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Summer Research Snapshots 2017

2017 Summer Research

For summer 2017, The Graduate School provided 461 summer research fellowships to its Ph.D. students, totaling $4.16 million in support. These included 268 guaranteed fellowships to first- and second-year students and 193 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

Kaylee Alexander


Cimetiere de Picpus

This summer I spent two months in Paris conducting pre-dissertation research in the Bibliothèque nationale de France and the library of the Institut national d'histoire de l'art. My dissertation focuses on the production of tomb markers and monuments in the cemeteries of Paris during the 19th century and further studies the development of the modern cemetery in Paris considering its relationships with urban development, particularly in the age of Haussmannization (1853–1870). My funding this summer allowed me to not only conduct research in these institutions, but also to visit more than half of the 20 cemeteries that I will be considering in my project to photograph monuments dating to the period under study and begin to identify the producers of these objects. While abroad I also prepared for my preliminary exams and visited a number of exhibitions and museums/sites housing works relevant to my major subject area, 19th-Century French Visual Culture.

Photo: Cimetière de Picpus, 12th Arrondissement

Felipe Alvarez de Toledo

I study the trade in paintings between Spain and its imperial colonies in the 17th century, which was  done via the city of Seville. I spent this summer traveling through Spain in the search of primary resources for my research. I spent some time in the National Library of Spain in Madrid sifting through the annexes of theses. Most importantly, I spent a few weeks in Seville getting acquainted with the Archivo General de Indias, which centralizes all archival material on the Spanish Empire, and the Archivo Histórico Provincial de Sevilla, which contains all the notarial documents of the city since the Middle Ages. Through this, I was able to start building a base for a future database on the painters of Seville. For now, I am working on published compilations of original documents and this summer has given me months of data to work with. It has gotten me ready for when I do engage in my own primary archival research.

Additionally, the Summer Research Fellowship has allowed me to make progress towards other graduate requirements, in my case, the study of a third language. I spent the month of July honing my German skills.

Patricia Bray


Carries enfournant

The Duke Summer Research Fellowship provided me with support to conduct research in libraries, archives, and art collections in France. My dissertation, titled “Seriocomic play in Symbolist art: The comic and the grotesque,” examines the operations of comic and grotesque modes in Symbolist art and Symbolist engagement with cultural politics in fin-de-siècle Belgium and France. Centering on three decades (1880–1910) of artistic interchange between Belgium and France in an era of radical and reactionary politics, my research requires gathering visual evidence from a variety of artists and writers. My chief focus this summer involved research in Symbolist print imagery. I gathered material for dissertation chapters at several Bibliothèque nationale sites in Paris. In addition to specific primary sources, I took advantage of the concentrated collections of artist monographs at the Institut national d’histoire de l’art (INHA) for the historiography of individual artists in my project. I explored thematically organized stacks, especially in the Performing Arts Department of BnF Richelieu, containing a rich collection of local and regional histories of puppetry and theater art. Finally, the fellowship facilitated a brief trip to the Nièvre region where I visited the Musée du Grès, with works by two sculptors from the first chapter of my dissertation, and received materials and guidance in consultation with museum staff for an extended visit to a local archive planned for spring.

Photo: “Carriès enfournant,” self-portrait of Jean Carriès, holding a figurine of “Le Callot”—a baroque artist known for his caricatures and commedia dell arte figures. Sculpture at the Musée du Grès, set in front of a reproduction of the unfinished Porte Monumentale by Carriès.

Nathan Bullock

I returned to Singapore to begin the archival research for my dissertation. I began going through the resources of the National Library of Singapore and accessing the relevant files and other documents such as development guide plans and texts which addressed the topics of architectural history.

Nikos Gkiokas

Thanks to the Summer Research Fellowship, I spent summer 2017 in Greece where I did preliminary work for my dissertation. I studied the material development of the ancient Sanctuary of Apollo Ptoos in Greece. In June I undertook bibliographic research in the libraries of the German Archaeological Institute, the British School and the American School of Classical Studies in Athens. Also, in July and August, I visited various archaeological museums and sites relevant to my project. My focus was on close examination and comparison of works of art, such as statuary, that are central to my dissertation. In the Archaeological museum of Athens and Delos, I had the chance to observe how different artists rendered the human body.

