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Summer Research Snapshots 2016


Summer fellowships

For summer 2016, The Graduate School provided 450 summer research fellowships to its Ph.D. students, totaling nearly $3.98 million in support. These included 271 guaranteed fellowships to first- and second-year students and 179 competitive awards to students in their third year or beyond. Here's a look at the work those fellowships supported, in the words of the recipients.

Click the links below to jump to the roundup for a specific Ph.D. program.


Art, Art History and Visual Studies

Magdalena Kolodziej



This summer, I did research in Japan and Taiwan with the support of the Summer Research Fellowship provided by The Graduate School. In particular, I focused on collecting materials for a chapter of my dissertation devoted to Japanese language publicity throughout the empire related to official fine-art exhibitions and selected artists. My dissertation, “Empire at the Exhibition: The Imperial Art World of Modern Japan (1907-1945),” examines the entanglement of modern Japanese art in the project of building the empire.

During my stay in Taiwan, in addition to frequenting libraries, I visited a number of sites and buildings related to Taiwan’s history under Japanese occupation. This experience enriched my understanding of the urban planning and the daily life in that period. A highlight of my summer research was a visit to the private art museum in Taipei dedicated to the painter Chen Chin with a group of art historians from Taiwan.

Photo: A renovated Japanese-style house in Taipei

Tim Shea



This summer, I participated in archaeological fieldwork at Morgantina, a Sikel, Greek, and Roman inland site in Sicily, as part of the Contrada Agnese Project with Professor Alex Walthall at UT Austin. We are in the process of excavating a city block immediately adjacent to two large bath complexes, which have been excavated since 2003.

While at Morgantina, I also collected geospatial data of Cittadella, the archaic settlement of Morgantina, using pole and kite photography to create 3D models of the exposed architecture uncovered in earlier excavations. This work was completed with the help of Ed Triplett, a Council on Library and Information Resources postdoc in the Duke Library, and Emma Buckingham, a Ph.D. candidate in classical archaeology at UNC. This data will be used to plan future excavations on Cittadella and will also serve as base plans for legacy data.

Upon leaving Sicily, I traveled to Athens to do dissertation research at the Epigraphic Museum. While there, I had the pleasure of collaborating with Bruce Hartzler, the digital archivist of the Agora Excavations in Athens, as he works to integrate the excavation plans and digital data collected in the field into a single, online digital repository. This work was part of the Digital Athens Project housed in the Wired! Lab at Duke University.

Photo: 3D model of Cittadella, the archaic settlement of Morgantina, Sicily. Produced using photogrammetry in Agisoft.

Kelly Tang

I did archival research in art museums and university libraries in London and Oxford, UK, as well as Taiwan and Northern California. My work is on a Chinese artist named Zhang Daqian (1899-1983) that spent the latter half of his long career abroad, so it was important to retrace some of his footsteps. In addition to meetings with important scholars in the field and important museum contacts, I also managed to meet one of the artist’s grandchildren in California.

Michael Tauschinger-Dempsey

During my summer research, I examined and uncovered the structural violence that is part of most man-made structures: Interstate highways cut through local and mostly poor urban communities, uprooting its populations and exposing them to a host of social injustices. Skyscrapers alienate its inhabitants not only from one another, but also from the neighboring urban populations. Geological media such as rivers and oceans have been transformed into natural superhighways of sorts to serve global commodity distribution, causing environmental degradation and global socioeconomic imbalances. Airports and train stations mimic prison architecture following utilitarian, panoptic principles developed centuries ago for the purposes of better controlling pathological and criminal populations.

My approach to this research is both visual and conceptual. I merge contemporary ideas on media studies and critical theory with art historical and social scientific perspectives. My goal is to traverse and unite disparate disciplinary fields and to establish a new field that I termed Socio-Visual Cross-Media Studies.



Selcan Aydin

I have been working on my dissertation research over the summer in Dr. Nick Buchler and Dr. Paul Magwene's labs. My goal is to understand how differences in the genome affect quantitative traits, and I use budding yeast as a model system. Yeast can be found in sources ranging from fig trees, to beer, to people. Dr. Magwene's lab, in collaboration with other labs at Duke, have recently sequenced the genome of new yeast strains isolated from various sources. They have shown that there is significant amount of variation in the genome sequences within this collection of 100 genomes. Over the summer, in collaboration with the Magwene lab, we crossed a subset of these yeast strains and generated progeny to study these genomic differences further. Diploid yeast cells sporulate to produce four sister spores that is called a tetrad, and these tetrads are protected within an ascus that holds them together. My summer involved long hours in front of the microscope breaking tetrads and moving individual spores away from each other so they can grow separately. In the end, we produced a panel containing 768 spores and genotyped it using a novel method called private haplotype barcoding. We are using this panel to study the effects of genetic differences on stress response in budding yeast.

Laura Bagge



I am very grateful to have received a 2016 Summer Research Fellowship, which allowed me to present the results of my most recent work at two conferences: Living Light at the Scripps Institution for Oceanography and The International Conference on Light and Color in Nature at the University of Granada. Also, I finished writing one of my dissertation chapters, and this manuscript was just accepted for publication in the journal Current Biology.

My most significant research experience came in August when I was chosen to be one of 24 scientists to participate in an Early Career Scientist Training Cruise on the research vessel Atlantis. On August 3, I had the best experience of my life when I went to the bottom of the ocean (over half a mile!) in the famous sub Alvin. I collected two of the alien-looking transparent crustaceans that I study, called Phronima. These samples will be important to the completion of my dissertation. One of the goals of this research experience was broadening participation in deep-sea science by using telepresence to send live video from ship to shore.


Yuantong Ding

My project falls into the area of understanding the tumor progression process from an evolutionary point of view. Previously, I developed a model to predict the phylogeny of tumor cells under different evolutionary assumptions and sampling schemes. During the summer, I analyzed an empirical dataset in breast tumor from our collaborating lab. The dataset is a whole exome sequencing of 32 biopsy samples from one breast tumor, which enable us to perform a detailed phylogeny mapping of biopsies and to study the correlation between genetic relationship and physical location of the tumor cells. I characterized the intra-tumor heterogeneity by single nucleotide variation (SNV) and copy number variation. The results showed a high heterogeneity within tumor, suggested multiple origins of a linear trend towards invasive tumor and high correlation between genetic distance and physical distance. The preliminary result was accepted for a poster at San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium this December.

Patrick Green

I used my Graduate School Summer Research Fellowship to work on my second dissertation chapter. This study looked at how animals use specific behaviors (“signals”) to resolve contests without injury. Animal behavior theory suggests that competitors should resolve contests with as little cost and injury as possible. However, in my study system (mantis shrimps), competitors frequently strike each other during contests, even though these strikes are some of the most powerful movements measured in biology, delivering forces up to 1000 newtons. How do mantis shrimps resolve their contests without killing each other?

I’ve previously found that mantis shrimps direct competitive strikes toward each other’s shielded tailplates (video). This summer, I asked if those directed strikes could act as signals—could the use of a potentially dangerous strike actually serve to reduce the risk of injury? I used techniques from the social sciences to track the behaviors competitors used during contests. I found that exchanging strikes is indeed used as a signal: exchanged strikes occurred more frequently in escalated contests and predicted a loser’s retreat.

My work this summer shows how animals with potentially deadly weapons can use them to communicate information, resolving contests without injury.

I am truly grateful for the funding I’ve received from The Graduate School, as this progress would not have been possible otherwise.

Michelle Jackson

I spent my summer as a teaching assistant for Dr. Jonathan Shaw in association with the Duke in Alaska course supported by Duke Global Education (see the course website I helped update throughout the summer). The course required us to travel to both Juneau and Anchorage, Alaska, so that our students could learn about and compare the biodiversity at both sites.

Participating in this course was an incredibly valuable experience as part of my graduate education in providing me teaching practice with undergrads outside of the traditional classroom setting, as well as enabling me to expand my horizons in making plans for my dissertation. After working during the summer in Alaska on the species I initially intended to research (peat moss, from the genus Sphagnum), I realized my true interests lie in exploring the effects of eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) from invasive insects on understory bryophyte communities. It was with this revelation that I began to change my dissertation plans, and I am continuing the work on this process through the fall semester. Thus, teaching in Alaska this summer was incredibly beneficial because I had opportunities to learn how to identify and study other bryophytes and even vascular plants, in addition to Sphagnum, as we taught the students about variation in biodiversity.

Jim Jordan



The Lamb Fellowship allowed me to have a very productive summer of research. I made substantial progress on my thesis project. Using the model system C. elegans, I followed up on my discovery that extended starvation early in life followed by recovery in rich nutrient conditions resulted in pathology that reduced brood size. Specifically, after identifying suitable reagents, I was able to determine that these pathologies were tumors. To our knowledge, these are the first tumors identified in wild-type nematodes.

Furthermore, I found that I could mitigate tumorigenesis and increase brood size by reducing the expression of an important and highly conserved gene: the insulin receptor daf-2. This suggests that following tissue-damaging stress, insulin-like signaling allows for variability in the allocation of resources between maintenance of the soma and reproductive rate.

Photo: Mitotic tumor in wild type nematode starved early in life for eight days prior to recovery in rich nutrient conditions

Rong-Chien Lin



First of all, I want to thank Duke Graduate School for supporting me with the Summer Research Fellowship. Because it requires no service obligations, I was able to work in the greenhouse and in the lab all summer.

During this time, I created an F2 population by selfing an F1 plant of the two morphs of Clarkia gracilis ssp. sonomensis. One of the parental plants has white cups at the base of the petals and the other has no spots. I sowed more than 150 F2 seeds. Among them, 42 F2 plants were flowering and have been phenotyped. I am still waiting for additional 100 plants to flower. In addition, I designed primers for sequencing the full length of the eight anthocyanin enzyme-coding genes, and did a lot of PCR with cDNA samples to optimize the primers. By the end of the summer, I had developed markers to get the full length of four genes. Moreover, I was able to attend the Evolution meeting in Austin, Texas. I received many useful suggestions during the meeting, and those suggestions helped me to design the follow-up experiments.

Photo: Flower of a F2 plant

Kenneth McKenna

During the summer of 2016, I spent the majority of the time preparing and working out the chapters of my dissertation and setting up my committee. In doing so, I started up quite a bit of projects relevant to each chapter of my dissertation. The majority of my time was spent in lab conducting several exploratory experiments. The rest of my time was spent exploring the literature and developing an ideological framework to help me answer my questions. Through this literature search, I, my lab mate, and adviser have been commissioned a paper. Further, I will be presenting the research I accomplished this summer at two conferences this fall.

Jia Pan

Over the summer, I conducted research toward my dissertation on the evolution of the olfactory system in fruit flies. I am specifically interested in how hotspots during development affect transcriptional variation in the adult olfactory system of various Drosophila species. I was able to conduct several experiments to validate data that we had previously obtained from large-scale next-generation transcriptome sequencing.

Those experiments involved fine-scale dissections of the developing and adult fruit-fly antennae, isolation and reverse-transcription of RNA, and quantification of gene transcripts. In addition, I also conducted several statistical analyses on both the transcriptome data and the data collected over the summer using statistical tools such as principal component analysis and hierarchical clustering.

