, including the German and Jewish Intellectual Emigre collection at the University of Albany, to research in the personal papers of the subject of my dissertation, the German exile from National Socialism Hans Speier. I also visited the personal papers of the sociologist C. Wright Mills, contained at the University of Texas at Austin. Additionally, I visited the National Archives II in College Park, Maryland, to view files of the Analysis Division of the Foreign Broadcast Intelligence Services, a division of the Federal Communication Commission, the papers of the Office of the Chief of the Office of War Information, and the papers of the State Department’s Division for Occupied Areas. Finally, I visited Los Angeles to research in the archives of the RAND Corporation. All of this research was conducted to further my dissertation project. My project examines how Hans Speier, a founder of the New School for Social Research’s University in Exile and the founding head of RAND’s Social Science Division, addressed the social role of the intellectual in his work. The summer research grant was invaluable in enabling me to visit the archives I require to finish my dissertation.

–Daniel Bessner, History

Thanks to a Kearns Summer Research Fellowship, I was able to conduct some of the final research for my dissertation on religion and beauty pageants in the South. Most important, the funds from the summer fellowship offset the cost of travel, lodging, and tickets for the Miss Alabama Pageant. I attended the special 90th Anniversary pageant in Birmingham, AL in June, which offered a nice compliment to the 90th Anniversary Miss America pageant that I attended in January. Since I no longer live in Durham, I also used some of the funds to make a research trip back to Duke. Finally, I traveled to Bowling Library of Judson College (Marion, AL) to access their host of periodicals on women’s beauty and fashion for the chapter I worked on this summer. All of these trips were made possible by the generous fellowship; not only did it increase my research and travel budget, but it allowed me the flexibility needed when researching and writing a dissertion. I remain extremely grateful to the graduate school for making opportunities like this available.

–Mandy McMichael, Religion

I spent the summer in Cairo, Egypt. I am studying how indigenous philanthropic foundations are responding to the revolution and to the changing political, economic, and social contexts that the revolution has brought about. The Summer Research Fellowship was critical to this research, as it allowed me to be in Cairo during a time of drastic change and continued upheaval. It was fascinating to see how foundations were (or were not) responding to these changes.

Catherine Herrold, Public Policy

The summer fellowship allowed me to focus on my dissertation research, prepare to finish my degree and go on the job market. My research examines how wages, unemployment, and housing prices vary between different cities, and what local variation in these implies for labor mobility and national unemployment rates. The notable event from my summer was EconCon, an annual conference for advanced graduate students, held this year at NYU in August. The summer fellowship permitted me the opportunity to have enough work done to present my own research at this event. It was a great experience and a good chance to connect with up-and-coming economists. The conference did generate some press coverage in the Wall Street Journal and by CNN.

–Kyle Mangum, Economics

The graduate research fellowship this past summer allowed me to focus my efforts on preparing data collected for my dissertation “Nurses’ Information Needs to Care for Hospitalized Children.” By having the fellowship award, I was able to devote my time to developing my database for the descriptive data, transcribe interviews from the first round of data collection and revise one of my dissertation manuscripts. The award prepared me to be ready for the final round of data collection that will begin in September. In addition to the efforts devoted toward my dissertation project, I was able to attend a one-week seminar on Patient Safety that was held in Basel, Switzerland. The seminar topic is closely related to my dissertation topic and will likely inform my future efforts and interventions postgraduation for nurses using patient information in a safe manner.

–Tiffany Kelley, Nursing