Katherine McCusker


Katherine Mccosker and Everette Newton

During the summer of 2017, I spend two months in Italy doing fieldwork because my dissertation focuses on the changing urban landscape of the Etruscan-Roman site of Vulci (in Viterbo, Italy). There is an excavation, the Vulci 3000 project, under the direction of Dr. Maurizio Forte, which operates during the summer months. I am the Remote Sensing Coordinator, a senior research member of the team. In this roll, I have several responsibilities, including testing new remote sensing technologies, discovering and writing up the best methodologies for each remote sensing technology for our project, and collecting remote sensing data. This past summer, I wrote a manual for both the technical workings and the survey methodology for a new ground penetrating radar machine. I then chose several un-excavated areas of the site in which to collect data. By processing this data through several programs, I can create slice maps revealing the densities of materials at different depths down three to four meters. I can then study the spatial relationships of these densities to interpret the archaeological features buried beneath the ground. These data sets will be used for my dissertation. We also partner with the Duke Marine Lab's Drone Lab to collect new aerial data for Vulci and the surrounding landscape. We tested a new drone model this year and collected data sets using color, near-infrared, and red edge cameras. These data sets will also be included in my dissertation.

Photo: Katherine McCusker and Everette Newton prepare to fly a drone survey over Cuccumella (behind), the largest tomb mound in Italy.



Michelle D'Aguillo

My summer fellowship was used to support 3 main areas of research:

1. Data analysis from a large field dataset collected by my lab in 2012-2014. I used the dataset, which recorded approximately 10,000 observations of germination from 8 Arabidopsis thaliana genotypes that vary in seed dormancy alleles, to test the hypothesis that phenology is a form of temporal habitat selection. I found that seed dormancy alleles enable A. thaliana individuals to germinate into non-random subsets of the annual environmental conditions, thus demonstrating that germination phenology is a form of habitat selection. I presented these results at the International Society for Seed Science conference in September 2017, and am currently working on the manuscript.

2. I "bulked" seeds from multiple mutants and naturally occurring A. thaliana genotypes, by growing a full generation of plants in the Duke phytotron. These seeds will be used in field experiments from October 2017-April 2018.

3. I spent a week in the southern Appalachian Mountains collecting seeds from 3 native species: Houstonia serpyllifolia, Phacelia fimbriata, and Phacelia purshii. These seeds are being used in ongoing germination experiments.


Nathan Hartley


This summer I traveled to Brazil to collect preliminary data for my first two dissertation chapters and to scope out potential research sites for the final chapter of my dissertation, which entails understanding the historical and contemporary processes that have influenced community assembly of one of the most speciose plant genera on Earth (Anthurium).

Photo: Collecting Anthurium in Reserva Ducke


Tzu-Tong Kao


Wichita Mountains, OK

This summer, I used the newly obtained nuclear DNA sequences to reconstruct the interspecific relationships among the xeric adapted and desiccation-tolerant notholaenid ferns (Pteridaceae). The result was reassuringly congruent with those from the plastid data and provides a solid basis for examining the evolution of certain characterized drought adaptive traits within this clade. I presented my preliminary results in the Botany 2017 conference and based on the comments and suggestions I received from the conference, I am currently revising my manuscript for submitting to peer-review paper.

I also had big progress on getting plant materials for my research on the geology, cytology, biochemistry, and molecular phylogenetic Notholaena standleyi, a desiccation-tolerant fern widely distributed in the desserts of southwest U.S. and Mexico. I collected the material from Oklahoma and Texas this summer, I obtained the required collecting permits to do field researches in Arizona and New Mexico this fall, and I also made contact and collaborated with the researchers in Universidad Autonoma de Chihuahua to obtain the plant material from Mexico.

Photo: Field study in Wichita Mountains, Oklahoma.

Irene Liao

A subset of ~1300 F5 morning glories growing currently growing in the growth room for the fall QTL experiment.

Thanks to the Summer Research Fellowship, I spent the summer getting ready for a large experiment. My dissertation research examines how complex traits evolve; specifically, I am interested in how and why some flowers produce little to no nectar.