Finally, I was also able to present a poster at the Allied Genetics Conference in Orlando, Florida. My poster was titled “Developmental hotspots drive transcriptional variability and convergence in the Drosophila olfactory system.”

Bryan Piatkowski



My research is focused on understanding the tempo and mode of plant functional trait evolution in the genus Sphagnum. I aim to understand the molecular ecology of Sphagnum peat moss growth and decay traits through the integration of ecological and genomic methods. Peat, or incompletely decomposed biomass, forms when the rate of growth exceeds the rate of decay thereby contributing to a significant fraction of the world’s terrestrial carbon stock and allowing for many species of peat moss to coexist within a peatland through niche partitioning.

This summer, I used funds provided by The Graduate School to travel to New York so that I could collect species of Sphagnum for my research. I was able to collect over 30 species of Sphagnum. These species are critical to my research in that they will be used to assess growth and decay rates allowing me to model the evolution of these traits and identify the role of selection in facilitating the radiation of species in this genus of plants.

I am grateful to The Graduate School for providing this funding during my first summer at Duke. This opportunity has provided me with foundational materials to begin part of my dissertation project.

Photo: Plants of Sphagnum peat moss collected from New York state

Karla Sosa

I study the diversity and evolution of desert-adapted ferns that live in the Andes Mountains of South America. This summer, thanks to the support from The Graduate School, I was able to visit the Natural History Museum in Lima, Peru, to look at previous collections. These ferns have remained essentially unstudied in the past 20 years, so very little information exists online and their biology is mostly unknown. By visiting the museum, I was able to get a better sense of the diversity and distribution of these ferns within Peru. Knowing their location is an essential component to planning fieldwork, which I plan to begin in December.

Qinglong Zeng

I revised my second manuscript during this summer. The manuscript was submitted to PLoS Computational Biology this May and was rejected at the end of June. The main reason for the rejection was that reviewers had doubts on the robustness of our models, so I spent two months working on solving this problem.

First, I searched for more literature to find theoretical or experimental support for the choice of our model parameters. Then, I increased the number of replicates for our computational experiments. For those parameters whose values cannot be referred from previous studies, I explored the parameter spaces through a grid search approach. Finally, I set up about 193,600 simulations and all of them have finished by the end of August. Currently, I’m working on summarizing the simulated data and revising my manuscript based on the new results.

Another part of the work I have done this summer is to analyze an empirical microbiome dataset from different patients. I tried different machine-learning methods to identify the key species between microbiomes of the healthy and of the patients. Based on the results of identification, I also want to build up a classifier that can help with diagnosis of the disease based on human gut microbiome composition. In addition, I applied dynamic bayes net to those empirical data to capture the temporal dependency relationship between microbial species within human gut to predict the variations of patients’ gut microbiomes after treatment.


Classical Studies

Melissa Huber



The Summer Research Fellowship allowed me to spend the summer researching and writing my dissertation on the monuments and topography of Rome during the reign of the emperor Claudius and to participate in the summer program in Epigraphy at the American Academy in Rome. This intensive program, taught by an expert in the field, Professor John Bodel of Brown University, improved my ability to read, interpret, and publish ancient Roman inscriptions. I immediately applied this knowledge to document the large number of inscriptions relevant to my research in Rome.

Photo: Giving a final presentation on the inscription from an ancient statue base in Rome

David Stifler

Thanks to The Graduate School’s Summer Research Fellowship, I was able to dedicate this summer to developing my dissertation topic, which centers on the issue of the “gatekeeping” of language in the Greek- and Latin-speaking intellectual world of the Roman Empire in the second century CE.

Much of my work involved extensive readings of primary and secondary literature in my field, from both Latin and Greek traditions. This reading process entailed outlining a corpus of literature, locating the aspects of each work which engage with my topic, and following up on connections among those primary sources and with secondary scholarship (in English, French, Italian, German, and Spanish) to develop my understanding of the state of the scholarly questions in this area. Furthermore, I was able to meet with professors and get feedback to refine my thought process and areas of inquiry in order to use my summer period effectively and position my project within the current scholarly discussion.

Having regular access to the library and to campus generally made this effort possible, and I could not have had this level of preparation to begin the dissertation prospectus this fall without the generous funding I received from The Graduate School. Next summer, I intend to continue work on my dissertation, which I expect will be underway by then, by traveling abroad to access materials not available at Duke.


Computational Media, Arts & Cultures

Max (Margaret) Symuleski

With the generous support of the Kline Family fund this past summer, I was able to conduct archival research in June and July in New York at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) archives, and I was able to book several viewing sessions at the Electronic Arts Intermix.

At MoMA, I accessed materials related to Kynaston McShine’s “Information” exhibition in 1970—a foundational and international show that brought together work in process art, conceptual art, and post-minimalist sculpture. Looking through McShine’s extensive research, I was specifically interested in locating conversations with artists and in texts related to the subjects of environment and ecology. I found several of these, proving that thinking about environmental concerns formed an important part of McShine’s background research and approach to the exhibition.

At Electronic Arts Intermix, I was able to view experimental video works by Paul Ryan, an early theorist of media ecology who sought to use video as a means for understanding and repairing human relationships to environment. I also viewed films and video works by Juan Downey and Robert Smithson, both of whom engaged with and questioned human-environment relations in their work, though in very different ways.

The remainder of the summer was spent gathering sources related to the Anthropocene hypothesis from the sciences and the humanities, and in researching the history of the ecological, geological, and climate science on which this hypothesis is based.


Cultural Anthropology

Joella Bitter

The Duke Graduate School Summer Research Fellowship provided critical support to the first stage of my dissertation research. This research explores the role of aurality and noise in the making of a small, East African city. With Duke’s support, I retrieved and perused historical documents about pre-colonial and colonial-era Uganda found in various archival collections. Not only did I cull these archival resources, but I also was able to travel to Gulu, Uganda, to initiate the ethnographic fieldwork component of my research. During this trip, I completed Uganda’s national research clearance process, began mapping Gulu’s soundscapes, and improved my Acholi language proficiency. In short, thanks to this summer fellowship, I was able to lay a strong foundation for my forthcoming fieldwork year.

Stephanie Friede



I used my fellowship to support a concentrated period of writing on my dissertation. I was able to complete two chapters of my dissertation as well as submit a paper proposal for a special issue title, “Exploring the Anthropology of Energy: Ethnography, Energy and Ethics,” which will be published in the journal Energy Research & Social Science.

I also spent a lot of time sorting and editing the archive of material I acquired during my fieldwork, much of which were photographs. I am in the process of developing a photo exhibit, which I hope to do in downtown Durham and at Duke over the coming school year. 

Photo: Juchitán de Zaragoza, Oaxaca, Mexico



Cathy Chamberlin



Thanks to the Duke Graduate School Summer Research Fellowship, I was able to complete laboratory chemical analysis of many samples I had previously collected from Big Cypress National Preserve. This preserve is a karst landscape where the geomorphology (regularly spaced circular depressions) has likely been heavily impacted by biota. To evaluate this effect, I created two elemental budgets of the whole watershed: one for calcium and one for phosphorus. This required analysis of various types of samples from wood to rock, and I was able to combine the information to achieve two estimates of the age of the system based on the two different mass balances that are variably impacted by vegetation.

Photo: A characteristic cypress “dome” growing out of a local depression in Big Cypress National Preserve. Credit: C. Clifford

Kendra Smyth

Thanks to The Graduate School’s Summer Research Fellowship, I was able to complete the lab analyses for my study on the health consequences of natal dispersal in meerkats. Outside of the lab, I wrote and submitted a paper on testosterone-mediated trade-offs in female meerkats and collaborated with colleagues on a meta-analysis. At the end of the summer, I traveled to Exeter, England, to present my research at the 16th congress of the International Society for Behavioral Ecology. The conference provided an opportunity to network with behavioral ecologists from all over the world and catch up with my colleagues from the UK. It was a great ending to a productive summer!

Joy Stanistreet

I spent the summer completing data analyses for my dissertation and preparing manuscripts for publication. My research applies passive acoustic monitoring across large spatial and temporal scales to study the ecology of beaked whales and sperm whales in the western North Atlantic Ocean. In July, I published a short methods paper titled “Effects of duty-cycled recordings on detecting the presence of beaked whale species in the northwest Atlantic.” More recently, I submitted a manuscript documenting the distributions and seasonality of beaked whale species along the continental shelf slope in the western North Atlantic Ocean. I am grateful for the support of The Graduate School’s Summer Research Fellowship, which allowed me to focus solely on my dissertation work over the summer.



Craig Fratrik

I took a number of classes that better prepared me to do my own research. Also, I independently read some textbooks to research the fields in which I might want to specialize.

Amanda Melina

I spent this summer to advance my educational pursuits in two respects.

First, I studied and reviewed the major literature in my field—development economics—to prepare for my field exam this June (a requirement of my program) and my own research.

Second, I drove forward my research project that investigates how access to finance affects micro, small, and medium enterprises in developing countries. More specifically, I am interested in the impact of legal reform and the introduction of collateral registries on firms’ borrowing, employment, investment, and revenue. The goal of these policy changes was to make it easier for borrowers to use movable assets, such as machines or tools, as collateral for loans from banks and other financial institutions. I am examining if these policies actually reached these goals. Moreover, I am investigating if these policies helped household-based microenterprises to generate more income for their owners and improve the nutrition and health of household members. Over the summer, I have been talking to experts who worked on reforms in Mexico and Ghana in order to learn about the details of the policy. I also started exploring which datasets I could use for my empirical analysis.

The summer fellowship allowed me to focus on this research without having to worry about financing my cost of living. I thank The Graduate School for this generous support.

Benjamin Heebsh

My summer was spent formulating ideas for my field paper and prospectus for my third year. We have a research paper due at the end of the fall semester, which is intended to become the foundation for our dissertation, which I’d been struggling with throughout the spring. Not having to balance teaching and other coursework proved immensely valuable, as I was able to really focus on my research project and come up with some novel ideas for research. Much of that time over the summer was spent in a library reading economics literature and determining what has been done before. In addition, I spent a great deal of time searching for novel data sets, which can be used to attack new problems our field has left unanswered.

Taehoon Kim

I have spent most of summer reading papers to find research questions. Since I just finished the first year of the program, I did not have a clear idea about which sub-fields in economics I would like to study. After talking to some professors from relevant fields, which is macroeconomics, I received reading lists in each field. Also, I took three courses in the summer: Stata, MATLAB, and Writing and Presentation in Economics. Stata and MATLAB classes helped me learn necessary programming in economics.

Andrea Kiss

Thanks to the Summer Research Fellowship, I had freedom to spend my summer in a way that served my academic goals the best. At the beginning, I reviewed my core course materials from my first year as I was preparing for qualifying exams. After these exams were over, I took part in a writing and presentation course, which helped me be a clearer writer and a better speaker than I was before. I spent most of my time in Lilly library writing essays to submit to the writing course and reading a lot of papers to find my research area. Knowing my research interest was essential for selecting fall courses wisely and planning my following years at the Ph.D. program.

