Fellowship Snapshots 2021
For the 2021-2022 academic year, the Duke Graduate school awarded 297 competitive fellowships to incoming and continuing Ph.D. students, totaling more than $4.3 million. Here is a look at some of the recipients and their research.
Also, check out the roundup of graduate student research supported by The Graduate School's Summer Research Fellowships during summer 2021.
I plan to work with Prof. Dan Scolnic whose research group does observational cosmology. We study exploding stars called Type Ia supernovae to measure the expansion rate of the universe. The top questions we try to answer are why is the universe accelerating in its expansion and what are the major components of the universe.
I am part of the Musah Lab in Biomedical Engineering. My project will focus on understanding disease in the kidneys and what methods we can implement to regenerate the damaged tissue.
Growing up at the intersection of many cultures, nationalities, and religions, I was privy to a beautiful blending of beliefs and ideas. As such, I became impassioned by human culture, often traveling through study abroad opportunities, with my academic father to attend conferences with him, or to visit family overseas. All of these experiences aggregated into an intense curiosity for the human cognition that lays the foundation for creating cultural products. With these products reflected in many different ways (architecture, literature, paintings, music, etc.), I strive to find generalities in the brain that connect seemingly disparate thought processes. Specifically, I am motivated by the following questions: from where do novel thoughts originate for humans (e.g., previous thoughts, inspiration from art, dreams), and how are they combined/utilized to result in the creative products that other humans value and attach emotion to? How does this differ across cultures? These generous fellowships fund the widespread psychological and neuroimaging methods used to elucidate such big questions, as well as support, travels to achieve cross-cultural results and disseminate my research to appropriate academic spheres.
I am a first-year doctoral student in Literature. As a movement-practitioner, artist, and thinker of cultural forms, I am interested in the moving body as a rich site of cultural and political negotiation, especially with respect to queer formations and digital circulation. How does everyday kinesthetics shape how we know and imagine the world, and the kind of people we are in it? How do queer communal practices iterate alternate ways of being through embodied relation? How do supposedly disembodied, digital media practices involve the body and circulate embodied patterns far beyond a single physical milieu? How does such circulation involve moving bodies in the production of racial capitalism, neoliberalism, and neoimperialism? And what does it mean to have a popular culture of the body in a society that so often denies the body’s relevance to public matters? As I begin my doctoral studies at Duke, these are the questions that guide my path.
My dissertation, tentatively titled, "Developing a Vocabulary of Feeling," explores the lives and work of Black women writers such as Hortense Spillers, Toni Morrison, and Nzotake Shange to understand the ways that their psychic and emotional experiences shaped the trajectory of the 1980s feminist politics and contemporary academic feminism. I read their texts with an eye attuned to what Morrison calls the “invisible ink,” or “what lies under, between, outside the lines, hidden until the right reader discovers it.” In my project, I define “invisible ink” as the feelings of frustration, desperation, exhaustion, and anger that may not explicitly appear in their texts, but can be teased out through a literary analysis of devices such as metaphors, allegories, and allusions.Â By combining an analysis of their written work with a close study of interviews and archival images, I can recreate what Spillers describes as a "vocabulary of feeling" to understand how these Black women writers felt within the academy and within American feminist politics during the 1980s. I am very grateful for the support of the Brown-Nagin fellowship because it has allowed me to continue my poetry workshop series, titled "Poetry as Pedagogy." This series builds upon the work of my dissertation because I invite contemporary Black women poets to lead workshops that specifically address the ways they use poetry to develop a vocabulary of feeling.
Art, Art History, and Visual Studies
My dissertation “Diplomatic Gifts and Cold War Strategies: The Role of North Korea’s Overseas Art Studios in Egyptian Memorial Culture” concentrates on monuments and museums built by Paekho Trading Company in Egypt during the 1980s. Specifically, I focus on the four Paekho-built sites in Egypt: the Al-Alamein War Museum, the Port Said War Museum, the October War Panorama, and the Monument to the Battle of Ismailia. My dissertation conceives of these monuments and museums as diplomatic gifts and addresses the history of Cold War power struggles that influenced the alliance between Egypt and North Korea. Paekho’s involvement in Egypt’s commemorative infrastructure was part of North Korea’s broader cultural diplomacy efforts in the Middle East and Africa. North Korean overseas art studios, including Paekho, have built national monuments and museums in some thirty foreign nations over the last five decades. My research questions how such architectural representations impact the construction of Egyptian national identity and what were the strategic goals for importing them. I consider these questions by examining the museums alongside exhibition catalogs, government documents related to the sites, and newspaper articles documenting the museums’ reception in Egypt. With the support of the James B. Duke International Research Travel Fellowship, I am currently completing archival and onsite research in Egypt, and I will be researching South Korea in the spring of 2022.
Marine Science and Conservation
My research addresses environmental knowledge, values, and social equity concerns in fishery governance and management. My dissertation research explores the role of scientific and indigenous ways of knowing in the management of salmon fisheries on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada (WCVI). Salmon are economically, culturally, and ecologically important to local coastal communities, especially Indigenous First Nations. In BC, they are also facing dramatic declines and possible extinction due in part to mismanagement and climate change impacts. Stakeholders are motivated to change fishing and management practices to save salmon populations through the best available Indigenous knowledge and traditional practices and scientific tools and technology. Additionally, recent legislative changes require that Canada incorporates Indigenous rights and knowledge into fishery management plans. Contested sovereignty and colonial legacies add additional challenges. I hope to identify mechanisms for knowledge integration that support more effective and equitable fishery governance and management, and that shift western scientific management away from practices that historically marginalize local and Indigenous communities. I work following the guidance and collaboration of Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations and Ha’oom Fishing Society. My research is intended to support Nuu-chah-nulth values and Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations’ path towards self-determination.
A primary objective of neuroscience is to determine how the brain represents and interprets sensory information. Our current understanding is that sensory inputs to the brain are processed through a series of neural transformations to ultimately generate perception and behavior. I am specifically interested in understanding the neural computations that facilitate odor sensing in the mammalian olfactory system. I use a novel combination of approaches to directly activate olfactory sensory neurons in mice while recording activity from large populations of neurons in downstream primary olfactory, or piriform, cortex. My initial experiments have revealed that the piriform cortex is highly sensitive to the relative timing of activation of populations of olfactory sensory neurons. These findings indicate that cortical networks form a precise readout of input timing. Intriguingly, spike timing codes have also been proposed to underlie memory recall in the hippocampus and to convey stimulus information in several other sensory regions. Thus, my results provide further evidence that spike timing codes are a functionally relevant means of information transfer across distinct brain regions.
I am interested in how people think about elections. Despite the absence of individual material benefits, a large percentage of people in democratic countries make time to vote. Researchers have dedicated substantial effort to investigating important non-material motivations for people to get involved in politics, including duty, emotions, and party loyalty. Less attention, however, has been paid to the expectations people develop for what governments and politicians will deliver. In turn, I study people’s expectations for what candidates will do if elected, where those expectations come from, and their political consequences. I address these topics using surveys, partnerships with media organizations for field experiments, observational data, and historical materials.
