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2012 Summer Research Snapshots

This year the Graduate School was fortunate to be able to fund 178 summer research fellowships for Ph.D. students in the humanities and social sciences. 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. These fellowships help to prevent interruptions in their graduate careers due to financial need and allow a more seamless progress toward degree completion. This year’s fellowships number 37 more than were offered in 2011 and 77 more than in 2010, evidence that the Graduate School is progressing toward its goal of providing year-round support for all Ph.D. students. 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, some of our research fellows share with us how they spent their time this summer.

In the summer of 2012, a Graduate School Summer Fellowship allowed me to consult the Carlo Michelstaedter’s National Archive in Rome and the Scipio Slataper’s collection at the University of Pavia. I consulted correspondence and unpublished manuscripts of these Italian writers of the early 20th century. Thanks to this fellowship, I could develop new ideas for my dissertation, “Italian Literature (1903 – 1915) and the crisis of Metaphysics”.

—Domenico (Mimmo) Cangiano, Romance Studies

In the beginning of Summer 2012, a Graduate Summer Research Fellowship allowed me to go to the 13thDocumenta exhibition in Kassel, Germany. Visiting the most important contemporary exhibition in Europe, I observed both the Latin American artists in the show and the presence of movements utilizing Latin American epistemology such as decolonial aesthetics. In the latter part of the summer, I traveled to Buenos Aires, Argentina, where I conducted research in the Faena Arts Center, a contemporary museum that opened last year with a show by Brazilian artist, Ernesto Neto. Finally, I will go to São Paulo, Brazil, to visit the 30th São Paulo Biennial and continue my archival research in museums and art institutions. I will remain there for the academic year of 2012-2013. I am very grateful to the Graduate School that enabled me to have this summer experience.

—Camila Maroja, Art, Art History & Visual Studies

I study 20th century literature and science, specifically the way that the ocean has figured in science fiction and challenged terrestrial ways of thinking about space, media, and animal consciousness. The Summer Research Fellowship gave my research a practice component, and allowed me to pursue additional SCUBA diving certification (Advanced SCUBA and Rescue Diver). This involved practicing how to navigate and move underwater, learning about diving physiology, and basic aid in emergency situations. By increasing my diving confidence and safety, this training has opened the door for me to create my own underwater media (film, video) and incorporate this into my dissertation.

—Melody Jue, Literature

The Summer Research Fellowship enabled me to conduct preliminary research in Italythis summer. My dissertation is a study of the art, architecture, and urban presence of the Carmelite order of friars in central Italy in the late Middle Ages. This project requires detailed onsite analysis of the churches I’m studying, as well as extensive work in Italian archives and libraries. I was based primarily in the city of Siena, where I studied the church of San Niccolò del Carmine. In the Archivio di Stato di Siena, I consulted documents related to the early history of the church, which was founded in the 1260s, as well as subsequent donations, decorations, and renovations. I also worked in the Biblioteca Comunale di Siena, where I studied materials such as historical maps and early modern manuscripts containing descriptions of the city and its artistic patrimony. Back in the U.S., I will continue my research by traveling to Washington, D.C. to work in the Carmelitana Collection, a library of the Carmelite Order.

—Alexandra Dodson, Art, Art History and Visual Studies

In the summer of 2012, a Graduate School Summer Fellowship allowed me to consult the Archivio di Scuola Romana in Villa Torlonia (Rome). In the archive I consulted diaries, correspondence and manuscripts of the artists Antonietta Raphaël and Mario Mafai, as well as analyze closely drawings, oil paintings and sculptures by them. Thanks to this fellowship, I could develop new ideas for my dissertation, “Italian Modernist Sculpture and the Baroque.”

—Laura Moure Cecchini, Art, Art History & Visual Studies


This summer, thanks to the Graduate School’s Summer Research Fellowship, I was able to work on my dissertation, extra projects, and proposals. Specifically, I was able to edit the first two chapters of my dissertation, draft fellowship and conference proposals, and organize extra projects.

—Taneisha Nicole Means, Political Science

I was able to use my Duke summer funding to help fund two field research trips for my dissertation on the effect of military culture in protecting civilians in war. For the first stage, I traveled to the US Military Academy to conduct cadet surveys and interviews studying the ethics training program at West Point. For the second stage, I traveled to Kampala, Uganda, for archival research and interviews with Ugandan military officers in support of my Uganda case study. Both trips helped to provide integral research data for my dissertation, and this field research would have been impossible without such generous funding from Duke University.

—Andrew Bell, Political Science

The Graduate School’s Summer Research Fellowship allowed me to undertake two projects this summer. First, I worked with two undergraduates to build a cosmic ray detector for Duke’s high energy physics group. The detector project allowed us to gain important hardware experience while also providing the group with a useful piece of equipment. I also worked on a data analysis project using the 2011 data from the ATLAS experiment at the LHC. My project is a good test of the Standard Model of particle physics as well as a technique for estimating the backgrounds to new physics searches. To help me in my project, I traveled to Argonne National Laboratory just south of Chicago for the latter part of the summer. I also attended the US ATLAS Physics Workshop at the University of Michigan where I presented a poster on my project.