Olga Kozlova

This summer, I have been working on my dissertation. I am interested in exploring food policies for low-income households in the U.S. I work with a very large household panel dataset (National Consumer Panel) where I observe household reports of their grocery purchases every time they visit a store for several years. This is a great opportunity to study low-income household purchasing behavior. In particular, I study (1) whether low-income households purchase less healthy food basket than medium-to-high income households, (2) whether food access contributes to this difference in food baskets, and (3) whether existing policies like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program are effective in improving the diet quality of low-income households. This summer has been very busy, but I have appreciated the opportunity to work on such exciting topics.

Matthew Panhans

I spent the summer working on a chapter of my dissertation on health insurance markets since the Affordable Care Act (ACA). In particular, I am using medical claims data from the State of Colorado to determine whether there is adverse selection in the health insurance markets, including the ACA Health Insurance Marketplace or “Exchange”.

Adverse selection occurs in health insurance markets when the sickest individuals are also the ones with the highest demand for insurance. A long theoretical literature shows that this will often lead competitive markets to inefficient allocation, where insurance will be under-provided in the presence of adverse selection. Thus, the question of whether there is adverse selection, and an estimate of the quantity of welfare lost, is important from a policy perspective as it opens the door for market interventions that can bring the provision of insurance up toward an efficient level. Possible interventions include providing further premium subsidies for individuals or more strongly enforcing penalties for remaining uninsured.

My findings suggest there is a moderately large amount of welfare lost in Colorado due to adverse selection, and thus additional premium subsidies could potentially increase welfare and market performance.


This summer, I was able to focus on my dissertation research, which asks whether physicians treat patients differently depending on the financial incentives created by the variation in prices across insurers. This is a data-intensive project, as I am analyzing the near-universe of healthcare claims from the state of Massachusetts over four years. I am grateful that the Summer Research Fellowship allowed me to dig deeply into and come up with creative solutions to some of my empirical challenges, such as how to identify and match individual physicians with physician groups in the claims data. This key step will allow me to test how physician group arrangements, which are rapidly changing through provider consolidation, affect my results.

With the Summer Research Fellowship, I was also able to attend the biennial meeting of the American Society of Health Economists, where I was inspired by the huge quantity and variety of health economics research being done by economists across different institutions and organizations, as well as the perspectives of industry and government experts who attended the conference. This fueled my excitement about my own research and about the role that health economists can play in addressing important policy issues.

Leonardo Salim Saker Chaves

During my summer, I took three courses offered by the Economics department. Two of them helped me understand different useful software (Stata and R), and the other one was focused on improving presenting and writing. In addition, I started working on a project that might be useful on my Ph.D. thesis.

Andrew Steck

My wife had a baby this summer, which made the research fellowship especially pivotal in providing time to work on research. My work this summer was divided primarily between two ongoing research projects.

In the first project, we were able to finish with the manual data collection that had been in process since last winter. The result is a unique new dataset that is allowing us to explore whether and how gas drillers in Pennsylvania have learned about hydraulic fracturing chemicals from regulatory disclosure laws. We started on the analysis in the last few weeks and are excited to begin presenting preliminary results this fall.

The second project that I was able to work on is the main chapter of my dissertation, which looks at oil drillers in North Dakota. I was able to generate important new empirical evidence to support the premise of my model and to draft a much stronger version of the paper.

Su Zhang

Thanks to the fellowship, I had enough time to not only develop my dissertation project, but also complete two ongoing papers, both of which had been submitted to journals for review. My works are mainly about R&D and marketing strategy in the pharmaceutical industry. My first paper presents evidence about free riding in government-supported medical R&D. My second paper explains how and under what conditions inflation regulation may benefit both companies and consumers.

The Summer Research Fellowship allowed me to focus on my own research in the past three months. I want to thank the fellowship providers for their generous support and The Graduate School for providing such an opportunity.



Devin Buckley



This summer, I finalized a paper for publication titled “T.S. Eliot’s Aesthetics of Solipsism” for an upcoming Stanford Republic of Letter publication. The paper addresses the influence of the philosopher F.H. Bradley on T.S. Eliot’s eventual conversion to Anglo-Catholicism and the manner in which his early poetry grapples with the philosophical problems that both attracted him to the work of Bradley and later contributed to his conversion. Additionally, I attended a two-week summer seminar—“The Thought of John Henry Newman”—at Merton College at Oxford University and presented a paper on Tractarian aesthetics and the literary merits of Newman’s writings. Finally, I went through a reading list that I put together with my adviser at the beginning of the summer and met with him three times to discuss them. Some of the ideas formulated from these readings have helped point me in the direction that my dissertation might take.

Photo: Photo of me (center) with laptop at the Newman seminar led by Fr. Ian Ker

Christopher Catanese



The Summer Research Fellowship allowed me to dedicate important writing time to my dissertation while also continuing my research in other areas of professional interest. I was hosted by the University of Vienna in Austria, and I used the resources at the Faculty of English Literature to prepare a journal article on Wordsworth’s early romance poetry as well as my dissertation chapter on Walter Scott. At the same time, I was able to continue my German-language research and instruction in Vienna, as well as take a short research trip to Wales to research the early (1740s) landscape paintings of Richard Wilson.

Joanna Murdoch

Thanks to The Graduate School’s generous funding, I was able to stay in Durham for the summer. At Perkins Library and at home, I worked on firming up my footing in some major literary works of my chosen concentration, the Late Middle Ages. Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales were a highlight of these new-to-me readings. I was also gratified to catch up on some recent publications of my academic advisers: Sarah Beckwith’s “Shakespeare and the Grammar of Forgiveness” and David Aers’s “Beyond Reformation? An Essay on William Langland’s Piers Plowman and the End of Constantinian Christianity.” Two additional benefits of the summer fellowship: the stirrings of a possible research focus on late-medieval doctrines of the imagination, and the luxury of scheduling my reading and writing around the needs of a newborn rather than an outside job. Thank you, Graduate School!

Matthew Omelsky

The fellowship I received this past summer from The Graduate School made it possible for me to research, write, and complete the third chapter of my dissertation, "Fugitive Time: Black Culture and Utopian Desire". The larger project examines how writers and filmmakers from Zimbabwe, Martinique, Britain, and the US inscribe into their works a sense of anticipation of release from subjection, as if to live in advance the feeling of unequivocal bodily relief. The chapter I drafted with The Graduate School's support, "Anachronic Ease," studies how Toni Morrison—in her novels The Bluest Eye, Sula, and Beloved—disperses a desire for “easefulness” in body and mind throughout a layered network of narrative anticipations and flashbacks, inscribing a nonlinear trajectory into that anticipation of bodily release.

I. Augustus Durham

This summer, I participated in an institute sponsored by Duke, UNC-Chapel Hill, and Bremen University (Germany) called “Towards a Non-Eurocentric Academia: Border Thinking and Decoloniality From Asia to Africa and from Europe to the Americas.” The 10-day program brought together local, national, and international scholars to consider decoloniality and the modern university. As a part of my participation, I presented a conference paper entitled “All the Things a Negro Slave Could Be by Now If He Were a Domesticated Woman: Psychoanalysis and Race—A Post-Date”. The piece examines notions of (black) nothingness, (white) womanhood/maternity, and psychoanalysis. My hope, as a future gesture toward a book manuscript, is that the unabridged version of the paper becomes a part of my expanded dissertation. That said, I continued progressing on the dissertation, submitting revisions for the first and second chapters and beginning the third.

Likewise, I was invited to submit a piece for a special issue on hip-hop cinema to the peer-reviewed publication Black Camera: An International Film Journal. The article was accepted and, pending revisions, should be published in Spring 2017. Along these same lines, I also wrote a film review for the Black Star Film Festival in Philadelphia, and I attended the screening of my reviewed film, among others.

What I was able to accomplish this summer was made possible by the Professor Robert S. Rogers Summer Research Fellowship. I am grateful to have benefited from his kindness.



Megan Fork



During the summer of 2016, I maintained field research programs on two of my dissertation chapters. I made a few trips to east Tennessee, where I had buoys deployed to measure how storm water runoff from streams affects the ecology of the reservoirs into which they flow. These buoys had data loggers that needed to be downloaded and processed every several weeks.

I also collected data for a project that looks at how the far upstream extent of urban streams (i.e. roof gutters, roadsides, and storm water pipes) store, process, and move organic matter through urban watersheds. This research takes place right here in Durham.

In addition, I worked on setting up a few smaller experiments that jigsaw into questions that ask how parts of the urban infrastructure (asphalt, shingles, gutters) might interfere with measurements of organic matter composition, and how microbes break down organic matter flowing in gutters and pipes.

Photo: Organic matter in roof gutters

Cooper Rosin

My dissertation research comprised 11 months of fieldwork in the tropical forests of Gabon, Central Africa. My work centers on understanding the impacts of hunting and logging on tropical forest animal and plant communities, with a strong emphasis on promoting effective conservation. Specifically, my dissertation addresses the question: How does hunting alter the processes of seed predation and seedling recruitment, and what are the consequences for the regeneration of tropical forest trees?

After completing my fieldwork, I focused on organizing and analyzing the data as well as preparing results for publication. During the summer of 2016, for which I received The Graduate School’s Summer Research Fellowship, I wrote and revised two dissertation chapters, which are currently under peer review. I am grateful to The Graduate School for financial support during this period, which has ensured that I am able to progress toward my dissertation goals. Having the time to prepare manuscripts for publication—not just inclusion in a dissertation document—has been very valuable to me, and hopefully it will raise the profile of my research and of the university in general.

Bijan Seyednasrollah



Thanks for the generous grant from The Graduate School. Over the summer, I was able to complete a great portion of my research in modeling forest dynamics in the Southeast. I spent most of the summer on finalizing the analyses and interpreting the modeling results. I study how forest responds to climate change. My research focuses on how canopy water use and green-up phenology change in warmer and drier environments.

This research helps us in understanding main drivers on water circulation in the ecosystem and how it is related to the amount of organic biomass. The study will determine whether deciduous forests are more efficiently using water than evergreen forests during water limitation, or whether the opposite is true. The outcome is important to quantify how atmospheric land water budget may change as a result of early springs, affecting the frequency of extreme precipitation events.

Photo: Remotely sensed images indicating how spring green-up changes across the Southeast


Environmental Policy

Wumeng He

I spent most of the summer working on my research, which might develop into a dissertation project. I am interested in understanding the welfare impacts of China’s reforestation policy on rural households that enrolled in the policy. Because of the fellowship, I was able to spend about a month doing some literature review and another month or so doing some fieldwork. I went to Sichuan Province in China, one of the first provinces that implemented the policy. I contacted local forestry officials and managed to visit three different counties. In each county, I spent about two to three days interviewing local officials in charge of implementing the policy. I also visited two towns in each county, went to a few reforested sites, and interviewed a total of around 30 rural households that were more or less impacted by the policy. It was a very productive fieldwork. The fellowship was the main source that funded my visits and interviews.

David Kaczan



I am a Ph.D. candidate in Environmental and Resource Economics. My research focuses on environmental, agricultural, and natural resources policies in lower-income countries.