W. ERICKSON BRIDGES
I am currently finishing a dissertation examining the conclusion of Lucretius’ epic poem, On the Nature of Things, which espouses the benefits of Epicureanism. Epicureanism was a school of Hellenistic philosophy that centered on hedonism, hailing that pleasure was the highest good and pain the highest evil, and saw the world as purely materialistic, with a robust system of physics that included the description of hypothetical tiny objects: atoms. Epicureanism had an immense impact on the course of western philosophy, history, and science; however, students outside high-level Latin and Ancient Greek courses rarely get the opportunity to closely study this philosophical school. For this reason, I applied for the Bass Instructional Fellowship to teach CLST290S: Epicureanism, a special topic course offered in Spring 2022 that will provide students the chance to read and study our surviving texts on Epicureanism in English. Students will grapple with the tenets and contradictions of Epicureanism in this course, which is structured around the philosopher Philodemus’ essential distillation of the philosophy, the so-called "Four-part Cure": "Don’t fear god; don’t worry about death; what is good is easy to get; what is bad is easy to avoid." I am very grateful for the opportunity that the Bass Instructional Fellowship has given me: Epicureanism is one of my chief academic interests, and I eagerly await the chance to share that fascination with undergraduates in Spring 2022.
My project, entitled “From the Southern Question’ to the Southern Thought’: South as a Method,” intends to create a new methodological paradigm to understand the role of the novel in the process of nation-building in peripheral areas. I rely on an interdisciplinary approach that dialogues with Transatlantic, Mediterranean, and Global South studies: my goal is to find, in the novelistic tradition of the South the emergence of narrative patterns different than the one showcased by the dominant Northern realist novels in the 19th century. Without an adequate analysis of how intellectuals received and readjusted Northern literary movements inside of their national borders, not only do we undervalue their role in creating an autonomous and original Southern way of narrating their local realities, but we also doom the South as an eternal reproducer of Northern patterns. Through close examinations of novels, transatlantic editorial projects, and correspondence between authors, my dissertation shows how the world’s different “Souths”(Italy, Spain, Latin America) began to recognize one another and view their experiences as shared by the end of the 19th century. Considering internal and external factors that shaped editorial markets and nation-building discourses allows me to trace a genealogy of South-to-South exchanges in the context of an already globalizing literary market promoting international literary movements.
Electrical and Computer Engineering
My studies focus primarily on signal processing. Specifically, my research thus far includes using millimeter-wave radars for non-traditional applications. The traditional application of detecting, classifying, and/or tracking objects on vehicles, especially autonomous vehicles, has recently made this technology more available, affordable, and compact. In my work, I consider how feasible it would be to use this technology in other applications by exploring different ways of processing radar data in order to gain desirable information. Other interests of mine include communication systems, coding theory, machine learning, and engineering education as well as the intersection of all of these. I’m very thankful for the opportunity that the Bass Digital Education Fellowship has given me to learn more about specific pedagogy and tools that can be used to further improve engineering education in and outside of my specific areas of interest within engineering.
At Duke, I investigate the role of musical discontinuities in shaping form and rhetoric, especially as it applies to the British 20th century. Currently focused on the symphonies of Ralph Vaughan Williams, my research illuminates the various forms of his syntactical discontinuities, their fundamental role in his compositional praxis, and their interaction with contemporary socio-cultural currents. Long considered an insular pastoralist, my research illuminates continuities between English and continental musical expressions and reframes the creative interrelationships that undergird the musical 20th century. Other interests involve the music of Prince, which is the topic of my forthcoming course in Sp. 2022. The class will examine his work as it relates to his biography and the cultural currents in which he participated. From his early grounding in funk, R&B, and rock to the late protest songs, Prince’s music will be studied in terms of his artistry, engagements with technology, gender and sexuality, and social conscience. Students will also confront broader issues of ownership and intellectual property, the role and effects of mass-media criticism, and the intersection of technology and the arts.
Marine Science and Conservation
I’m a Ph.D. Candidate in the Marine Science and Conservation department in Dr. Rittschof’s lab. My research interests are broadly focused on pollution management and specifically focus on understanding how governments, businesses, and biologists view and mitigate plastic pollution. My dissertation will provide an overview of the social and ecological dimensions of plastic pollution with the overarching goal of identifying and prioritizing governance gaps. Given that this is an interdisciplinary topic, I draw upon environmental toxicology, public policy, marine sensory physiology, and other disciplines in developing my dissertation. I have collaborated with experts working in the aforementioned disciplines and sectors, including Duke’s Environmental Law and Policy Clinic, the World Bank, Pew Charitable Trusts, industry collaborators, and a large charitable foundation. As a Bass Instructor of Record, I will teach the course that I designed entitled “Marine Plastic Pollution: Problems and Solutions,” which will survey key environmental issues posed by plastic pollution, with a particular focus on the toxicology to marine animals. Students will learn about reading, writing, and peer-review in the scientific literature, as well as communicating to decision-makers.
Psychology and Neuroscience
As a cognitive psychologist, I study how people learn, remember, and search for information. I am particularly interested in how people use technology to find information (e.g., online searching) and to create external records of their memories (e.g., taking photos with a smartphone to post on social media) and the downstream cognitive consequences of these actions. For my Bass Digital Education Fellowship project, I am working on the design of the new Nudge app, which is a learning tool developed by Duke Learning Innovation that supports learning by prompting students to respond to review questions after class. Over the Fall 2021 semester, I will consult on the design of the new Nudge app, recommend new features based on the psychological literature on learning, plan for user experience testing to ensure the app is user-friendly for undergraduates, and help promote the research-backed benefits of Nudge to Duke faculty members.
My dissertation research focuses on women’s magazines published during Francisco Franco’s dictatorship in Spain (1939-75). Specifically, I analyze the messages these magazines conveyed to their readers regarding women’s economic roles within Spanish society. Franco’s regime promoted conservative values and sought to limit women’s roles to those of housewives and mothers, even though many Spanish families relied on women as breadwinners after having lost male heads of household to the country’s Civil War (1936-39) and the regime’s violent repression. While popular media such as magazines were often used as a strategic tool to reinforce a stereotyped view of women as “domestic angels,” my work takes a closer look at these magazines to demonstrate that the messages they conveyed to readers were significantly more nuanced than has been acknowledged. For example, many included advice columns where readers shared their personal stories and struggles, often coming into conflict with the editors’ moralizing advice. This Fall, I am teaching an undergraduate seminar for first- and second-year students with the support of the Bass Instructional Fellowship. The course examines popular media genres that circulated during the Franco dictatorship, such as Western and romance novels, comic books, magazines, films, and music, and explores the ways in which they could be used as tools to reinforce the regime’s ideology, but also to survive the dictatorship or even to resist the regime.
My dissertation, “The Sexological Metamorphosis: Transgender Studies and the Origins of Sexual Modernity” calls for a reconsideration of 20th-century sexual medicine and contemporary transgender politics. Over the last 40 years, trans activists and scholars have been caught in a bind with respect to sexual medicine. On the one hand, transsexual activists mobilized in the 80s around the political demand for medical and legal access to gender-affirming care, including Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) and Gender-Reassignment Surgery (GRS). On the other hand, trans activists in the 90s sought to distance gender non-conformity from the overly pathologizing diagnostic frameworks of transsexuality, introducing the term “transgender” to highlight this distinction and to emphasize the political agency of self-nomination as resistance to medical objectification. Caught between these dueling mandates for medical access and political affirmation, transgender studies have tended to resolve this paradox by overlooking the complexity of the history of sexual medicine, either by refusing to read sexology altogether or by reducing its multiplicity into a unitary narrative about the medical past. “The Sexological Metamorphosis” intervenes in this scholarly conundrum by returning to the archive of sexual medicine in all its complexity. It insists on bridging the divide between the scientific archives of sexual medicine and literary humanities that typically house transgender studies today.