I am using genetics to try to answer these questions. This summer, I planted and collected seeds from 200 morning glory hybrids for the fall. Plant maintenance, especially tangly weedy plants, is not a trivial task! I was able to successfully generate 320 F5 recombinant inbred lines for the fall quantitative trait locus (QTL) experiment; they are currently growing up in the growth room. I plan to measure nectar traits, as well as some flower size traits. I will also be extracting DNA for these individuals to generate genetic markers. The goal is to associate the phenotypes (e.g. nectar volume) with approximate locations in the genome and examine if there are genomic regions that overlap.

I also gave my first oral presentation at the Evolution meeting in Portland. The work I presented was a pilot project to my fall experiment; instead of 320 individuals, I only measured nectar traits from 130 individuals at the F3 generation. It was an amazing opportunity to share my work with the scientific community, to generate ideas, and to create new connections. Without the fellowship, I would not have been able to advance my research and perform the experiment I am currently conducting.

Photo: A subset of ~1300 F5 morning glories growing currently growing in the growth room for the fall QTL experiment.

Alex Loomis


Schiedea globosa

Thanks to the Duke Graduate School’s Summer Research Fellowship, I was able to spend the entirety of my first summer conducting field work in Hawaii for my dissertation research. I was able to visit wild populations of seven species on three different islands of the endemic plant genus Schiedea that I plan on focusing on for my dissertation work. I began to install demographic plots to track individual plants and their interactions with other invasive and native plants, herbivores, and pollinators. Additionally, I was able to collect flowers from several species to check for the presence of moth scales on their stigmas, an indicator of visitation by native pollinators.

The work I did this summer while funded by this summer research fellowship allowed me to hit the ground running with my dissertation research, giving me an excellent idea of what will and won’t work as I develop my research plan further. I was able to work in beautiful protected areas including state natural area reserves, state parks, and Haleakala National Park. Much of the fieldwork was facilitated through collaborations with experienced staff from the Hawaii Plant Extinction Prevention Program, the State of Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources, and other local agencies. I also participated in planting reintroductions of species in my study genus that are critically endangered.

Photo: Schiedea globosa (Ma'oli'oli), a Hawaiian endemic wind-pollinated shrub and one of my dissertation study species, grows on rocky, coastal cliffs like this one on the island of Oahu

Kenneth McKenna


Luna moth wing

I study the development and evolution of butterfly wings. This summer I collected wild Luna moths that allowed me to start a laboratory population. I have begun to experimentally assess how the wing develops through patterning of secreted morphogens, which gives rise to differential growth within the wing. To do so, I stained wings for these morphogens and the signaling networks they activate. I am beginning to decipher how variation in morphogen gradients causes the differences in the growth of the compartments on the wing to produce the overall shape of the wing (see attached).

Further, I worked on elucidating how wing size is determined. To do so, I injected different hormones known to promote wing development to see how they initiate and suppress cell divisions. This has allowed me to hypothesize what sort of mechanisms might vary to allow for larger or smaller wings within a population. To address this latter question, I collected blood samples from small and large developing caterpillars. From this, I extracted the same hormones used in injection experiments. I am currently in the process of analyzing these data to determine how size variation is regulated.

I also wrote a manuscript on insect developmental plasticity that is currently in review.

Without this financial support, I would not have been able to conduct this research as I would have needed to find a job to pay for living expenses. For that, I am thankful for the financial support provided to me.

Photo: Developing hind wing of a Luna moth. Stained in posterior region are cells destined to undergo programmed cell death, essentially cutting out the shape of the wing.

Julia Notar

The Duke Graduate School Summer Research Fellowship allowed me to participate in the Comparative Embryology course at Friday Harbor Labs this summer. This prestigious course, taught by Drs. Billie Swalla and Andreas Heyland, is a 5-week intensive class that combines field work and laboratory techniques, including instruction on fertilization, development, and metamorphosis over 20 animal phyla. In addition to lectures and lab instruction, students design and execute their own projects in embryology. This allowed me to run preliminary experiments on sea urchin development and neurogenesis under different light regimes, a topic I hope to explore for my dissertation. I learned an incredible amount from this class, and have returned with notebooks full of field notes, observations, research questions, and laboratory protocols, as well as close personal connections with my present and future colleagues.