Over the summer, with support from the Duke Graduate School, I have been investigating the relationship between roads and forests. Roads are usually thought to harm forests by expanding areas of profitability for agriculture, and thus encouraging forest clearing. Yet I hypothesize that certain settings may give rise to the opposite relationship: Roads may both promote development and reduce pressure on forests. I am identifying economic and geographic settings in which jointly positive socio-economic and environmental outcomes occur. In this, I hope to inform better placement of infrastructure, in India specifically, and in emerging economies more broadly.

Over the summer, I worked on to analyze detailed satellite, census, and survey data from India to test this hypothesis. Later in the fall, I will travel to India to discuss my findings with researchers there (also with Graduate School support).

Qingran Li

In the summer passed, I worked on a review of the dynamic electricity pricing literature. The time horizon of this topic starts in the 50s. Different time-depended rate regimes are still heatedly discussed in policy designs. I found that before the 70s, economists were proposing theories that argued efficiency improvements from setting dynamic prices. Following that, a flow of random control trials (RCT) was conducted, trying to quantify customer responsiveness that can be used in setting time-dependent rates. An interesting finding from some RCT researches is that customers do not always respond to prices and are inattentive to bill savings from dynamic pricing. Because of that, a stream of research supported by new RCTs began to explore the impact of technology (e.g. programmable thermostats, in-home display) and information (e.g. feedback) on customer behaviors. In very recent years, utilities are becoming more interested in learning more about their customers. Since most RCTs are only run in limited periods, predictions of long-term customer responses are hard to make. As advanced metering becomes more common, matching customer characteristics with instantaneous behavior changes is possible. This is where the data scientists come in and provide insights and recommendations on designing dynamic rates.

Yating Li



Thanks to the Summer Research Fellowship from The Graduate School, I was able to finalize a research project I worked on from last year and started pursuing new projects for my third year of Ph.D. study.

For the first half of the summer, I was modeling and forecasting China’s residential electricity consumption with my advisers, Richard Newell and Billy Pizer. We were able to finalize a draft for further revisions.

For the second half of the summer, I flew back to China and worked with a research team with access to the electricity big data in Fudan University, Shanghai. Through my visit, we were able to get a better idea of the data potentially available to us through future collaborations. With the remote assistance by Kyle Bradbury from the Energy Initiative and my advisers, I cleaned and conducted clustering analysis on a high-frequency residential electricity data set. The preliminary work provides a good foundation for my work in the third year and for future collaborations in general.

Photo: Wondering in an old-fashioned street on weekends

Emily Pechar



Thanks to the Graduate School fellowship, I was able to spend this summer launching my dissertation research on the role of social identities and climate change policy perceptions. I spent much of the time creating contacts at various environmental conservation organizations, doing pre-interviews, and piloting a series of survey experiments which I will launch this coming year.

Additionally, I was also able to expand the scope of my expertise by participating in the first annual North American Climate Policy Forum in Ottawa, Ontario. I worked on a team to develop a pre-conference paper describing the current state of climate change policy in North America, and then I attended the conference and met with leading researchers, policymakers, and business leaders in the climate policy field. I am now contributing to a conference summary paper that will pave the way for researchers exploring how climate change policies can be harmonized across North America in the future.

Photo: Canadian Parliament at the 2016 North American Climate Policy Forum in Ottawa, Ontario

Brian Prest



My summer research was highly productive. I completed two papers, presenting each one at conferences, releasing them to the public as working papers, and submitting them to journals for publication. The first paper considers environmental policy design choices when pollution permits can be traded and saved over time. The second paper examines the impacts of the U.S. “shale revolution” on the price-responsiveness of natural gas supply in the United States.

After finishing these projects, I also began exploring three new lines of research. One project involves assessing how much of the recent decline in oil prices can be attributed to the U.S. oil boom. Another project considers the impacts of the U.S. shale boom on upstream oil supply. A third project considers how households adjust their consumption of electricity in response to time-varying prices and the provision of real-time information about their usage.

Photo: Map of natural gas wells used in the shale-gas paper


Evolutionary Anthropology

Jackson Spradley



My research focuses on the interpretation of paleoecology and paleoenvironment in the fossil record from the study of ecomorphology (i.e. physical traits of an organism indicative of its ecology). Specifically for my research, I am collecting data on the dentitions of small mammals that are common in forested habitats, with the aim of reconstructing their environments based on the distribution of their ecologies.

Thanks to the support of the Summer Research Fellowship, I spent my summer scanning the skulls of small mammals using a microCT scanner housed in the Shared Materials and Instrumentation Facility (SMIF) at Duke. Using imaging software, I can then create 3D reconstructions of the skulls and segment any part of that skull that I need for research (in this case, teeth). This allows me to collect data on the surfaces of these teeth that would otherwise be impossible with simple calipers, and additionally collect such data in bulk using statistical software. CT scanning takes time, and I had MANY skulls, so the time afforded to me by the fellowship was invaluable.

I was also able to submit a chapter of my dissertation for publication and prepare another for imminent submission.

Thank you to The Graduate School for their support!

Photo: 3D reconstruction of a rodent skull, scanned using a microCT


German Studies

Bethany Bowen-Wefuan

My research and writing this summer revolved around the third chapter of my dissertation. When the summer began, I had not yet started working on the chapter, so I started at the beginning: re-reading the novella that I am writing about, locating and collecting relevant scholarship, reading secondary literature, pre-writing, and finally actually beginning the chapter itself. The Summer Research Fellowship allowed me to focus my summer work hours exclusively on this third chapter, and I have made excellent headway on it.

Beth Dorn

Over the summer I went to Germany and conducted research in Essen and Cologne. This work went towards editing an essay/article that I will submit in the spring. 

Matthew Hambro

During the summer of 2016, I worked on establishing connections with comic artists and authors in Berlin. I focused on increasing the awareness of American interest in German comics by working with curators and artists at galleries and art spaces for comics throughout the city. As a result, I was able to establish connections with Katharina Greve (winner of Germany's highest comics award, the Max-und-Moritz Prize, in 2016), Alexandra Hamann (director of the Minesterium für Illustration), and Christopher De La Garza (author and illustrator of the environmentally focused graphic novel “Hemispheres”). This work feeds into an interview project that I aim to publish focusing on women comic authors and artists in Germany. I am grateful for Duke's continued support and faith in my work and look forward to sharing the results soon.

Jeffrey Hertel

My current research toward my dissertation was greatly aided by the Summer Research Fellowship. I spent much of this summer working my way through a reading list for my preliminary examinations, which I had prepared last spring and will hopefully be taking this fall semester.

The research project, which relates to the position of dramatic satire within the emerging public sphere of late 18th- and early 19th-century German-speaking Europe, involves both broad reading in many different genres as well as intensive analysis of certain key texts. My reading took me into somewhat uncharted territory, plumbing the depths of popular theatre in the time of the French Revolution and the early to mid-19th century in an attempt to begin postulating a typology of German political satire.

While much work remains to be done, the time I was able to spend researching this summer has put me in an advantageous position coming into my third year. Alongside teaching and the various other duties of a graduate student towards the department, I will also be taking the preliminary exams and beginning to give shape to my nascent dissertation project.

Margaret Reif

I was able to conduct research at the Bibliothek für Bildungsgeschichtliche Forschung (Library for Research on Educational History) in Berlin. While there, I was able to access archival texts with school reports and other books that I would not have had easy access to in Durham to establish the educational/historical context for the period in which I am working. Alongside that research, I began working on my lists in preparation for my preliminary exams, which focus on depictions of education and childhood in 19th-century German literature. This summer, I was able to not only make progress on the larger novels on my list, but also have a firmer grasp on the context in which they were written and the educational and reading practices that existed when they were published. Working on-site in the library allowed me to better understand the resources available there so that once I have a clear dissertation project, I can avail myself to their collection of primary, historical texts.

Claire Scott

Thanks to the generous support provided by a Robert K. Steel Family Graduate Fellowship, I was able to devote my entire summer to writing a chapter of my dissertation and preparing to go on the job market this fall. In addition to expanding my knowledge of late 20th century German feminist film this summer, I was also able to take a step back and think holistically about the interventions I am making with my dissertation project. Having extra time to devote to this work was instrumental in my progress towards completing my degree. Now with three out of four dissertation chapters drafted and my job market materials organized, I am confident that I will be ready to graduate in May.



Christina Davidson



The Summer Research Fellowship enabled me to write two dissertation chapters during the summer of 2016. My research examines the intersection of race, religion, and nationalism in the Dominican Republic. In my dissertation, “Converting Spanish Hispaniola: The A.M.E. Church in the Dominican Republic, 1870-1898,” I employ a diasporic framework in order to study the history of the first Protestant church in Santo Domingo, the Dominican capital. I argue that in a country where elites have used state power and historiography to define national identity as Catholic, Spanish, and white, Protestant history reveals non-Catholic religious ties between Dominicans, African Americans, Haitians, and West Indians and offers a counter framework for understanding the Dominican Republic within the African Diaspora.

Heather Gates

I traveled to Paris, where I stayed for 2 months. While there, I accomplished several discrete goals that will advance my progress toward degree:

  • Conducted valuable archival work in three different Parisian archives. The work I did will inform the direction my dissertation will take. Perhaps even more valuable, however, I gained valuable experience working with 18th-century French sources. I am also now in a much better position to plan my next steps in research and in writing.
  • Completed conversation and written language intensive workshops at Alliance Française.
  • Least important, but deeply useful in my development as a scholar: cultivated personal insight, confidence, and patience.
  • Learned practical skills that, on future trips, will save immense amounts of time and money, e.g. how to navigate Paris quickly and efficiently, how to eat and lodge without unnecessary hassle or expense.
  • Made personal connections with archivists that will personally and professionally smooth my path on future research ventures.

I would just like to say thank you! This trip marked a major event in my career and my life.

Gray Kidd



In Summer 2016, I returned to the “Venice of the Americas”—as the port city of Recife, Pernambuco, in Northeast Brazil is often called because of its abundance of canals and bridges—with the goal of learning more about the everyday activities of and the debates that simultaneously galvanized and divided the city’s creative intelligentsia between 1959 and 1986.

I entered the field seeking to better understand how a small stratum of a mostly illiterate society not only played a disproportionate role as the perceived center of culture, but also how radical state politics of the late 1950s shaped its ascent and downfall following the military coup of 1964. Yet through my on-the-ground exchanges with a variety of historical actors—ranging from ex-priests to former communist militants—I also began to think about how the broader gamut of Recife’s intellectuals (including church figures) participated in the return to electoral democracy in the early 1980s. In subsequent trips to Recife, I aim to conduct formal oral histories with these actors with the intent of understanding both how they remember (or even forget) moments of intense intellectual and sociopolitical ferment, and how the 1960s and 1970s speak to their imaginings of the future for the Northeast and Brazil more broadly.