I conduct social-ecological research on community bushmeat hunting management in Gabon through my boundary work with the Nsombou Abalghe-Dzal Project. The hunting of wild animals as “bushmeat” is vital for the food, financial, and cultural security of local people across the tropics. But oftentimes, commercial and unsustainable hunting and trade threaten biodiversity and the well-being of humans. The people who most rely on bushmeat rural hunters and their communities are often excluded from genuine engagement in research and policy. To address this unexplored opportunity, the Nsombou Abalghe-Dzal Project facilitates local participation in wildlife management across four scales: Local (community-driven research and management), Landscape (integration of local action with logging concession and protected area management), National (working with Gabonese decision-makers for sustainable and equitable policies), and Global (informing interventions across the tropics through communication and scientific publications). I used my travel award in Gabon to collaborate with two Gabonese masters students on two aspects of my dissertation; one analyzing the quality of governance of hunting management, the other testing a novel form of community mapping of land use to inform policy.
Genetics and Genomics
My research is focused on developing computational methods and statistics to better understand the evolutionary history of populations with mixed ancestry, or admixed populations, using genomic data. These populations have been excluded in many genomic analyses because common population genetic methods are not really interpretable or applicable in cases of very recent genetic exchange between populations. Instead, the methods I’ve been developing are more “admixture-aware” in that they incorporate genetic ancestry information to get a more complete picture of a population’s history. Admixture is ubiquitous in human history, so ultimately, I aim to expand the diversity of groups that we can study by improving methods tailored to populations of mixed ancestry, which also gives us insight into human genetic variation broadly. Through the Bass Instructor of Record fellowship, I have the unique opportunity to design and teach an undergraduate Human Evolutionary Genetics course this Fall 2021. In the course, students will gain an intuition for how evolution shapes genomes. Through experiential learning activities, students will test their assumptions and explore simulated and real-world datasets from modern human populations. I am grateful for the invaluable opportunity to develop my skills as an instructor and communicator through the Bass Instructional Fellowship.
Genetics and Genomics
As a first-year student in the University Program in Genetics and Genomics (UPGG), I am currently completing lab rotations. As a graduate student, I aim to combine my experimental and computational experience to advance genome editing screening for human disease. I am particularly interested in how non-coding variation contributes to human disease and how we can utilize the CRISPR toolbox to manipulate gene regulation. My first rotation is in the Gersbach lab, where I will be investigating Schizophrenia (SCZ) genomics.
My dissertation analyzes healing practices among Kiowas, members of a Great Plains tribal nation, during their first fifty years of reservation life. Using an interdisciplinary archive to foreground Indigenous knowledge in historical documents, ethnographic research, and Kiowa material culture, I show that healing was not a static traditional practice in Indigenous communities, but rather an important way that Native people experienced, navigated, and subverted colonial rule. As a Julian Price Fellow, I will continue pursuing this research through in-person visits to the Oklahoma Historical Society and the American Baptist Historical Association. The Julian Price will also allow me to continue processing digital sources including local newspapers, federal Indian boarding school records, and local church meeting minutes. The Bass Instructional Fellowship will support me as an Instructor of Record for "Public Health in America" in Spring 2022. This course, originally designed by Professor Margaret E. Humphreys, has not been taught since 2016. In its restructured form, this course facilitates student inquiry into the changing meaning of “public health” over time and across diverse communities. For centuries, American politicians, Indigenous peoples, enslaved and free African-Americans, Progressive sanitarians, and radical activists have continually reimagined community care and redefined the government’s role in protecting it.
Electrical and Computer Engineering
Noise is intangible pollution that impacts the performance and health of humans every day. Vibrations deteriorate structural integrity and can emit unwanted sounds into the environment. Marine life, and the Navy, communicate in the ocean through sound, and we use ultrasound to capture images of the body. Loudspeakers and microphones in our cellphones and computers give us the ability to communicate with each other around the world. Acoustics, the study of sound and vibration, is broadly applicable in these applications, and many more. At Duke, my research focuses on a very particular sound and vibration manipulating technology called an acoustic metamaterial. Acoustic metamaterials, typically, are subwavelength devices that alter an impinging wave upon contact with its surface. This can be utilized in reducing the transmission of noise, biomedical ultrasound imaging, acoustic lenses, acoustic cloaking, and wave steering, just to name a few. Incorporating actuators, such as loudspeakers, into acoustic metamaterials, evolves these passive devices into dynamic elements that can improve the acoustic wave manipulation of this technology. I hope to further improve the attenuation of noise in enclosed environments such as cars, concert halls, and houses, with these active acoustic metamaterials. I also plan to investigate other applications of acoustic metamaterials that can solve issues in medical disciplines, industrial applications, oceanography, and the music industry.
Integrated Toxicology and Environmental Health
I am a first-year in the University Program in Integrated Toxicology and Environmental Health, and I have a broad interest in the mechanisms by which humans and other organisms are exposed to and affected by environmental toxins. I am exploring these interests through my rotations, and I am currently rotating with Dr. Lee Ferguson. The Ferguson group focuses on the development of methods using high-resolution mass spectrometry for targeted and non-targeted analysis of emerging pollutants in the aquatic environment. They recently began investigating whether reclaimed wastewater and desalination waste could be used to grow algae for biofuels, and I am contributing to this project by investigating the contaminants and biotransformation products present in the algae treated water. By using non-target analysis, we can investigate a wide range of contaminants and compare the toxicity profiles of the waste streams before and after algae has been grown in them. If growing algae in waste streams detoxifies or degrades the contaminants present, these findings could be used to improve both biofuel and wastewater treatment technologies.
I am working on the relationship between the global Mafias and the economic system. More specifically, my goal is to show how the Mafias around the world affect the global market, giving at the same time a relevant contribution to the destruction of the natural environment. The last section of my dissertation will be devoted to the analysis of the ways the media and literature explore and represent the underworld.
Prior to attending Duke, I worked as a postpartum nurse. I quickly realized that a person’s environment determined their health outcomes much more than the medical care I was providing. This led me to pursue a Master in Public Health and my Ph.D. in Nursing. My research focuses on improving maternal health outcomes for all women by eliminating health disparities. I am particularly interested in improving outcomes during the postpartum period and health policy. Too many women in the United States, particularly women of color, are dying from preventable pregnancy-related deaths. Furthermore, a vast majority of these deaths are happening during the postpartum period. As one of the wealthiest and advanced nations in the world, this health crisis is unacceptable. Addressing the maternal health crisis we are facing will require experts across several disciplines. Nurses are integral members of the healthcare team and are uniquely positioned to improve access, quality, and equity in health care. As I begin my Ph.D. journey I am exploring ways in which my research can help inform health policies that will improve outcomes for mothers in the United States.