Bryan Piatkowski

An example of a boreal peatland near Juneau, Alaska. Photograph taken by Bryan Piatkowski

My research investigates the evolutionary history of ecologically-important traits and patterns of molecular diversity in Sphagnum peatmosses. Boreal peatlands, dominated by plants in the genus Sphagnum, occupy only 3% of the planet’s landmass yet contain nearly a third of its terrestrial carbon stock. Peatmosses not only live in these ecosystems, they create the ecosystems through the traits that the mosses possess such as the production of recalcitrant biomass. These traits are critical to carbon sequestration within peatlands, in addition to driving ecological niche differentiation between species of Sphagnum. This summer, I made progress towards reconstructing evolutionary relationships between these species using genomic data and towards developing computational code intended to model how traits have evolved across the Sphagnum phylogeny. I have been testing this code using trait data from published studies and will apply it to data gathered upon completion of my current experiment designed to quantify trait values from over 50 species. Summer funding from The Graduate School at Duke has allowed me to develop the computational infrastructure needed to complete several goals of my dissertation which seeks to understand how genomic variation influences variation in functional traits that are strongly influential to global biogeochemical cycles and to niche differentiation within a group of closely-related organisms.

Photo: An example of a boreal peatland near Juneau, Alaska. Photograph taken by Bryan Piatkowski.

Kate Thomas


Doc Ricketts

My summer research fellowship supported my time working at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) in Moss Landing, California. There, I used a combination of real-time light measurements at sea and a long-term dataset of oceanographic parameters in the Monterey Canyon to construct a model of light attenuation in the deep sea habitat. We are continuing to develop this model and will be using it to test hypotheses of how light affects animal depth distributions in the deep ocean.

Photo: The remotely operated vehicle Doc Ricketts awaits launch from the R/V Western Flyer offshore from Monterey, CA. It is fitted with a new light sensor we are using to see how light attenuates with depth in the ocean.


Classical Studies

Thomas Cole

Aside from researching political thought and rhetoric in Tacitus and Pliny the Younger in my dissertation, I spent August in Greece at a program where classes were conducted in Ancient Greek. The program was through the Paideia Institute. Speaking a classical language helped me better understand how classical orators shaped their own speeches and thoughts. This, in turn, gave me greater insight into how rhetoric influenced classical political thought.

Adrian High


GIGAmacro Viewer

At the center of my research this summer was a massive wall at the temple of Delphi (the “Polygonal Wall”) on which are engraved hundreds of records of the manumissions of slaves. These inscriptions constitute our best textual evidence for those at the bottom of ancient society, yet our basic knowledge of the wall and the inscriptions is lacking. There are many open questions pertaining to the spatial organization of the texts on the wall and a first step towards answering them is to create a high-resolution online visualization of the wall with annotations of all the visible inscriptions. The Duke Collaboratory for Classics Computing (DC3) was able to provide me with high-resolution image tiles of large sections of the wall. Using advanced photo merging software I stitched hundreds of image tiles together to create gigapixel (ultra-high-resolution) representations of large swaths of the wall. Next, I reached out to a technology firm called GIGAmacro that specializes in macro imaging solutions. The GIGAmacro team gave me access to their outstanding online viewer. Using this platform, I published online and annotated the gigapixel representations of the wall, linking each text identified to the online database of Greek inscriptions (PHI, The prototypes are available here: South Wall; East Wall.

Photo: GIGAmacro Viewer - Gigapixel Image Delivery and Annotation


Computer Science

Vincentius Martin

Beginning this summer, I have been doing research with Dr. Raluca Gordan from the computer science department. My research explores the way to effectively quantify the impact of non-coding somatic mutation. This type of mutation can lead to various diseases such as cancer. Therefore, my research aims to quantify its impact, specifically on a binding of DNA and proteins known as Transcription Factors.