Photo: The port city of Recife, Pernambuco, the “Venice of the Americas” and a site of intense intellectual ferment in the 1960s and 1970s

Ashley Rose Young



In my doctoral dissertation, I study a diverse body of small-scale business entrepreneurs in New Orleans, including street-food and public-market vendors. Much of my archival research highlights the often-overlooked role of women, enslaved and free, in the making of American culinary cultures and how these entrepreneurs sat at the heart of New Orleans’ local food and beverage economy. With the support of the Summer Research Fellowship, I was able to maintain residence in Durham and have access to the Brandaleone Lab for Data and Visualization Services in the Edge. The lab provided the research computing necessary to begin working on the data visualization and digital mapping components of my dissertation. This summer, I focused on the final chapter of my dissertation, which maps the decline of New Orleans’s public food market system in the first half of the 20th century.

For over six decades, the New Orleans markets remained abandoned. However, emerging movements to support local artisans and to revive historic food systems have renewed the city’s interest in its public markets. In the past five years, three of the markets have been historically persevered and re-opened. My dissertation comes at a transformative moment in American food culture and economy—a time when municipal governments, historical preservationists, and urban residents are calling for a compressive history of urban food economies and culture.

Photo: Renovated St. Roch Market, New Orleans, Louisiana, 2014



David Rambo

Summer funding from the Black Family Fellowship Fund helped make this past summer extremely productive. Having concluded teaching my second seminar (this one about the science-fictional future of capitalism in space) and getting my dissertation’s second chapter (about the techniques of philosophical speculation) through committee, I buckled down for most of May and June to write 15,000 words towards a draft of the third chapter.

My dissertation, titled “Technics Before Time,” develops a theory of technicity, which is philosophy’s term for what is essential to technical objects and processes, and draws its implications for human life, civilization, metaphysics, aesthetics, and most importantly, our capacity even to think of these many, diverse things. The third chapter deploys the speculative philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead to bridge the metaphysical side of technicity to some of its material ramifications as the principle for inventing new worlds. After getting married in the middle of summer to my partner of seven years, I got right back to editing chapters two and three. Having the security of a summer fellowship enabled me to dedicate my time to the more difficult philosophical material of the dissertation as well as to research aesthetic examples for the dissertation’s other chapters. As summer transitions into fall, my attention transitions from finalizing edits of the second chapter to elaborating the permutational aesthetics of video games for chapter three.

Sophie Smith


During the summer of 2016, I received a Summer Research Fellowship to support my travel to the South Texas Human Rights Center in Brooks County, Texas. Through participant-observer research, I learned of the complex dynamics between federal immigration policing and landholders on the gas and oil ranches in the region. In particular, I witnessed the efforts of STHRC to work with the local property rights association in order to gain access to private ranch land in order to conduct search-and-rescue operations for migrants in distress.

Because of the placement of interior immigration checkpoints on all major northbound roads in this rural brushlands region, undocumented immigration traffic flows on foot through large, remote swaths of private property. In sweltering summer temperatures and with little access to water, food, or rescue, many migrants have perished on the private lands of Brooks County. My research focused on the multivalent interactions between proprietors, the homeland security effort, and non-governmental disaster relief organizations to diagnose the nature of political conflict afoot in the South Texas range. I am grateful for the support from the Duke Graduate School to this end, as my time spent with STHRC was invaluable to the completion of my dissertation project.

Photo: Humanitarian Aid Water Station, Brooks County, Texas


Marine Science and Conservation

Leslie Acton

The support I received through the Summer Research Fellowship from the Duke Graduate School allowed me to start my final year of graduate work with confidence in my dissertation research. My research explores how actors negotiate relations and leverage outcomes for the governance of Bermuda’s exclusive economic zone and the Sargasso Sea. Over the summer, I finalized data collection, conducting 15 semi-structured interviews with global NGOs, government actors, industry representatives, and tournament fishermen. I also began data analysis and developed ideas and outlines for data chapters. Finally, the fellowship freed me from other teaching and research obligations, allowing me to attend and present one of my chapters at the Fourth International Marine Conservation Congress, as well as move a manuscript significantly toward submission for publication. I very much appreciate the opportunities that this fellowship provided!



Jeffrey LaComb

I continued research work I had started during the spring semester regarding the study of rare events. These events may be of great interest, but occur infrequently and are random in nature. Hence, simulating these events is costly, and many such simulations must be run to obtain useful statistics. The work I’ve been doing aims to simplify the complexity of such simulations by using approximation techniques from multi-scale modeling. I worked on both running numerical experiments to study such approximations as well as trying to prove convergence properties of the approximations. The application this work is currently being applied to is a simplified model of how a crack or defect might propagate through a material under a small, but constant external force.

Zhe Wang

In the past summer, I kept working on my research to test and analyze the variance of several random algorithms used in quantum chemistry, including surface hopping, fast randomized iteration, and FCIQMC. Numerical tests using these algorithms to calculate the ground state of Hubbard model are done in MATLAB, which helped me understand them better. I also tried doing some theoretical analysis of them. This experience gave me basis for further research.

In July, I went to a summer school at Berkeley National Lab, which was two week long. The topic was electron structure theory. It gave me more knowledge and background of my research. I also attended the Mathematical Problems in Industry workshop at Duke. I joined a group and worked on a practical problem brought by a company. I learned more about math application in industry.

Thanks to the fellowship, I could spend most of my time on research.

Chao Xu

I was working on my Ph.D. dissertation during the summer with the Summer Research Fellowship from the Duke Graduate School. My research topic is about establishing solid relation between the atomistic TFDW model and the macroscopic continuum model. I had an obstacle about a very complicated error estimate in applying the iteration method to construct the solution of a partial differential equation with an approximate solution. If this error estimate could be proved, then I would be sure that I could finish my thesis on time. Many attempts were tried on this very theoretical analysis, but failed because I was also occupied by other responsibilities like courses and TA jobs. Thanks to the research fellowship, I didn’t need to TA during the summer, so instead, I chose to stay at Duke and focused on my research. After three months of work with my adviser, I successfully solved the problem. Now, I am continuing writing my dissertation and will finish it this year.



Samantha Arten



I spent my summer in the UK for archival research. My dissertation examines The Whole Booke of Psalmes, England’s Reformation-era hymnal, and I spent three months visiting national, cathedral, and university libraries to see over 100 copies of different editions of this book, as well as a great many related primary sources. I’d been to England for research before, working mainly at the British Library. On this trip, not only did I work at the BL again, but I was also able to research at other libraries in London, Oxford, Cambridge, Winchester, Worcester, Southampton, Leeds, Lampeter in Wales, and Edinburgh and Aberdeen in Scotland.

I also gave my first dissertation-related conference paper, “Protestant Advocacy for Musical Literacy in The Whole Booke of Psalmes,” at the Medieval and Renaissance Music Conference in Sheffield, which was very well received. The conversation surrounding that paper presentation has given me confidence that my dissertation will be an important contribution to the field of Elizabethan music studies, and it has brought up additional questions to consider now that I am home and writing up my summer’s research.

Photo: St. Mary’s, Old Basing, a 16th-century church that quickly became home. When not on research trips, I sang Sunday services here and participated in Morning Prayer.

Eren Gumrukcuoglu

During the summer, I began writing two new compositions, one of which has been recently completed—a string quartet called “BOZKIR” for the visiting Mivos Quartet. The title literally means “The Steppe”, and it presents a Western perspective on the Eastern concept of “makam”. The reading of the piece will take place in October in the Baldwin Auditorium.

The other piece I started writing during the summer is one that derives its pitch and rhythmic content from the spectral analysis of Donald Trump’s voice. This will be the second in a series of compositions written for the Deviant Septet, after one based on the Turkish president’s voice (Ordinary Things), highlighting the unusual political climate in today’s world.

The summer fellowship made it possible to take on the challenge of writing these two new substantial compositions at the same time.

Paul Sommerfeld



I was able to make several trips to the West Virginia and Regional History Center and study a collection of sketches and manuscripts that form the basis of one of my dissertation chapters. I am the first person to study this collection.

I also completed another chapter and polished two others based off of feedback from my committee. This progress will allow me to defend in Spring 2017.

Photo: Star Trek Episode Sketch, West Virginia and Regional History Center



Forgive Avorgbedor

The Summer Research Fellowship helped me advance my dissertation objective of getting my data cleaned and ready for use. I was actively engaged in cleaning secondary data using statistical tools to make the data ready to be analyzed for my dissertation chapters. I also worked on my dissertation chapters with my adviser, developing most of them further to position me for the next step of data analysis and interpretation. I also took the opportunity to work on a manuscript over the summer, which was submitted. I had the chance to code data for my adviser.

Latefa Dardas



The research fellowship from the Duke Graduate School was very helpful to me. I was able to pilot the planned methods for my dissertation, which will be the first study to establish a prevalence profile of clinically significant depressive symptoms among Jordanian adolescents. I assessed the feasibility of collaboration and coordination with the proposed recruitment sites, I assessed the proposed recruitment strategies for meeting desired sample size projections in the larger study, and I confirmed the utility of the translated self-reported measures for my study and examined their reliability and validity.

I was also able to publish three manuscripts from my dissertation: A systematic review on depression among Arab adolescents; a concept analysis of stigma in Arab families; and a preliminary report from my pilot investigation (in press).

I am now ready to start my big research endeavor that will help establish the necessary foundations for culturally competent mental health care practices to address the unique needs of Arab adolescents and their families.

Thank you, Duke!

Photo: Latefa Dardas

Kaboni Gondwe

During the summer, I was collecting data for my thesis dissertation from mothers of preterm and full-term infants in Malawi. During this time, I also submitted a manuscript for publication on psychological distress and mother-infant interactions in mothers of multiple and singleton preterm infants.

Mariam Kayle



I have received the Summer Research Fellowship from the Duke Graduate School for the past three years, and the fellowship has been instrumental in ensuring I have secured time to work on my research and dissertation.

This past summer, I focused on analyzing my dissertation data, completing analyses for one of my two research aims. Over the fall semester, I am planning to complete the analyses for my second aim and to start writing my chapters in plan for graduation. I also had the chance to publish one data based paper for the journal of pediatric nursing and to visit a university campus for a potential postdoctoral opportunity.

I am very grateful for the support I received from Duke during my course of study.


During this summer, I conducted a pilot study in China. This pilot study is about using one of the most popular mobile apps in China, called WeChat, to remind patients with coronary heart disease to take their cardio-protective medications on time. Participants are recruited from the biggest medical center in China called West China Hospital. There are about 40 participants enrolled in this study, and they are randomly assigned to an experimental group and a control group. Participants in both groups can receive educational materials every other day. Additionally, participants in the experimental group can receive medication-taking reminders daily. After the study, I interviewed some of them and asked their feedback.

Elizabeth Reeves

During Summer 2016, I submitted two grant applications to support my dissertation research. I was awarded the Virginia Kelley, CRNA Award through the American Nurses Foundation, and I am waiting to receive feedback from the Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality. I also submitted one manuscript for publication and completed another manuscript that will be submitted this month. Finally, I obtained IRB approval for my dissertation research and for a secondary data analysis of a project completed in Spring 2016 as part of an elective course.

Yuting Song

I conducted my fieldwork from July to September in two nursing homes in China. With the support of The Graduate School Summer Research Fellowship and other sources of funding, I was able to interview 21 residents and I explored their care needs related to pain and physical function. I also interviewed 8 care aides who provided daily care for residents. By drawing on the perspectives of both residents and their care aides, I gained more knowledge about residents' care needs in Chinese nursing homes. In combination with this Bass Connections project, Community Care of Frail Elders in Cross-cultural Settings, this study aims to inform curriculum development for the healthcare workforce across different care settings, including community settings and long-term care settings.