All organisms in nature are mechanosensitive. Cells’ inherent capabilities to sense external forces and transmit them are important to understand in the context of basic biophysics, but also eventually for human health and disease. Many molecular mechanisms have been identified to play crucial roles in driving and regulating cell activities. However, further progress has been hampered by the fundamental difficulty to measure stresses in cells. Being able to determine which proteins and lipids bear load is critical to understanding mechanosensitive signaling and regulatory control of local force generation. The cytoskeleton, a dynamic protein-polymer network, is the most essential load-bearing and force-producing subcellular structure. In this project, we focus on forces transmitted through of one its major components the actin network, and will use actin-targeting tension sensors, developed by Prof. Brent Hoffman’s lab at Duke University, to study and understand the way forces are propagating within this subcellular structure and the mechanical loads experienced by crosslinking proteins within the actin cortex. The novel aspect of my thesis work is that I will directly apply controlled forces to cells to observe force propagation and that I will use concepts of polymer physics to interpret the data, looking for time-dependent percolation effects, formation of force chains in the semiflexible, and nonlinear polymer networks.
My research covers the ways that ancient scholars reacted to the works of Sophocles, poet of Greek tragedy from classical Athens. By analyzing the scraps of their work that survive to us in the margins of ancient manuscripts, I show that these scholars were very focused on the specific qualities that made Sophocles’ poetry great, in a way that almost no other author’s commentators appear to have been. Other scholars, like those that worked on Euripides, for example, devote their efforts to other topics, like exploring the various myths that underlie Euripides’ tragedies, a topic that Sophocles’ commentators often consider irrelevant. Moreover, Sophocles’ commentators often get very defensive over the positive aspects of his works, showing that there was potentially more tension in the ancient world surrounding Sophocles’ greatness than many modern scholars have believed.
As an incoming first-year student in the Biostatistics and Bioinformatics Ph.D. program, I am hoping to research various forms of interpretable machine learning in interdisciplinary settings. Working with advisors Dr. David Page of Biostatistics and Dr. Cynthia Rudin of Computer Science, I plan to create machine learning algorithms that provide more insight into how they arrive at their predictions while maintaining the same performance as "black box" models. As a fellow in the AI for Understanding and Designing Materials (aiM) National Traineeship Program, I am also interested in various materials applications of ML - specifically in medicine and the environment. Ultimately, I hope to develop algorithms that are more robust at both dealing with complicated and messy data and offer greater transparency into how they arrive at their predictions.
claire le barbenchon
My research explores how immigrants and return migrants use their networks to find jobs and integrate at their destination. I explore this topic in a few different ways. My first project studies the use of social networks for finding work among Colombian returnees from Venezuela. I show that return migrants are more likely to use networks in their search than never migrants and that this is potentially due to the inability to find jobs through other means. My second project studies the relationship between networks and integration among Chinese immigrants to the Raleigh-Durham Area. In particular, we focus on the types and origins of connections that immigrants have at their destination, both in terms of local and transnational ties. We then use this to understand immigrant assimilation patterns. Lastly, I study when and under what circumstances immigrants are willing to help each other with a job referral. Using experimental methods, I am seeking to understand the role of local and international social networks in this process. More specifically, I ask - can having a strong network tie help immigrants land a job referral, even in situations of reputational risk or heavy competition? The Myra and William Waldo Boone Fellowship will allow me to spend the year focusing on my dissertation and research in the field of migration, social networks, and employment.
elise le boulicaut
I work in particle physics in association with CERN, which is a laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland. The most emblematic part of CERN is its 13 mile-circumference particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). It accelerates protons almost to the speed of light and collides them at the center of massive detectors. One of these detectors, ATLAS, is the one I am involved in. When protons collide at the center of the ATLAS experiment, their intense energy is transferred to mass and new particles are created. These new particles fly out in all directions and are detected by ATLAS thanks to a variety of different sub-detectors arranged in layers, that allow physicists to reconstruct the paths of the outgoing particles and thus infer what happened at the collision. In doing this, we can recreate what we believe to be the conditions of the Universe a fraction of a second after the Big Bang and therefore better understand the fundamental building blocks of matter. Thanks to the James B. Duke Fellowship, I am spending a year at CERN in Switzerland to help test some of the sub-detector components of ATLAS for an upgrade of the detector planned to start in 2026. My work will involve making sure that the hardware and software work together to allow us to quickly and accurately read out information from the detector electronics since they will need to deal with very high rates of collisions once they are installed.
catherine ji won lee
My dissertation, “Romantic Humility: Literature, Ethico-Politics, and Emotion, 1780 to 1820,” explores how British writers of the Romantic period developed a new form of humility for the secular age. This is a form of humility that does not focus on self-abasement, modesty, or meekness as we are keen to recall especially in connection with the Christian understanding of humility, but on selflessness or “unselfing” the ability to see past the self as though it were nothing that is predicated on the acceptance of mortality and humankind’s inherent participation in Nature, and is integral to the pursuit of justice. I argue that this humility, which arises in the texts I examine as a “mood,” was as Romantic a phenomenon as Romantic individualism.
I am a dual degree Ph.D. student in public policy and psychology, and I was awarded a Bass Instructional Teaching Assistant fellowship in order to gain teaching experience in the psychology department. My goal is to teach child development and policy in an applied psychology department, school of public policy, or school of education. Experience as a teaching assistant for Dr. Makeba Wilbourn’s undergraduate course on race, culture, and child development will be key to my professional development. Dr. Wilbourn is a member of my dissertation committee and I took the Ph.D.-level version of this course in Fall 2019- so, I’m very excited to get to TA with her in Spring 2022.
My name is Ayanna Legros and I am a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of History. Since the 2020 pandemic, I have conducted oral histories and interviews with subjects for my research, written articles for the public, served on boards such as the Haitian Studies Association and the Latin American Studies Association and written in peer-reviewed articles.
I am a Ph.D. candidate in the Immunology program at Duke. I am fascinated with biology, especially immunology, and I devote myself to basic science research with the hope of making our healthcare system better. I believe the immune system holds the keys to the understanding of many fundamental biological processes, as well as disease states such as metabolic disorders, autoimmune diseases, transplantation rejection, and cancers. Given that the big data era prospers researches all over the field, I also crave to take the advantage of big data analysis to dive into and address more immunological questions. I am particularly interested in understanding the hematopoietic development under obesity, a common human metabolic disease at present, as it is highly related to immune responses. In order to delineate a big picture of how obesity influences human immunity, multi-omics technologies will definitely push our understanding forward. Therefore, I expect to incorporate more computational skills in exploring the complexity of immune diseases. I genuinely believe that scientists can answer more intriguing questions and contribute to the progression of our health system through the cooperation of computational biology and immunology.
Computational Biology and Bioinformatics
In the study of brain tumors, it is often essential to understand how cancer cells and other cells interact because this determines the growth of the tumor. To this end, we can utilize the recent development of spatial transcriptomics technologies, including 10x Visium that capture gene expression in the context of tissue structure, to investigate the interaction of cells within tissues. However, the technical limitations of Visium lies in its low resolution, since it measures the average expression of around 1-10 cells in each spot (spatial location). Thus, the central theme of my project is to develop a computational method to infer the cell-type-specific expression from spatial transcriptomics data; in other words, I aim to increase the resolution of the current technology so that we can investigate genes that express differently by location as well as the interaction between our cell types of interest.