I did most of my research from my office in CS and sometimes from my cubicle in the CIEMAS building. Most of the activities involved running experiments on the Duke HARDAC cluster. This is done remotely using ssh connection. It is important to use high performance computing like HARDAC because there are myriad mutations used in my research and using a cluster can help to process these data in parallel. During my summer research I had a lot of interactions with other students from my lab and some meetings with Dr. Gordan.

Aside from doing research, I spent my summer polishing my research background by studying textbooks and reading papers.


Cultural Anthropology

Yakein Abdelmagid



The Duke Graduate School Summer Research Fellowship helped me to conduct follow-up research in Cairo on youth entrepreneurial initiatives in the independent music industry. This follow-up research became crucial after the police raids on youth venues and sites of performances in the spring and summer of 2017. Also, I was able to complete one chapter of my dissertation that explores the role of affect in Egyptian politics after the 2011 revolution.

Besides the ethnographic fieldwork, my dissertation draws on an extensive archive of digital media programs and social media research to map the multitude of networks that shape the underground music scene in Egypt. During the summer, I sorted and edited the archive in preparation for dissertation writing.

Photo: Roofantika, an Art Space in downtown Cairo shut down by the police in February 2017

Kelly Alexander


Bell Mundo restaurant

For my dissertation fieldwork research on the culture of sustainability in the European Union, in the summer of 2017 I lived in its de-facto capital of Brussels. While there I investigated food waste reduction efforts in two sites. One is the largest food bank in Belgium, where I worked with an all-volunteer team two days a week to help redistribute food donated from supermarkets that was still edible but no longer salable. The other is a so-called "social restaurant": a cafe and culinary skills job training program for immigrants and refugees living in Brussels. I was an intern in the training program and helped run the cafe's kitchen with the rest of the team, all of whom were on paid internships there, courtesy of the Brussels social welfare system, in order to learn new restaurant skills and practice their Flemish and French speaking to prepare to enter the job market. All of the food in the kitchen was donated by supermarkets who could no longer sell the food but were prohibited by E.U. sustainability policy from discarding it. The trainees and I were responsible for preparing meals from the donated food to be sold in the cafe's dining room. Because the key method of inquiry for anthropology is participant-observation, it was important for me to be onsite in places where food waste was being reimagined and to work alongside the populations doing the work to recirculate it as well as to learn who benefits from such efforts.

Photo: This is the "social economic" restaurant Bell Mundo in Brussels, where immigrants and refugees to Brussels can learn culinary job skills and where the food is all donated from supermarkets from their surplus that can no longer but sold but is still edible.

Jieun Cho


Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture

During two and a half months of stay in various locations of Japan, I engaged with my research questions about the politics of survival and citizenship in post-nuclear Japan. For the majority of the stay I stayed in Tokyo while working as a part-time intern at an NGO named FoE Japan. The organization has operated as a main contact point and administrative office for groups of long-term evacuees and citizen supporters. Through the related connections, I was introduced to other networks such as Children’s Thyroid Cancer Fund, housing negotiation with the government, Minamisoma lawsuit over acceptable level of radiation, recuperation programs for children inside and outside of Fukushima Prefecture. I was able to meet with supporters, lawyers, radiation experts, journalists, evacuee-activists, a local doctor and mothers who are raising children amidst radioactive contamination. Besides working as an intern, I contacted and visited support groups in Matsumoto City of Nagano Prefecture, Osaka, Kyoto, Saitama, and Koriyama of Fukushima Prefecture to meet with people who are participating in civil efforts to arrange recuperation programs, plaintiffs and supporters of the so-called Tokyo lawsuit, and mothers who are long-term evacuees.

Photo: People came from Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture, to attend the lawsuit that demands the government to lower the official level of acceptable irradiation.

Can Evren

In summer 2017, I did archival research and fieldwork for my dissertation research, which is about the relationship between nationalism, anti-Westernism, and soccer in Turkey. In the Beyazit National Library in Istanbul, I studied sports journals and newspapers and other relevant publications between the dates 1985 and 2000 to map out the major policy debates concerning sports policy and discourses of competitive improvement within the framework of European integration after Turkey applied to become a member of the European Union in 1987. I studied how European rivals in contests between Turkish and Western European soccer teams were represented in mass media and found out that matches were strongly interlinked with a negative perception of the European Union and the European soccer governing body, the UEFA, as crusaders or Christians uniting against a growing Turkey - painted in the image of a glorious Ottoman Empire and its days of domination in Eastern Europe. Additionally, I spent time in the National Archives in Istanbul, searching for documents from the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s that shed light on the political programs and debates over nationalizing soccer and gave the sport's control to the bureaucratic center in Ankara. I observed how, in these post-war decades, soccer became a central institutional mechanism for localities across Turkey to make claims on their place within the nation and express the desire to join the consolidating project of national development.