—Meg Shea, Physics

Racial and religious diversity are increasing in most communities throughout the United States, and how a community responds to diversity can significantly affect its stability and cohesiveness. Through the National Study of Community Coalitions, I collected data on 4,000 organizations and 3,000 board members to assess how multi-organizational collaborations navigate racial and religious differences as they work together to address issues of common concern. The Duke Summer Research Fellowship enabled me to carry out Phase II of this study and incorporate secondary data on the racial and religious composition of the communities in which the coalitions reside. Drawing on social capital theory and using network analysis, I am assessing how the external environment shapes internal associational patterns of the coalitions. This multi-dimensional model for analyzing the relationship between diversity and social cohesion can be applied to several contexts including schools, congregations, and neighborhoods.

—Brad Fulton, Sociology

The summer grant helped me in several ways. First, it gave me the time I needed to analyze pre-test data for my dissertation, putting me on a firmer footing for moving ahead in the fall. Second, it allowed me to start learning a new literature that will be important for my future work. Third, it allowed me to write or edit several research manuscripts that will greatly improve my marketability when searching for a job. Furthermore, many of these manuscripts were collaborative projects, helping me to strengthen professional ties to other scholars. My thanks go out to those whose generosity support Graduate school summer grants, who made my work this summer possible.

—Andrew Miles, Sociology

The Graduate School Summer Research Fellowship allowed me to travel to Yucatán and Quintana Roo, México to carry out pre-dissertation fieldwork interviewing small-scale fishers. I am currently developing a doctoral dissertation proposal to study the relationship between small-scale fishers’ organizations and global seafood markets. This summer I conducted nearly 50 interviews with presidents of fishing cooperatives, fishing permit holders, biologists, government, and other individuals involved in small-scale fisheries to generate preliminary data that will inform my dissertation project. The opportunity to travel to my field site has been an invaluable step in my studies because it has allowed me to build personal relationships and gain an in-depth understanding of issues that are relevant to the local context of these fisheries.

—Abigail Bennett, Marine Science

This summer my research examined how different factors affect how international leaders and statesmen view each other in terms of their willingness to accept costs during a crisis. The majority of my summer was spent running experiments through the DIISP to observe how issues such as state power, government type, and state interest affect perceptions of a leader’s cost acceptance. My summer research fellowship not only allowed me to run these experiments, but also facilitated the writing and revision of a chapter of my dissertation.

—Danielle Lupton, Political Science

Thanks to the Graduate School’s Summer Research Fellowship, I was able to further investigate how the high educational attainment and income of Asian immigrants affects their wealth mobility. I used the New Immigrant Survey and the Survey of Income and Program Participation to research this question, which will also become a focus for my dissertation in the coming years. I also presented my second year paper “Strength in Solidarity?: Bounded Solidarity and Wealth among Documented U.S. Immigrants” at the annual ASA conference.

—Paige Borelli, Sociology

In May and June of 2012, with the help of a Graduate Research Fellowship, I traveled to London to research in the vast archives at the Imperial War Museum. My dissertation project considers how social and political life is restructured during wartime, particularly on the home front. At the Imperial War Museum, I was granted access to an array of documents, from letters, to diaries, to memoirs, depicting life in London during the Blitz. Many of these personal and communal accounts were written from London while the bombs were falling, and it was a humbling experience to read through so many detailed narratives of life during combat, some of them literally punctuated with bomb blasts and air raid sirens. This research visit helped me to rethink both the form and the content of my dissertation, and has allowed me to consider a number of intriguing questions relating to the place of the non-combatant during total war.

—Sean Ward, English

I’ve used my Summer Research Fellowship to make a major push towards completing my dissertation: a seven-movement piece of music setting excerpts from Christian Bök’s “Eunoia,” and an article investigating how the band US Maple deconstructs rock music. I’m planning on defending by the end of 2012.

—Dan Ruccia, Music

Thanks to my summer research fellowship, I was able to revise my master’s paper on women’s experiences with welfare bureaucracy for future publication, and begin preliminary work on my dissertation. I spent the summer exploring the literature on urban sociology and municipal politics to prepare for my case study of a small American city.

—Louise Seamster, Sociology

The very generous and enormously helpful Duke University Summer Research fellowship did more than just free me from the necessity of seeking summer employment in Durham in order to meet living costs. It thus did more than provide the gift academic leisure so that I could direct my attention to my doctoral thesis, which I had just recently begun. In addition to all this, it provided financial support that helped to subvent the cost of travel to Germany and the living costs there. From April to late July, 2012, I worked at the Institut für Politische Wissenschaft at the Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg. In this environment, I was able not only to make significant progress on my dissertation and to make international, scholarly connections at the university there and also at conferences in southern Germany, but also, by being immersed in the German language and culture, I was able to improve my German in the best way possible, that is, in situ. My dissertation concerns itself with the moral horizon of politics, and critically engages two schools of thought of some prominence in the discipline of political theory, which I call the liberalism of neutrality and the discourse of difference. The kind of academic work my dissertation engages presupposes knowledge of German philosophy.

—Aaron Roberts, Political Science