Metabolic reprogramming, induced by the loss of tumor suppressor genes or aberrant activation of oncogenes, contributes to tumorigenesis and holds promise for cancer therapy. PTEN is among the most frequently lost or mutated tumor suppressor genes in human cancer. Metabolic profiling of overexpression PTEN sub-cellular localization cell lines revealed nuclear PTEN to have a regulatory role on pyrimidine metabolism, specifically thymidine biosynthesis. Nuclear localized enzyme MTHFD1 plays an essential role in folate-dependent pathways through controlling the flux of folate-activated one-carbon units between de novo thymidylate and homocysteine remethylation pathways. Mass-Spectrometry analysis revealed PTEN’s ability to interact with MTHFD1. Given this knowledge, we hypothesize that nuclear PTEN regulates thymidine biosynthesis through interaction with MTHFD1. Furthermore, we hypothesize that nuclear PTEN affects the cell’s sensitivity to antifolate treatment. Using prostate cancer as a model system for tumor metabolism, we aim to elucidate the mechanism by which thymidine biosynthesis is regulated by nuclear PTEN. A deeper understanding of nuclear PTEN’s regulation of MTHFD1 may, in turn, open new therapeutic avenues for anti-folate cancer treatment tailored to PTEN subcellular localization. The Bass Fellowship will allow me to be the Instructor of Record for my own course within the Biology department at Duke, titled, “Lipids, Metabolism, and Disease."
I study the interaction between brain cancer and the immune system. My research is specifically focused on an aggressive form of brain cancer called glioblastoma (GBM) because this is such a deadly disease; 95% of patients with GBM die within 5 years after their initial diagnoses. At this time, there are virtually no effective therapies to treat these patients and my goal is to change that by understanding why our current therapies do not work. As an immunologist, I am interested in immunotherapy, a type of treatment that harnesses the power of the immune system to fight cancer. Recently, immunotherapy has achieved success in various tumor types, but this treatment has not enjoyed the same success in GBM patients. Given that immunotherapy relies on re-educating and strengthening a patient’s own immune cells, it is important that the patient’s immune system remains robust and functional. However, in patients with GBM, their immune system is suppressed and dysfunctional, even prior to any treatment. My research seeks to understand how GBM is suppressing the immune system, with the overall goal of reversing this immune suppression, thereby licensing the use of immunotherapy for GBM patients, and providing better treatment options for patients. For a more detailed description of my research, please feel free to check out my talk from Duke GradX 2020: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HMWm7aem0ls
My research and teaching examine how democracy accounts for those on the periphery of political life. In my dissertation project, "Defining the Demos: Incarceration and Democratic Political Thought," I examine the place of incarceration within democratic politics. My work highlights how and why an institution premised on unfreedom has flourished within a political order rooted in freedom and equality and what the prison can show about the punitive underbelly of democratic politics. A second major research project deals with democratic representation on the periphery. I am interested in the distinction between state and territory in American democratic thought. An article on this topic, “Representation on the Periphery: On the Past and Future of Non-Voting Members of Congress,” recently appeared in American Political Thought. I’m very grateful to the Duke Graduate School for its generous support!
I am interested in the areas of algebraic geometry and algebraic topology. Algebraic geometry is the study of shapes cut out by polynomials, like parabolas and circles. Algebraic topology is the qualitative study of shapes. A common type of problem in algebraic geometry is an enumeration. For example, given three circles, how many circles are there that are mutually tangent to the original three? Traditionally, answering such questions has required that one work over complex numbers. My research applies tools from algebraic topology that enable one to approach these enumerative questions over other number systems, such as real numbers or rational numbers. Through the Bass Instructional Fellowship, I am teaching an introductory proofs course tailored for students in the humanities, arts, and social sciences. The goal of this course is to explore mathematics as a creative endeavor, as well as to expose students to the idea that math is about more than memorization and computation.
Marine Science and Conservation
During my time at Duke, I will focus on marine conservation and outreach. As a marine ecologist, I aspire to increase coastal ecosystem resilience and hone conservation and management strategies. Foundation species are recognized as the base of most marine ecosystems, and they provide essential resources to an array of commercially and recreationally important fish species and other marine organisms. My research will investigate how facilitations and interactions between coastal foundation species (e.g. coral reefs, mangroves, and seagrasses) can be harnessed to increase their resilience to human disturbances (i.e. pollution, physical disturbance,) and climate change-induced stressors (i.e. sea level rise and ocean acidification, etc.). Ultimately, I aspire to develop transferable restoration techniques that are not only applicable to coastal foundation species; but can also be integrated into global efforts to increase ecosystem resilience worldwide.
Greg’s dissertation research is focused on assessing the impacts of microplastic pollution on the energy metabolism of blubber in marine mammals: whales, sea lions. Ingestion of microplastics directly through the water column or indirectly via trophic transfer of contaminated prey is commonly observed across many marine species. Further, the ability of microscopic plastic particles to move from the gastrointestinal tract to other organs following ingestion â€“ translocation - has been demonstrated. The physical and chemical properties of microplastics make blubber, a fatty tissue important for energy storage unique to marine mammals, a candidate sink destination for ingested microplastics. Therefore, Greg aims to identify if microplastics translocate to blubber tissue and if so, identify any metabolic consequences using a gene expression analysis approach. Given the considerable overlap in fish species between commercial fisheries and the diet of some marine mammals, studying these interactions may illuminate implications for the health effects of microplastics on human consumers. Greg’s domestic travel award will be utilized to visit Dr. Allyson Hindle at the University of Nevada Las Vegas to carry out the gene expression analysis. The international travel award will be utilized to visit Dr. Chelsea Rochman at the University of Toronto where Greg will employ a pyro-GCMS analysis aimed at identifying the polymer type of any plastics that may be present in blubber tissue samples.
I am a first-year doctoral student in the Department of History. My research examines the politics of beauty in Latin America. As an undergraduate student, I wrote a departmental honors thesis titled “Ambassadors of Beauty: Beauty Contests, Regional Identity, and Inter-American Diplomacy in the 1930s.” This work analyzed the sociopolitical significance of and connections between the inter-American Miami Bathing Beauty Pageant of 1930 and the Central American beauty contests from 1933-1936. It demonstrated how ideals of gender and beauty were central to developing understandings of “Latin American” and particularly “Central American” identity. It also showed that these beauty contests served as an important means for U.S. and Latin American diplomats and politicians to advance their geopolitical objectives within inter-American relations. As a doctoral student, I aim to expand on this project and deepen my investigation of the politics of beauty in modern Latin America. My intent is to explore how local and international definitions of female beauty reflect, reinforce, and challenge hierarchies of racial, ethnic, gendered, and class-based power. Female beauty has served not only as an influential vehicle of cultural meaning but also as a political tool. I hope to uncover the ways diplomats, politicians, businessmen, and citizens have harnessed female beauty to negotiate national politics, international diplomacy, U.S.-Latin American relations, and economic development.