Koffi Nomedji


Togolese coast

In Togo, on the outskirts of the capital, Lomé, rows of destroyed buildings line the beach all the way to Aneho on the eastern border with Benin. The coast is under the wrath of coastal erosion, which is devouring houses, sanctuaries and farming land of several communities. Moreover, part of the coast is facing severe pollution affecting these communities’ main livelihoods that are farming and fishing. This environmental issue is the fallout from big infrastructure projects carried out a couple of decades ago. These problems accentuate poverty in the area by raising significant issues in terms of unemployment, health, sanitation, nutrition and habitat. Locals have their understanding of these issues and use their cultural background to find ways to adapt. They are also subject to a much larger influencing mechanism that is international development. In fact, the international community has committed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and some development partners are funding various projects in Aneho. At the same time, the ongoing erosion is not only changing the landscape but it is also affecting the local culture and the forms of interactions between groups of people. My research uses a cultural lens from the perspective of local people to find ways in which development projects can be informed by the new changes in the social landscape. During the summer of 2017, I explored the field site and talked with various actors.

Photo: Destroyed buildings along the Togolese coast

Matthew Sebastian

This summer I completed vital pre-dissertation fieldwork in anticipation of my year in the field from 2017 to 2018. My research explores how youth navigate post-conflict life in northern Uganda, in particular, how they experience both security and vulnerability as they are included in (or excluded from) various intervention programs led by both state and non-state actors. The funding provided this summer allowed me to continue my language training in Luo (Acholi), reconnect with important collaborators in the field, complete the Ugandan research clearance process, and expand my network of contacts among youth-focused NGOs and others. Most importantly, it provided the time and resources needed to complete the groundwork necessary to begin my ethnographic research project in the fall, which will continue through 2018.



William Cioffi

Thanks to the Summer Research Fellowship, I was able to participate in a number of research activities. For my dissertation, I’m investigating changes in ecology and baleen whales during and after commercial exploitation, which mostly occurred in the first half of the 20th century. To achieve this, I need to acquire historical tissue samples as well as more recent ones. This summer I was able to travel to museums, including the Smithsonian in DC, to investigate collections of older specimens. I was also able to subsample some specimens from recent whale strandings collected by researchers at UNC Wilmington who generously offered to share samples. One of the techniques used to investigate foraging and migration patterns in whales is stable isotope analysis. Earlier this summer, I traveled to the University of Utah and participated in a 10 day course titled, “Stable Isotope Biogeochemistry and Ecology.” During this course, we learned laboratory, field, and analysis techniques taught by experts working in Utah and around the country. This was also a great opportunity to meet and exchange ideas with others working in similar fields and on similar problems.

Lindsay Leverett

In summer 2017, I focused on writing. I finished publishing my second chapter and wrote my third chapter.

Jeanne Shearer

I spent the summer of 2017 analyzing data from a satellite tagging study on Cuvier's beaked whales off the coast of North Carolina. We were looking at their diving and surfacing behavior and found that, as in other areas, they make extremely deep dives, including what could be a new dive depth record for the species (over 3500 meters depth). This analysis is the first to describe Cuvier's beaked whale diving behavior in the Cape Hatteras region, which will provide a baseline to compare with animals tagged in other areas. It will also be a baseline record of their diving behavior prior to an ongoing behavioral response study to analyze their responses to mid-frequency active sonar.