This project was also captured on the Duke Bass Connections website.

Jing Wang



Under the help of our coordinators in Huashan Hospital, Shanghai, I made home visits to community-dwelling older adults with cognitive impairment and their informal caregivers in Shanghai, China. I conducted in-depth interviews with 10 older adults and 12 informal caregivers to understand their experience of living with cognitive impairment so as to understand challenges confronting them and gaps in available community services and their multiple needs. I had an opportunity to see their living environments and most importantly, how they live their everyday lives with their caregivers after a diagnosis of cognitive impairment. Despite their declining cognitive functions, psychological and behavioral symptoms, ADL and IADL limitations, they are trying hard to maintain their functions, dignity, social and family roles. Their informal caregivers also experience mixed emotions, role conflicts, fatigue, and a feeling of uncertainty for the future. During the interviews, I can see how much informal caregivers want to express their feelings and how much they want their efforts to be appreciated or at least to be accepted. It has been a special and precious experience for me. In the hottest season in Shanghai, I had close contact and communications with them, and I appreciate their kindness to let me get to know them and their life. It will definitely guide my future studies with this population.

Photo: watch videos carefully made by her spouse. Pics of their children, grandchildren, their wedding anniversaries and others memorable moments.



Bryce Gessell

I traveled to Switzerland to transcribe a manuscript written by the French physicist Emilie du Chatelet. The manuscript is about optics, or the science of light. It has never been published and only a few people have ever read it.

We have now nearly finished the transcription and are preparing to publish the work online sometime next year.

Ewan Kingston

My summer was primarily spent on a research project that looked at what I call the problem of “aggregate harm”. This term refers to situations in which a large number of seemingly insignificant acts contribute to, enable, or are necessary for a bad outcome. Climate change, sweatshop labor, and resource depletion may all be real world examples. Over the summer, I read and summarized around 40 articles and chapters from philosophers and political theorists that were related in some way to this topic. It provides a foundation on which to shape the research that will become my dissertation.


Political Science

Haohan Chen

Over the summer, I continued my research on the topic of preferences over redistribution. The project attempts to further our understanding on how people form their perception on inequality and preferences on tax and welfare by examining how they link it with the reference groups they choose and the political identity they feel close to. I collected data on the social media and developed computational models. To acquire the methodological tools for this project, I took online courses on social network analysis and natural language processing. The paper will be delivered at the end of the fall semester for my preliminary exam.

Michael Hawley

The funds I received this summer helped make it possible for me to do two things. First, it helped me complete my work on an article that has recently been published in the European Journal of Political Theory, titled “Individuality and Hierarchy in Cicero’s De Officiis.” There, I explore how the Roman statesman and philosopher navigates the relationship between our individual uniqueness and the need to define what constitutes better and worse forms of human life.

Second, I progressed in the research for my dissertation, also related to the political philosophy of Cicero. Specifically, my dissertation demonstrates that Cicero inaugurated a distinct tradition of republican thought, which was deeply influential up through the American founding and which still might illuminate certain conundrums in contemporary political theory. In particular this summer, my research explored the role Cicero’s ideas played in shaping the development of two simultaneous intellectual movements in the 17th Century. On the European continent, Cicero’s work formed the inspiration for the famous natural law theories of Grotius and Pufendorf. At the same time, across the Channel, he was a hero and model for a generation of English republicans. These two movements are important to understand because in the subsequent century, they would come together in the works of men like Locke and Montesquieu to form the ideological basis of the American Revolution.

Christopher Kennedy

I began my summer by researching and further revising a journal article submission that received a lot of constructive feedback. The article discusses Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s criticism of books as a pedagogical tool. I was able to greatly expand my coverage of Rousseau’s many written works and improve the paper’s argument greatly.

I attended a seminar in Erlangen, Germany on how non-state government spontaneously emerges in situations like aboard a Pirate ship and in U.S. prisons. I traveled around to Munich and Berchtesgaden after the conference, visiting great museums and historical sites!

Finally, I did some research on the theoretical foundations for the argument of dissertation, and I worked on a project with other Duke professors concerned with the ethics of whistle-blowing.

Kristen Renberg

My summer was spent sharpening my empirical and computational skills. Over the summer I was able to tackle the big data elements of my dissertation’s data and collect data for other ongoing research projects on democracy and the rule of law. I was also able to fulfill one of my department’s required courses in summer session A.

Hannah Ridge

During Summer 2016, I completed coursework for my department’s methodology requirement, and I audited another course to expand my understanding of the literature in that arena. I also conducted initial reading with an eye to my preliminary paper and ultimately my intended dissertation topic. Obviously this research is still in the earliest stages and will be continued in the future, but I was able to access many resources through the library and inter-university loan programs.

Austin Wang



In early June, I led a group of graduate students to hold the 22th Annual Conference of North American Taiwan Studies Association at University of Toronto, Canada. The conference had 20 panels related to Taiwan, and about 100 scholars and students from institutions all over the world.

After returning from Toronto, I put all of my energy on journal submissions and data collection. Two survey experiments were conducted and analyzed with inspiring results, and four drafts were submitted and under review. The support from the Pope’s Family Scholarship undoubtedly bolstered my research during the summer.

At the end of summer, I presented my research project related to the emergence of extreme politicians in the Annual Conference of American Political Science Association in Philadephia. The results presented in the conference also came from the data collection during the summer.

Photo: The 22th Annual Conference of North American Taiwan Studies Association at University of Toronto, Canada


Psychology and Neuroscience

Allison (Cantor) Black-Maier

I spent this summer conducting research that will comprise my dissertation. My dissertation broadly investigates how human knowledge can fluctuate in its accessibility over time. For example, most people have experienced tip-of-the-tongue states where they are trying to retrieve information (e.g., the name of an acquaintance), but can’t quite get to it. The experiments I conducted examined the roles of two factors in how knowledge fluctuates in accessibility: delay and testing. To do so, I recruited participants via Amazon’s Mechanical Turk to repeatedly generate category exemplars (e.g., naming all the vegetables they know) and manipulated the delay between two retrievals and whether they took an intervening test. I then spent substantial time coding the responses and analyzing the data.

Overall, I found that even though participants tended to name the same total number of exemplars each time, there was considerable variability in the specific exemplars named. I found that as delay increases, knowledge becomes less stable and fluctuates more—people are less likely to name the exact same exemplars and are more likely to name new exemplars as delay increases. Testing, however, was not found to impact accessibility fluctuations. After analyzing the data, I began the process of writing up the results for my dissertation, and I will continue to conduct experiments and write my dissertation throughout the academic year.

Ali Giusto

Through the Summer Research Fellowship, I was able to focus my attention on researching and writing my dissertation proposal. Having the ability to work on my proposal this summer will now allow me to defend my proposal this year, in order to begin data-collection outside the U.S. this summer.

For my dissertation, I will propose an acceptability and feasibility study of a brief, culturally anchored, family-engagement and alcohol-reduction program for problem drinking fathers in Kenya. The motivation for this project comes from evidence suggesting men’s involvement in family-based interventions might constitute a “game-change” in the field of promoting child and family well-being.

This SRF allowed me to begin development of this intervention. I was able to review and synthesize data from existing evidence-based practices with qualitative data describing family functioning in Kenya, allowing me to start the initial steps of cultural adaptation. Further, I was able to meet with new faculty and research patient-centered methodologies to best answer proposed dissertation questions.

In addition, the SRF allowed me to submit an empirical paper for publication, to prepare a systematic review for publication, and to submit results for presentations. In all, I am grateful for the funding!

Rosa Li

In the summer of 2016, I successfully prepared and defended my dissertation proposal. The support of the Summer Research Fellowship allowed me to continue to make progress towards completing my dissertation. I finished writing and submitted a chapter of my dissertation for publication in a peer-reviewed journal, and I presented work from another chapter of my dissertation at the Interdisciplinary Symposium on Decision Neuroscience held at Temple University in Philadelphia.

Additionally over the summer, I collected data for the last chapter of my dissertation. Specifically, I collected human functional neuroimaging data while participants completed various decision-making tasks. The Summer Research Fellowship allowed me to keep my schedule flexible so that I could easily schedule participants for this time-consuming study.

Julie Martin

This summer I gained IRB approval for all of my dissertation studies, and I was able to run one of the studies at the Interdisciplinary Behavioral Research Center, taking a heavy burden off of me for the academic year. I was also able to submit an article for publication that has received a revise and resubmit and that is currently under review. Lastly, I was able to fully prepare another study to start running as soon as the psychology subject pool opened for the fall semester.

In addition, the competitive summer research fellowship gave me the flexibility to participate in a part-time (eight hours per week), unpaid internship with Wake County Public School System’s Data, Research and Accountability Department. Through this internship, I was able to see what an applied research setting outside of Duke looks like. This invaluable professional development experience would not have been possible if I had been required to teach this summer to secure funding. I am so grateful to The Graduate School for supporting me in my research endeavors, both within and outside of academia.

Hannah Moshontz

This summer, my focus was on completing existing projects and preparing projects for dissemination. I spent time analyzing data collected in the spring, collecting and analyzing new data for ongoing projects, and writing. I submitted my work to conferences and will be presenting my research at three conferences during the coming academic year.

With a team of other students in the Education Human Development Scholars Program, I submitted a grant proposal to the Russel Sage Foundation. The proposed project seeks to understand whether district-level grading policies (e.g., no zero grading policies) can reduce educational inequality (e.g., the standardized test score gap between low and high SES students) in the United States.

I also attended the inaugural meeting of the Society for the Improvement of Psychological Science and helped create resources for job applicants and hiring committees. In addition, I worked with students from Fuqua and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on a conference that will take place in the late spring of 2017. The conference, Carolina Research in Social Psychology, aims to bring together social psychology researchers from across the state, to build community, to promote inclusion, and to support students and early-career researchers.

Aaron Reuben

I work on longitudinal cohort studies and examine how early-life events influence risk for disease and dysfunction later on. This summer, I worked in our lab to complete two studies that involved a cohort my lab group has followed from birth to age 38.

The first study examined how exposure to childhood adversity related to poor mental and physical health at midlife in our cohort (the answer appears to depend in part on what memories people have of their childhood).

The second study involved the oldest age follow-up yet reported on the effects of childhood lead exposure on adult cognitive abilities. We found that Study children exposed to more lead ended up with lower IQs as adults reflecting cognitive decline following the lead exposure. When we looked at our Study members’ socioeconomic status at age 38 (given by their occupation), we found that Study members exposed to more lead in childhood were more likely than their peers to experience downward social mobility, regardless of where they started off in life. Decline in IQ related to lead exposure appeared to explain part of this loss in socioeconomic status.

With funding from Duke for the summer, I was able to revise the first study and gain it acceptance for publication in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry; we have just submitted the second study to the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Jessica West

Thanks to the generous support of the Summer Research Fellowship, this summer, I was able to focus on two projects central to my program of research. I was able to 1) focus intensively on my dissertation research and 2) collaborate on a manuscript with my adviser, Martha Putallaz, using data from her longitudinal project on the social lives of females.