I am a Ph.D. candidate in Physics at Duke University with a specialization in theoretical nuclear physics. One of the most important goals of nuclear physics is a better understanding of how neutrons and protons (nucleons), the building blocks of atomic nuclei, emerge from the interactions between quarks and gluons. My research focuses on fundamental symmetry violation in nature and few-body problems. Specifically, my past work looked at the parity violation in nucleon-nucleon scattering, which can provide unique probes into how quarks behave inside a nucleon. Currently, my work centers on developing techniques to study four-body systems. This result will enable us to obtain the properties of light nuclei from the interactions among the constituent nucleons. I am also interested in new physics beyond the Standard Model. I am working on a project that considers dark matter scattering of light nuclei such as Deuteron, which can be used to guide and interpret future direct detection of dark matter experiments. Besides research, I am passionate about teaching. In Fall’21, I am scheduled to teach the course PHY264L: Modern physics and Optics. This course aims to provide students with a solid background and techniques in quantum mechanics and relativity, which will lay the foundation for further physics studies and research.
I am studying communities' adaptation to coastal erosion in Southern Togo (West Africa). My project aims to show that policy addressing climate change in West Africa should incorporate an understanding of ethnic identity and local ontology in order to avoid being totally absorbed by pre-existing developmental paradigms. My research is located at the intersection of environment, policy, and ethnicity. An intersection that generates new theory in anthropology and beyond. My project contributes to such theory creation by putting Anthropology into conversation with Public Policy and the Environmental Sciences. It also addresses literature on the Anthropocene which attempts to unsettle the human/non-human divide in speaking to a major governance question: how might local and non-local frameworks be combined in productive ways. It will also contribute to the multidisciplinary and policy-oriented literature on development on how the concept of sustainable development is improving neither the practice nor the apparatus of development. The research will result in a dissertation, journal articles and a subsequent book that will inform academia and the policy world on the ways in which ethnicity, environment, and policy intersect in the management of an environmental issue.
My dissertation research focuses on the visual abilities of sea urchins. These animals lack eyes and even eye spots, yet nonetheless are known to have blurry vision. My work investigates the differences between various sea urchin species in their visual abilities, the physical traits that may contribute to this unusual sense, and the regions of the urchin body that are most sensitive to light. I am most interested in comparing the differences between species from different types of habitat (for example, complex rocky areas vs. flat sandy areas) as environmental characteristics are thought to play a major role in the evolution of different visual systems in different animal species.
Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science
I research how to use robotic systems to perform medical procedures safely and effectively. Specifically for my thesis work, I use a robotic arm and ultrasound to perform autonomous ultrasound procedures of IV insertion and breast scanning to expand access to these procedures in remote medicine in locations as far as outer space. Through the Bass Instructional Fellowship, I am teaching Introduction to Robotics to undergraduate seniors in Mechanical Engineering and Electrical and Computer Engineering. I enjoy seeing students explore a key application of their engineering skills learned throughout their undergraduate degree and discover the challenges and opportunities of robotics they can continue to transform post-graduation.
Electrical and Computer Engineering
I am a first-year Ph.D. student in Electrical and Computer Engineering with a concentration in Hardware Security at Duke University. As a member of the Emerging Computing Technologies Lab, my research will focus on how emerging computational technology may be pivoted for hardware-based security. I am interested in knowing how in-compute memory may be pivoted as a streamlined cryptographic scheme through hardware security primitives.
In 1954, the Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that segregated schools were inherently unequal and detrimental to students. Just three decades later, school boards and communities across the United States ended desegregation programs and returned to largely segregated schools, claiming that these schools would be more equitable than integration programs. Integration’s disappearance from the definition of educational equity was a policy choice embraced by communities across the political spectrum. I explore that choice and its consequences by looking at how resegregation reshaped Austin, Texas. Austinites altered their definition of educational equity to make segregated schools compliant with the city’s ideals of progressivism. Combining histories of the civil rights movement with public policy scholarship, my project analyzes not only how schools once again came to be segregated, but how that new segregation became normalized in American society.
elia romera figueroa
The Bass Instructor of Record Fellowship allowed me to teach a core class of the Romance Studies department, Introduction to Literature, Film, and Popular Culture (SPAN 331S), which is directly related to my dissertation. My project studies protest music in Spain, particularly female singers, from 1952 until 1986, during the second half of Franco’s Dictatorship and in the years of the transition to Democracy. While this course is typically taught by Prof. Stephanie Sieburth, she confirmed that the class would not be offered by her in Fall 2021. I propose a revised syllabus that keeps the class structure and core readings while incorporating a stronger concentration in music, my main field of expertise. Therefore, students faced print literary texts, music, and films, learning how to think critically across different types of sources. The Bass Fellowship provided me with a unique formative opportunity to further develop my pedagogical skills by offering students a class with demonstrated interest.
My research focuses on religious objects and images in the United States that circulate in popular culture (i.e. Christmas trees and menorahs, healing crystals, bible verses on fast food containers, yoga apparel, etc.). I am interested in studying these objects to understand the blurry lines between the sacred and the secular in the United States. My research is also interested in how these objects are embedded within systems of power and how they shape our identities, create communities, and construct the nation.
My dissertation topic follows the Fantus Company, the most prominent site selector company (a private consulting firm that advises both private companies and government agencies) to understand how the economic development incentives they brokered, and the local and state governments doled out, undermined tax coffers in working-class communities. Felix Fantus, a Chicago-based industrial real estate entrepreneur, launched the practice in the late 1920s when he realized he could monetize his knowledge to facilitate factory location and relocation. The Fantus Company went on to advise companies and governments throughout the national landscape until the 1990s when the company was purchased by Deloitte. My dissertation will contribute to the fields of U.S. economic, business, labor, and social history, among others. I am hoping to use this upcoming year to delve more deeply into the research for this project as it will be my fourth year of the Ph.D. program. The Aleane Webb Dissertation Research Fellowship will enable me to pay for processing fees for various records, an even more essential part of my research process this upcoming year with limitations to travel from the on-going pandemic.
My work involves the use of historical data to answer pertinent questions about the strategies governments use to control their citizens. This travel award will be used to visit the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. in order to obtain archival data in order to examine how ethnic conflicts can be exploited by governments to extend state power by acting as intermediaries and mediators in inter-ethnic and inter-class conflicts by examining the case of Chinese settlement into Mongol lands during the period of Japanese rule in Manchuria.
Molecular Cancer Biology
As I am just beginning my Ph.D., my research interests are still relatively general. I am interested in studying how cancer tumors interact with the body’s immune system and in investigating possible routes that might be exploited in order to help the body fight a cancer tumor through its immune response system. I am currently exploring different research laboratories that all study various forms of cancer, and each lab addresses the immune system’s involvement in the cancer environment in a different way. Ultimately, I will choose one of these labs to be my home for the next few years. It is also my plan to earn my Certificate in College Teaching while at Duke and take part in other professional development activities.
Working within the field of behavioral ecology, I hope to focus my graduate work on the interplay of disease, hormones, and social behavior in animals. Similar to how during the pandemic the threat of viruses has impacted our hormones, behavior, and social connections, social living in wildlife is shaped by feedback with disease pressure and hormonal variation in moments of stress or during adolescence. I aim to examine how parasite infection and hormonally driven dominance influence or relate to social living across multiple species of lemur in the /Eulemur/ genus.