Emily Ury


Golden orb weaver

I spent the summer visiting the coastal plain of North Carolina where I am monitoring a large scale field experiment in a forested wetland. Salinization from sea level rise and eutrophication from excess nutrients in agricultural runoff are two of the most prevalent threats to coastal ecosystems. I have been adding salt and fertilizer treatments to several experimental study plots and am interested in understanding how these environmental stresses are impacting the biogeochemistry and plant communities in this landscape. This summer, I carried hundreds of pounds of sea salt out to these wetlands, in an attempt to mimic how future sea level rise will impact this system. I also installed root in-growth cores for measuring below ground productivity and gas flux chambers, for measuring CO2 and CH4 release from the soil. I will continue to monitor the changes in water quality, soil biogeochemistry and plant communities throughout my dissertation. I am also using remote sensing to understand how the region is changing beyond my experimental wetland sites. Thank you to the Graduate School for supporting me in this work.

Photo: Timberlake, my field site, is home to lots of exciting wildlife, including these golden orb weavers, snakes, alligators, black bears and red wolves

Jillian Wisse


Cuvier's beaked whale

This summer I had the opportunity to develop my dissertation through both field and lab work.

The field efforts I participated in investigated (1) hearing thresholds of beaked whales and (2) behavioral responses of beaked whales and pilot whales to anthropogenic noise. It was incredible to work with such a talented field team and to see these experiments come together after many months of careful planning.

For lab work, I was fortunate to travel to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), at the Hollings Marine Lab in Charleston, South Carolina. While there, I learned a novel methodology for sample analysis and worked with a collaborator to further develop that methodology for use with my focal species.

Thanks to the Summer Research Fellowship from the Graduate School, I was able to travel for these fundamental experiences. I gained a better understanding of experimental design, obtained data for my dissertation, worked with leading scientists, and ultimately, made important progress toward my research goals.

Photo: Cuvier's beaked whale, Cape Hatteras, NC (Jillian Wisse, 2017)



Jiayun Dong

I was working towards my field paper this summer. The work I did includes simplifying the model with another framework, thinking about the applications of my model, and starting to prove things. I also met with my advisor regularly and discussed the project. I am still working on this project this semester, and expect to have a first draft by the end of this semester.

Craig Fratrik


Histogram of simulated inflation

I worked on modeling central banks with asymmetric loss functions. I believe that central banks have internalized the benefits of disinflation, but that they have overcorrected and now are more concerned with high inflation than low inflation. This is not incorporated into the standard models so I added it. In order to solve it, I used recursive contracts methods to maintain the New-Keynesian Phillips curve, modeling central banks with full commitment.

Photo: Histogram of simulated inflation with different shocks.

Aram Grigoryan

I took Summer Term II courses at Duke. Those courses were helpful for developing necessary skills to conduct original research. In August 2017, I started working on my second year paper.

Amanda Grittner

This summer, I worked on a new research project. In this project, I investigate how the integration of students with a refugee background in elementary schools in Germany affects education outcomes of native students. My goal for the summer was to learn more about the allocation of refugees across Germany and the integration of refugee students into schools, to collect data, to conduct a first empirical analysis and to write a first draft of a working paper. I spent the summer writing many emails and calling government officials, statistical offices, integration workers, and schools in Germany to get information and data. I also went to Germany for several weeks to meet with people in person. On this trip, I also met researchers working on related topics at the Center for European Economic Research in Mannheim and the Leibniz Institute for Economic Research (RWI) in Essen. These meetings were very helpful to learn about the newest research on the topic and to connect to other young researchers with similar interests. Once I collected the data and background information, I spent the remainder of the summer working to clean the data, run my empirical analysis and write a first draft of a working paper. I presented this paper at my prospectus defense at the end of the summer, which I passed successfully. Writing a new paper starting from zero in just four months was a very intensive task. The Graduate School’s summer fellowship helped me to succeed.

Attila Gyetvai

During the summer of 2017 I started a new research project in which I am looking at an old puzzle from a new angle. The puzzle is: why do seemingly identical workers earn vastly different amounts of money? In other words, why do we observe substantial wage dispersion among similar workers? There are many previous attempts to solve this puzzle, but only a few of them consider the occupation of the modeled workers. My research takes a fresh look at the puzzle by adding occupations to the equation.