My dissertation examines holes in the literature on an emotion regulation strategy entitled “self-distancing,” which is conceptually similar to mindfulness. The literature on self-distancing consistently shows that self-distancing is a beneficial strategy in the face of interpersonal stressors, i.e., it reduces emotional reactivity and decreases aggression. Despite these replicated promising findings, little is known about how self-distancing works, who is more likely to naturally use this strategy, what the conditions of its effectiveness are, and whether it is contraindicated for certain clinical populations or situations. I examine these questions in my dissertation, and this summer, I was able to get a very good start on my data collection.

The manuscript I have been collaborating on with my adviser also answers questions that augment our understanding of distancing as an emotion regulation strategy. In this paper, we are finding that early distancing in the face of social stressors can impact depression over a decade later.

Thanks to The Graduate School for the time to work on these exciting projects!


Public Policy Studies

Laura Bellows

This summer, I wrote a paper exploring previous literature on test score gaps between low- and high-income students, particularly focusing on how low-income children’s increased exposure to instability might explain a portion of these gaps. I connected this with research on a specific type of economic instability—disruption in social welfare program receipt (Medicaid, food stamps, etc.). This paper fulfilled an important requirement for my program, but also it helped me to solidify my research agenda and plan future work. Going forward, I am excited about continuing this project with empirical papers.

Anika Schenck-Fontaine

In the year prior, I had collected original data on poor families in Durham who receive SNAP benefits. The focus of the survey was on families’ perceived food insecurity, shopping habits, and economic coping strategies, such as borrowing money or using food banks. The summer funding allowed me to focus my time this summer on analyzing the survey data and writing the results into a journal article, which we submitted for review for inclusion in a special issue of Social Service Review.

The findings of the survey are very illuminating. We found that, even when receiving SNAP benefits, most poor families cannot afford to buy enough food to feed their families for a full month and families tend to run out of SNAP benefits quite early in the SNAP benefit month. This was not surprising, given past research showing that families eat fewer calories and less health food as a SNAP benefit month goes on. However, we also found that families do not feel increasingly food insecure over the course of the benefit month. We believe that this may be because families supplement their SNAP benefits by borrowing money and using food banks toward the end of a benefit month. That is, by drawing on their informal resources, poor families are able to buffer the economic instability commonly associated with benefit cycles. Nevertheless, families do report being moderately food insecure throughout the month, which raises concerns that SNAP benefit amounts are insufficient.

Xiaolu Zang

I was working on a project for my second-year paper, and at the same time, preparing for my comprehensive exams. I conducted cross-country analyses on the potential boosting effects of immigration on fertility among higher-educated natives. Conventional wisdom is that fertility is negatively correlated with women’s income and education. The latest evidence in some developed countries shows that low-skilled immigrant inflows may reduce childcare costs and increase the probability of high-skilled native women giving births. But a lot of questions remain unclear. First, are women with graduate degrees most sensitive to immigrant inflows because their demand of childcare service is the highest? Second, do the low-skilled immigrant inflows increase the total number of children of each high-skilled native woman? Third, why don’t unmarried women respond to the immigrant inflows at all? Fourth, does this evidence apply to developing countries? Fifth, do the low-skilled immigrant inflows affect the fertility timing of high-skilled native women? I believe this topic has very important policy implications.


Religious Studies

Daniel Becerra



I participated in a project with the Vatican Library and Brigham Young University’s Center for the Preservation of Ancient Religious Texts that is working to preserve some of the oldest Syriac manuscripts in existence (some dating before 600 A.D.). We provided scientific data for over 50 manuscripts and prepared the digital versions for the Vatican Library’s online collection.

Photo: Vat. Sir. 622: The Peshitta Version of the Four Gospels

Jamie Brummitt

I visited the Vermont Historical Society (VHS) this summer to conduct archival research for my dissertation, “Protestant Relics”. I examined materials related to 19th-century Protestant mourning practices in VHS’s manuscript and museum collections. In the museum collection, I examined mourning lithographs, embroideries, jewelry, prints, and relics.

Some of my most exciting finds were a mourning watercolor, a relic of President Abraham Lincoln, and a hair relic. A woman who was a schoolteacher in a nearby town produced the mourning watercolor for her mother. The mourning picture was likely made as an example for her students to copy. Mourning pictures like these were popular school projects in the 1800s. The Lincoln relic was a framed piece of cloth stained with the President’s blood after he was shot in 1865. The hair relic was included in an 1854 letter sent to a girl away at boarding. The lock of hair came from the girl’s sister who had recently died, and a third sister mailed the hair relic to the girl as a token of remembrance. The letter suggested that the girl should use the hair relic to evoke the presence of her dead sister in heaven.

While in Vermont, the VHS also invited me to give a talk about my dissertation at the 2016 Vermont History Expo.

Emily Dubie

In Summer 2016, I worked on focusing my dissertation research in a process that my adviser called “mind-mapping.” I also worked through a reading list that he and I built together. I took the French for Reading course and successfully passed my first language exam. Finally, I wrote and submitted my first book review for the Society of Christian Ethics.

Emanuel Fiano

I utilized my summer funding to support myself at UC Berkeley, so as to be able to remain in de visu consultation with Prof. Daniel Boyarin. As one of the foremost experts on ancient Jewish-Christian relations in antiquity, Prof. Boyarin was the ideal guide during my writing of an essay highlighting the relationship between differing theological and soteriological conceptions on the one hand, and intellectual practices on the other, as a crucial context for understanding the parting of the ways between Christianity and Judaism in the fourth century in Syria.

Ryan Juskus

With this year’s summer funding, I was able to effectively move my academic studies forward in a number of ways. First, I studied for and completed the reading competency exam in Spanish. Second, I worked through a reading list on ethnography, religion, and resource extraction. Third, my participation in the month-long Auburn/CrossCurrents research colloquium in New York City—“Climate Change, Food, and Human Sustainability”—allowed me to explore a potential topic for my dissertation research at the intersection of theological ethics, coal politics, American evangelical activism, and popular epidemiology in Appalachian coal mining communities. Lastly, summer funding gave me time to submit a conference paper proposal, review a book for an academic journal in my field, and prepare myself for preceptor responsibilities this fall.

Brenna Keegan



This summer I completed field and archival research for two of my dissertation chapters. My dissertation is looking to the nexus of religion, labor, and environmental ethics in the nineteenth-century Rocky Mountain West. I first travelled to the National Archives of the Rocky Mountains in Denver, Colorado, then to the American Heritage Center at the University of Wyoming, Laramie, followed by the archives at Central Wyoming College in Riverton. I then spent five weeks on the Wind River Indian Reservation, speaking to tribal members of the Northern Arapaho Nation about tribal history, community, and land practices.

At the conclusion of my time on the reservation, I headed to Salt Lake City, Utah, where I spent time in the Church History Library of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the University of Utah special collections, and the Utah State University special collections, where I again pursued questions of religion, community, labor, and the western landscape. My research for both chapters was extremely fruitful and will enable me to make great strides in my writing this year.

Photo: Inside the St. Stephen’s Mission in Arapahoe, Wyoming on the Wind River Indian Reservation

Stephanie Ladd



This past summer I did research in museums and with experts (museum directors and academics) in Berlin, Dresden, Bremen, and Cologne, on the artist who is the central subject of my dissertation, Käthe Kollwitz.

In Berlin, I spoke with Annette Seeler, who has recently completed the comprehensive catalogue for Kollwitz’s sculptural oeuvre. I also did research in the Kupferstichkabinett, focusing on images of mothers and children in Kollwitz’s work, and visited the small Kollwitz museum in Berlin. I traveled to Cologne in order to spend time at the Kollwitz museum there, and had an excellent visit. Hannelore Fischer, the head of the museum, made time for several meetings with me and was enormously helpful in sorting out how I might accurately talk about Weilian attention as applied to Kollwitz’s work.

In Dresden, I wanted to see a small set of unpublished letters, but was not able to because their archive system is so complex that they didn’t have time to get them out for me. (I subsequently learned, however, that the letters, between collector Max Lehrs and Kollwitz are likely to have contained mainly technical information and prices for sales). In Dresden, I was still able to see a number of unique Kollwitz drawings and study some of her prints more closely, particularly one about which I am writing in my first chapter.

Finally, I traveled to Bremen in order to visit the Paula Modersohn-Becker museum because Hannelore Fischer recommended comparing her with Kollwitz.

Photo: “Storm,” from A Weaver’s Revolt, by Käthe Kollwitz

Julia Kelto Lillis

Receiving a summer research fellowship made it possible for me to complete drafts of two dissertation chapters during the summer months. My project, “Virgin Territory: Configuring Female Virginity in Early Christianity,” shows that early Christians and their neighbors defined the concept of female virginity in a surprising variety of ways. One of my newest chapters presents evidence for a shift in late antiquity (the fourth and fifth century and afterward) in how people thought about virginity; this is a period when more groups within Western societies came to believe that virginity is—or includes—an anatomical state that can be verified by medical inspection. The other new chapter analyzes how one of the most famous authors of this period, St. Augustine, exemplifies the tensions that arose in Christians’ thinking as they sought to make virginity both an observably physical quality and a spiritual and moral state.

Rebecca Mendelson

With the support of a Summer Research Fellowship, I conducted preliminary research in Japan for my doctoral dissertation on modern Japanese Buddhism, “Democratizing Zen: Reform and Innovation in Modern Japanese Rinzai.” My dissertation chronicles late 19th- and early 20th-century Rinzai Zen developments, demonstrating how reforms within the Rinzai establishment led to a democratized Buddhist practice that moved Rinzai out of the temple and transformed Zen into Japan’s most influential, yet least well understood, religious export. In my research, I focus on the development of modern lay Zen movements, as well as critiques and reformulations of traditional Rinzai practice, vis-à-vis the development of modern Buddhism globally, and Japan’s growing imperialism in Asia.

This summer, as a visiting scholar at the Nanzan Institute for Religion & Culture in Nagoya, Japan, I began my broad survey of lay Zen movements during this period, a panoramic view that is largely undocumented. I also collected material from early 20th-century popular journals and other Japanese print media that illustrated modern Rinzai’s intersections with popular religious practices (the burgeoning self-cultivation movements) and with religious nationalism during this period: crucial components of modern lay Zen. Finally, I attended modern Buddhism seminars, met with Japanese scholars, and otherwise laid the groundwork for my full-time research as a 2016-2017 Fulbright Graduate Research Fellow.

Alivelu Nagamani

This summer, thanks to the Kearny funding, I was able to focus on studying primary sources. These sources are in Sanskrit and Telugu, and they are in circulation among practitioners of mantras who are my informants. My research is in the visionary experience of mantras in Andrea-telangana. At this stage, I had completed my fieldwork and most of my writing. The transcriptions were also done. What was remaining for me to review were the primary sources. I consulted a couple of scholars on parts of the literature I found complex, took a trip to Atlanta to have a few meetings with Velcheru Narayana Rao, the eminent historian and Telugu scholar, and completed my dissertation writing. My defense is scheduled for October 2016. Thanks again.