My dissertation examines the process of treaty-making as a tool of European imperialism, specifically through an analysis of British diplomacy with other European at the turn of the eighteenth century, a pivotal period in Britain’s colonial history. I look at various diplomatic actors who used the Peace of Utrecht, which granted British control over several new colonial territories, to consolidate British power on the ground in different colonies. The ultimate goal of my project is to disrupt how we think about treaties as a structural element of international law - historians, political scientists, and journalists tend to frame treaties as abstract legal principles. I aim to show how the process of treaty-making is less linear and more diffuse than we tend to think it is. The seemingly never-ending negotiations over Brexit, for example, are a stark reminder that we as a global society need a new way to think about treaties and how they are negotiated, rewritten, implemented, and, yes, even rejected. The Dissertation Research Travel Award: International will support my research at archives in France, which hold some important documents necessary for my dissertation related to Anglo-French diplomacy in colonial territories such as the Hudson Bay and India. I have planned to use this award in the late spring of 2022, to wait for as many COVID restrictions to ease as possible. I sincerely thank the donors who made this award possible.
Civil and Environmental Engineering
I am a sixth-year Ph.D. Candidate studying the degeneration of plastic products into micro and nano plastics during human use and waste disposal in the environment under Dr. Mark Wiesner. The Bass Instructional Fellowship will enable me to be the Instructor of Record for CEE 560: Environmental Transport Phenomena. I look forward to teaching students on how environmental engineers model contaminants and pollution in the environment and how to solve these problems and apply them to future jobs or research topics. The Bass Teaching Assistant program will allow me to TA a class in materials science for a better understanding of MSE applications to my research in plastics. I plan to apply what I have learned during my instructional learning during the tenure of these fellowships when I am a faculty member in the future.
My research focuses on the massive transformations of the financial system during the latter half of the 20th century. As a theorist of communication media and a philosopher of technology, I ask how financial transformation and the changes in global power structures that go along with it is caught up with technological transformations, particularly the advent of large-scale mainframe computing, the construction of global digital communications networks, and the constitution of immense remote-access data repositories. My dissertation, Cash Flows: The Rise of Financial Engineering, 1958-1987, is based on research in financial market-related archives in New York and Chicago, including, extensively, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange archives at the University of Illinois, Chicago. In the dissertation, I argue that the changes in finance have a lot to teach technologically, politically, and culturally about our current relationship with new media.
Jasmine Carrera Smith is a Ph.D. candidate in political science at Duke University. Broadly, her research agenda considers how Black Americans’ racial identity shapes political attitudes, behavior, and interactions with political institutions. Her dissertation project, “Electability Politics: How and Why Black Democrats Vote in Primary Elections” provides an understanding of the strategic way in which Black Americans vote in primary elections. Situating her theoretical framework in rational choice theory, Jasmine theorizes that Black voters frequently forego candidates that fulfill their desire for descriptive representation to elect a candidate that is, by their collective estimation, likely to defeat the Republican candidate in the general election. Jasmine’s co-authored work is published in Politics, Groups, and Identities.
I am an early modernist researching the varying intersections of sound, acoustics, liturgy, and the senses in seventeenth-century English culture. My dissertation explores how sounds within St Paul’s Cathedral, as well as the sounds of its demolition and reconstruction after the Great Fire in 1666, impacted culture and institutions throughout Restoration London (1660â€“1700). Relationships between St Paul’s, the monarchy, the Anglican Church, and the people of London were simultaneously interpreted and affected by sonic parameters. The Crown, for example, promoted sounds of construction as expressions of progress even though the noise negatively impacted business owners near the cathedral, crippling an already burdened economy. Sounding spaces within St Paul’s were ephemeral and constantly moving, their locations dictated by the construction happening around them. The need for sung liturgy in a consecrated space superseded the need to complete intricate architectural plans, and as a result, tensions grew between the Church and the Capital. I thus interpret the reconstruction of St Paul’s Cathedral through space and sound, creativity and music, and the complex relationships between dominating institutions to understand its crucial role in Restoration London.
I am broadly interested in why plants live where they do and how they got there in the first place. For my dissertation, I am working with a species of fern from Australasia. This fern has been able to spread from mainland Australia into neighboring islands in the Pacific, but some of its sister species are unable to do this. I am trying to figure out whether we can identify certain traits that allow for movement over greater areas by looking at reproductive strategies, physical traits, and genetics of these plants. Understanding plant movement is key not only in preserving biodiversity and the ecosystems that support life worldwide but could have applications in agriculture and weed control.
I am writing a dissertation called "The Franco-American Existentialist Tradition, 1937-1955." Existentialism is often thought of as a large French and German intellectual development of the 20th Century, and while this story is true, it is incomplete. The major French existentialists, especially Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre, were enthusiastic readers of American fiction from the 1920s and ‘30s, particularly fiction by William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, John Dos Passos, John Steinbeck, and Erskine Caldwell. In my dissertation, I pursue that overlap by asking why American literature was so appealing to the French and how American literature reciprocated the French influence. I answer this question by tracing the existentialist theme of authenticity in the work of three novelists. Authenticity refers to the idea that one can (and should) find one’s true self or, more correctly, appropriate one’s life, rather than be moved by the dictates of culture, fashion, and more. I follow this theme as it manifests in the work of John Steinbeck, Richard Wright, and Patricia Highsmith, and I illuminate their handling of the theme by reading it alongside existentialist thought. Ultimately, my project aims to provide a more complete reckoning of both existentialism and American literary history by showing their mutual entanglement.
My dissertation examines how state-level policies and social stratification shape the intergenerational transmission of health through birth outcomes. Research on the social determinants of health finds that structural factors, such as macro-level socioeconomic and political characteristics, are linked to health and birth outcomes. In fact, structural factors that individuals’ are exposed to at a young age can shape their later life health. My research extends this line of literature by considering how birthing peoples’ exposures to structural factors both early in their lives and during pregnancy shape their own children’s birth outcomes. In my work, I estimate the types of state socio-economic-political structures in the US and consider how birthing peoples’ exposure to these different types of stateÂ structures at different points in their lives are associated with birth outcomes. I also consider how changes in reproductive health policies within a state are related to the composition of births and birth outcomes. My work focuses on understanding these processes at both the population and individual levels. Furthermore, I consider how state policies and structures may differently relate to the birth outcomes across birthing peoples’ race/ethnicity, with the understanding that structural and interpersonal forms of discrimination likely exacerbate negative relationships and may limit protective effects.
I am studying African American migration and religion in the 19th century South following the Civil War. I am interested in how religion informs African American life and how black people used religion and spirituality not only to understand their world but to make decisions on the prospects of migration within and outside of the United States. I am using the grant to travel to archives within the United States where African Americans migrated during the period.