Julie Newberry

Much of my summer was devoted to language study, which is important both for fulfilling the requirements of my program and for conducting research in my field. Specifically, I took the German for research course offered at Duke and passed the German competency examination in my program. I also completed the Hebrew requirement for my program.

Thanks to the generous summer research funding, I did not have to pursue other paid employment and was able not only to complete these language requirements, but also to make headway in other aspects of my program. For example, I finished two incompletes, thereby finishing coursework, and I began to formulate and work through reading lists for preliminary examinations. Other academic work this summer included emailing/meeting with committee members to discuss questions raised by coursework, to begin sketching a dissertation topic, and to talk through how to prepare for and complete preliminary exams successfully.

Jeffrey Nicolaisen

Jeffrey Nicolaisen (left) and Taiwanese macaque (right), Gushan Mountain, Taiwan

I research multi-species relationships in Taiwan, with a focus on animal protection group called Life Conservationist Association (LCA) and the philosophy of its Buddhist founder. After completing preliminary exams last year, I spent this summer in Taiwan polishing my dissertation prospectus and preparing for the next year of field research. I presented papers at a conference in Taiwan and another conference in Japan. I was also invited to attend and present at a youth camp on religion and social movements in Taiwan, where I was able to learn about how the attendees understood what religion is and how it relates to politics and particular political movements.

At the end of the summer, I located a site to use as a case study for my field research because it intersects with several important issues related to multi-species relationships in Taiwan. At the village, monkeys come down from the mountains, feed on fruits in orchards, and can wipe out a farmer’s crop in a single day. In response, indigenous farmers use firecrackers and dogs to chase the monkeys away. I was able to make arrangements to collaborate with a Taiwanese scholar of monkeys to conduct observation of the monkeys there. I am grateful for the support of the Kearns Summer Research Fellowship because it enabled me to make significant progress toward my dissertation this summer.

Photo: Jeffrey Nicolaisen (left) and Taiwanese macaque (right), Gushan Mountain, Taiwan

Taylor Ross

I traveled to Berlin, Germany, to participate in a German language intensive course at the Goethe Institut.

Daniel Stulac



I participated in an archaeological dig at Tel es-Safi (biblical Gath), Israel. My research on the Bible is mainly textual, but incorporates environmental archaeological data in order to defend the historical plausibility of interpreting the text through an agrarian hermeneutic lens. The time spent at Tel-es Safi allowed me to make connections with a range of environmental archaeologists and to better understand their work, to develop my own archaeological skills, and to develop relationships for the future in anticipation of leading student trips and collaborating on interdisciplinary publications.

Photo: Ninth-century BCE olive-crushing basins excavated at Tel es-Safi, Israel

Erin Walsh

My Kearns Summer Research Fellowship supported the research and writing of my dissertation. My dissertation examines the interpretation of female New Testament figures in Syriac and Greek liturgical poetry of the fourth through sixth centuries. I look at how the rhetoric of these poets employs women’s voices, bodies, and ethnic identities to form the religious subjectivity and to enhance the ethical formation of their listeners. A large part of my work this summer involved the translation of these poems and examination of the manuscripts in which they preserved. In addition to translation, I read widely about the literary culture of the eastern Mediterranean during this critical time period, and my research contributes to current scholarship on the role of multilingualism in the region.

I spent a large part of my summer living in Washington, DC, and in conjunction with a FLAS Fellowship, I was able to study Modern Standard Arabic at Georgetown University. I hope to continue my study of Arabic at Duke in order to expand my research into later periods when Syriac-speaking Christians wrote in both Arabic and Syriac.



Michelle Wolff

I drafted two chapters of my dissertation and edited an article for publication.


Romance Studies

Laura Banella

I spent Summer 2016 in Florence doing research on Italian medieval manuscript books containing Dante’s works. My research project is focused on the materiality of literature, and especially on anthologies containing Dante’s lyric poetry. The autoptical study of the material features of the books allows me to retrace the history and the stories concerning the reception of the Italian author par excellence.

Achille Castaldo



Receiving the Summer Research Fellowship in 2016 provided me with the opportunity to extend my residence in France for all the summer semester, thus giving continuity to my research work since I spent the previous academic year (2015-2016) as an exchange Ph.D. student at the École Normale Superiéure in Paris. I will continue my work in the French capital for the present academic year (2016-2017).

My dissertation project focuses on representations of social conflict in French and Italian literature and cinema; during this summer in Paris, I worked in particular on the presence of the Algerian War in the French cinema of the end of the 50s and the beginning of the 60s. I attended daily the Cinémathèque française in order to screen rare movies and to access specialized press of the decades of my interest. Moreover, I regularly visited the Bibliothèque Nationale Française to work on texts about French history and cinematic theory.

Finally, being in France helped me improve my knowledge of French language and culture, which is paramount for my comparative scholarly approach.

Photo: Outside the Cinémathèque in Paris

Tessa Nunn

This summer, I participated in the American Dance Festival. My research explores the role of ballet in European colonialism and the possibilities for decolonizing 19th-century ballets. During the festival, I had the opportunity to interview dancers, choreographers, and dance educators and to learn more about their experiences with and reactions to European Orientalism and cultural appropriation in dance. I explored what it means to learn from another culture’s dance tradition, to appropriate a dance tradition, and to dialogue with a dance tradition both theoretically and somatically. My experience at the festival has led me to further examine questions regarding power relations in the language used to communicate movement and identify ‘what is dance’.



Brian Aronson



Thanks to receiving a Summer Research Fellowship, I had time to finish and submit two research papers. One paper (under review) documents the composition of immigrants in the 1 percent by using a multiple imputation framework between two datasets (one with detailed wealth information, the other with detailed nativity information). The other paper (R&R) was about peer influence as a potential confounder and magnifier of ADHD diagnosis. Using data about the social networks of students in high school, I modeled how students’ friendships and behaviors evolve, finding that peers seem to influence each other’s self-reports of inattentive behaviors.

I also used the Summer Research Fellowship to begin analysis for a project about the relationship between health and wealth, and to begin analysis for a project (my dissertation) about bridging network analysis with organizational ecology. I was able to finish data preparation for both projects and begin modeling. As a fortuitous outcome from the project on health and wealth, I had also created a program that automates a substantial amount of preparatory tasks when working with Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID), and I am currently working with the PSID to distribute this program.

Photo: Friendship Network (Nodes shaded on the basis of self-reported frequency of inattention in school)

Felicia Arriaga



This summer, I focused on completing and submitting a journal article that will more than likely become my first chapter of my dissertation. I submitted this piece in the beginning of the summer to the journal Sociology of Race and Ethnicity. I was notified at the end of July that I received a revise and resubmit. I also finished up final edits to a manuscript for Sociology Compass and created a Teaching & Learning Guide for the same piece that will accompany the review.

Toward the end of the summer, I put together a presentation for the Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association, and I attended the pre-conference session put together by the Teaching and Learning Section where we focused on “The Relevant Syllabus: Integrating Current Events into Our Classes”.

I also completed a preliminary outline of my dissertation and completed my syllabus for the course I am teaching this fall called “Voices in Public Policy: Latinxs in Politics.” Other than that, I took some time to visit family and supported lobbying efforts against an anti-immigrant bill at the North Carolina General Assembly.

Photo: Presentation at the American Sociological Association

Nick Bloom

In my independent work, I began cleaning and analyzing National Cancer Institute and data for my dissertation. My dissertation examines the relationship between hospital-level variables (ownership structure, specialty centers, and ranking/status) and patterns in the provision of palliative and end-of-life services to Medicare beneficiaries with cancer. The goal is to determine the effects of these organizational attributes on the rates, equality, and cost-efficiency of these services.

Together with collaborators at the Duke Cancer Institute, I began working on two separate projects about cancer decision-making. The first examines the relationship between emotional well-being and self-assessed prognosis in high-risk patients with Acute Myeloid Leukemia. The second is a large, mixed-method pilot study about the involvement and importance of caregivers in the treatment decisions of patients with advanced cancer. This year, including over the summer, we’ve surveyed 70 patients and conducted 45-minute cognitive interviews with 15 patients, caregivers, and oncologists.

Taylor Brown

In the summer of 2016, I worked on several projects.

With Chris Bail (Duke University) and Andreas Wimmer (Columbia University), I conducted the final analyses and manuscript edits for a project exploring the global diffusion of culture using a 10-year longitudinal dataset of Google search terms and national indicators from 199 countries. This manuscript was submitted to a top journal in the field of sociology.

With Steve Vaisey (Duke University) and Josh Bruce (Duke University), I collected a dataset comprised of four large text corpora and two thesauri networks. I learned to store these data using SQL and MongoDB databases and to analyze them using large-scale computational text analysis (e.g. structural topic and word embedding models). Going forward, this dataset will be part of an ongoing study related to the measurement of morality in online social data.

I travelled to Bern, Switzerland, where, with Achim Edelmann (University of Bern, prior Duke postdoc), I worked on the initial steps of a project related to the sociology of culture.

Finally, I completed the writing of a proposal to access data for my dissertation. This proposal was approved, giving me access to a large, time-dependent multi-scale/multiplex network dataset that holds the potential for groundbreaking research on innovation and gender inequality. I have now begun to expand that proposal for use in my Duke dissertation proposal defense. Fingers crossed.

Josha Bruce

Throughout the summer, I revised multiple papers I had written over the course of the academic year. I presented one of these papers at the annual meeting of the Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics, and another paper at the annual meetings of the Academy of Management and the American Sociological Association (ASA). I also worked with two Duke colleagues on a paper, which was presented at the ASA meeting and is currently under review for publication.

For 10 weeks, I worked as a mentor in the Information Initiative at Duke’s Data+ summer research program. I advised two students on a research project, which they reported on to the entire Data+ program and to institutional stakeholders throughout the summer.

Finally, I attended a weeklong workshop on methods and theory in organizational studies, specifically addressing inequality in organizations, at the école des Hautes Etudes Commerciales de Paris (HEC Paris).

Trenita Childers

Thanks to the support from the Summer Research Fellowship, I was able to make substantial progress on my dissertation. My research is on mental health among Haitian immigrants in the Dominican Republic. This fellowship afforded me the time and space to complete analysis of my ethnographic data and to draft two dissertation chapters. I also spent time preparing materials for the job market, and I completed revisions for a paper that resulted in a publication on race and immigration policy.

Joshua Doyle

I revised manuscripts and presented work at conferences.

Guangyu Tong

During the 2016 summer, I worked on five individual/collaborative projects:

  • “Explaining Asian Americans’ academic advantage: superior culture or selective migration”. I finished this project with a paper and a presentation on ASA meeting.
  • “Ethnic capital in church for immigrant entrepreneurs.” This is an ongoing project with potential for a paper submission.
  • “Dynamics of social inequality in imperial China.” This is an ongoing project with potential for a paper submission.
  • “Globalized education inequality in China.” This is an ongoing project at the stage of funding proposal and preliminary data analysis.
  • “Meta-analysis methods for social sciences.” This is an ongoing project with potential for a paper submission.

I also prepared for the qualification exam for the field of “Sociology of Religion.”