My dissertation asks why startups may be better at bringing scientific advances to market. In light of the recent decline in productivity and rise in industry concentration, understanding why startups or incumbent firms are more likely to innovate with new science has become a pressing question. The existing literature has explained the higher innovative propensity of some startups by their superior fit with the new technology and markets. However, it is also possible that the apparent innovativeness of startups may be a result of firm choice, rather than inherent capability gaps. Startups may choose novel products that are riskier but offer higher payoffs because they pay a higher entry cost in the form of investments in new factories, sales, and distribution channels. This mechanism has received less attention in the literature because obtaining a set of potential entrants inventing pre-entry is difficult. Therefore, I link the unexpected arrival of new Soviet laser science after the end of the Cold War to patents (pre-entry) and products (post-entry) by American laser firms to compare startup and incumbent activities. Startups are around 50% more likely than incumbents to introduce new products using Soviet science, but not more likely to rely on Soviet science during pre-entry patenting. Moreover, probabilities of entry and exit are both lower for startups compared to incumbents, which is consistent with startups choosing into novel (valuable & risky) innovations.
Civil and Environmental Engineering
I am a second-year Ph.D. candidate in Civil and Environmental Engineering with a concentration in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Materials at Duke University. My research focuses on developing nanocellulose, an environmentally friendly plant polymer, into synthetic biofilms to understand the behavior of multi-species bacteria. The nanocellulose films I am developing will mimic binding responses, transport mechanisms and stiffening and wetting behaviors of biofilms. This will allow researchers to efficiently gather data regarding how biofilms behave in different environments which is useful for combating bacteria in food processing and manufacturing industries. Secondly, I am building a machine learning database that would determine what proteins would closely mimic biofilm behavior. I am also the co-founder of a nanocellulose start-up that specializes in creating applications for flexible electronics and food packaging.
As a first-year student in Biochemistry, I will be working on projects in four different labs. I get excited about any topic in biology very easily, but my biggest passion is unraveling the molecular mechanisms that underlie cellular processes. Broadly, I am interested in understanding how changes in the structure, shape, interactions, and modifications of a macromolecule such as a protein or nucleic acid can lead to pathogenesis. For my current rotation project, I am working on understanding if certain mutations in the neurofilament light chain - a protein that helps neurons maintain their shape - might change the level of modifications with a sugar called O-GlcNAc and affect interactions with other proteins. This project resonates with my passion for the molecular basis of disease, as the set of mutations I am trying to generate and study are found in a subset of patients suffering from Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) disease: a progressive neurodegenerative disease that causes muscle weakness and deterioration of motor skills.
Computational Media, Arts & Cultures
As part of our experimental department (Computational Media, Art & Cultures), my collaborator Quran Karriem and I conduct a based practice project titled Governance, which explores contemporary media objects like machine learning, algorithmic surveillance, and ubiquitous computation through the lens of audiovisual performance, using software, moving image, and analog synthesizers. Our performance practice runs parallel to our research work, which deals with analyzing the political structures implicit in, and articulated through, those computational infrastructures that shape everyday life. With the funds provided by the Graduate School, we have been able to further develop this project through focusing on producing and recording new content, covering material expenses, and allocating funding for future performances at DIY venues on the East Coast (to be concretely scheduled contingent on COVID-19 safety protocols).
Ninel Valderrama Negron
The support of the Katherine Goodman Stern Fellowship will free me from financial concerns during my 6th year, allowing me to finish my dissertation in a timely manner. My dissertation examines the role of Havana and Manila, after Spain’s loss of the Americas in 1825, and charts their rebirth as metropolitan centers in a transpacific empire. It unveils the careful design of these sites, particularly the infrastructures tested on these ports in the Global Southâ€” such as the paid access to water for private residences (1835) that were coeval with technologies considered natural to the Global North. I argue that infrastructures were not passive objects, but instead actively managed populations and shaped political subjectivities and loyalties. My thesis trains a transpacific lens on projects before viewed only through a regional optic, and so reveals how infrastructural plans aspired to resurrect a dying empire. I explore little-known historical projects that help explain how colonial infrastructure reinforces today’s racial inequality. The invisibility assigned to pipes, sewers, or cables often makes them seem boring, dull, or unimportant, when, in fact, they reinforce the structural differences that define the social fabric within a city. My dissertation’s comparative structure is both formal, in its exploration of historical narratives, and geographical, in its efforts to bring Transpacific Studies to bear upon Atlantic and Latin American studies.
Abnormal narrowing of a blood vessel is called a lesion. Lesions that occur at a branching point or near the beginning of the vessel are difficult to treat because of their complicated location and are called complex lesions. Complex lesions occur in at least 20% of all surgical procedures and are associated with a higher rate of adverse outcomes compared to simple lesions. While there are known strategies for treating simpler lesions, there is an urgent need to better understand complex lesions and improve surgical outcomes for these patients. To this end, in my dissertation, I developed a novel approach that combines the spatial features of complex lesions along with their underlying blood flow patterns to supplement existing treatment strategies and ultimately improve patient outcomes. This research will help understand the interaction between spatial features and underlying blood flow patterns of complex lesions. To this end, I validated the computational framework in a multi-center clinical trial of 200 patients and found novel biomarkers that can incorporate the spatial detail and blood flow patterns, which can complement the existing diagnostic metrics. Combining the local blood flow analysis and spatial features, this work is the first necessary step to provide a clinically relevant metric that in a large, randomized, controlled trial with the potential to improve clinical outcomes for patients with complex lesions.
Civil and Environmental Engineering
As the interest in renewable energy is growing, the fouling of photovoltaic (PV) modules is becoming a more apparent inconvenience. Particulate matter deposition reduces light transmittance to the panel and therefore decreases the energy output. The loss of power production can be especially significant in places with high dust and atmospheric pollutant levels, such as the Southwestern U.S. or the Middle East. Cleaning PV modules is expensive, therefore it is important to study the reversibility of the soiling process, as well as preventative approaches. My work aims to fill the gap in knowledge between particle characteristics and their soiling potential and use findings to identify an appropriate soiling mitigation approach based on regional atmospheric particulate matter composition. I also seek to develop a mode to predict soiling losses and the reversibility of particle deposition worldwide using environmental parameters and atmospheric particle transport principles. The model would eliminate the need for extensive historical data on PV performance at the location of interest, the main limiting factor for soiling prediction.
Marine Science and Conservation
My dissertation work aims to uncover the overwintering location(s) of the world’s rarest population of large whales, the North Pacific right whale, by using biogeochemical tracers in museum specimens and whale skin samples. One of the greatest mysteries of this species is that they in-effect disappear for half the year - swimming from cold waters with ample food in summer months to unknown locations in winter. Knowing where these whales go, and when, will improve the conservation efforts of this endangered whale. This fellowship allowed for travel to various museums around the country to collect samples for the biogeochemical analyses. The fellowship also allowed for travel to the University of New Mexico Stable Isotope Laboratory to continue work on the geochemical analyses.
jessica Waibl Polania
My work focuses on understanding why immunotherapies haven’t been successful in treating Glioblastoma (GBM). Remarkable success has been achieved in other solid tumors, such as melanoma and lung, but thus far GBM has proven more difficult. Our lab has identified a dysfunction in the immune system’s effector arm, namely T cell exhaustion. My research project is to uncover the origins and dynamics of this dysfunction in the context of GBM. We aim to identify relevant interactions in the tumor microenvironment and potentially in the tumor-draining lymph node. Our objective is to target identified interactions to license immunotherapies, as well as to develop new ones.