Naturally, my project relies heavily on data: I use big data from an administrative source. I spent most of my summer on laying down the empirical foundation of my project: getting access to the data set, cleaning it, and doing sanity checks and preliminary analyses. This research, and the follow-up studies I plan to conduct, will serve as the basis of my dissertation. All of the above was made possible by the support of Duke through the Summer Research Fellowship, which I hereby gratefully acknowledge.

Joshua Jacobs

I modeled a platform design moral hazard problem with Brownian noise, and considered similar problems with Poisson noise, as well as learning models and other platform design problems which fit within the novel framework proposed. Using steady-state methods new to microeconomic theory, I am able to consider a large dynamic game as the optimization of a static, aggregated decision problem, where the incentives of individual agents are already built in. The problem remains complicated due to significant nonlinearities in the utility received by agents from other agents' rewards. Nonetheless, results show interesting behavior for a number of possible objective functions.

Yilin Jiang

With the support of the summer research fellowship, I continued working on my dissertation on the meaningful-differences regulation in the Medicare Part D program. I combined the administrative data of Medicare Part D claims and the formularies of the prescription drug plans, to measure the quality of Medicare beneficiaries' choice of plans. I found that when there are more plans available, the more likely beneficiaries are to spend more than they could have, which suggests that the quality of choice worsens with the multiplicity of options. I also started to build the behavioral model that could explain the pattern, which has not been done in the previous literature, and would be my contribution.

ByeongJip Kim

I took two classes on computer programming languages such as Matlab and Stata. Matlab and Stata are widely used in my field of study and they were helpful for me to improve my programming skill. I also studied Java, which is a basic language of computer science. I also studied my field of study and related fields including Stochastic Calculus and Fourier Analysis from applied mathematics fields.

Taehoon Kim

I studied for my field exam for the first three weeks and then tried to narrow down my research question.

Also, I spent about three weeks for a project with one of the faculty members in the Econ department.

Lastly, I went to London School of Economics to take a Summer Method course.

Andrea Kiss

At the very beginning of this summer I was preparing for my field exam. This exam makes second-year economics Ph.D. students qualified in one field; in my case, labor economics. After successfully passing this exam, I continued to seriously look for research topics. I read several research papers, downloaded and browsed through data sets and discarded several ideas. Although some moments were very desperate, in the end, my professors accepted my research idea that I will turn into my field paper by December.

Ilia Kozis

I used the summer research fellowship to support decent living standard during summer courses. I had to take ECON 890-1 and ECON 890-2 as a program requirement. In addition to that, I read background literature for future research, particularly additional readings (not required) for my classes in the fall semester, as there is usually not a lot of time to keep up with all the useful literature once the semester starts.

Jeremy Lebow


Instituto del Rincon

I spent my summer volunteering with the Instituto del Rincón in Malinalco, Mexico, promoting rural economic development and working with families of migrants to the United States as they navigate the difficulties of having relatives abroad. This ranges from assistance with the US legal system to working with children whose parents are abroad to helping locate migrants who went missing while crossing the border. On the side, I did my own informal field work, to better understand rural-to-urban migration and how it is transforming the lives of rural families in Mexico.

Photo: Instituto del Rincon in Malinalco, Mexico

Gabriel Oliva Costa Cunha

I took three computer programing (Econ 890) classes during Summer II Term (R, MATLAB and Stata) and participated in the 2017 Summer Institute organized by the Center for the History of Political Economy.

Francisco Javier Romero Haaker

I spent the summer of 2017 in Peru working on my doctoral dissertation, which studies how corruption affects the efficiency of public good provision. My research focuses in Peru as a case study. The Peruvian government, through its National Jury of Elections (NJE), has gathered detailed data on every politician running for public office since 2006 and made it publicly available for the electorate before each election. While in Peru, I had a series of meetings with officials of the NJE and collected supplementary data for my analysis, including data on illegal activities related to corruption of public servants, audits to local governments on the use of public funds, and corruption accusations for the universe of mayors in the last ten years. Moreover, given the direct consequences that this project has for policy making, I met with several government officials to discuss my preliminary findings as well as concerns they had that could be informed by rigorous studies. Importantly, depicting the characteristics of the politicians that tend to use the government for self-dealing may help to prevent and police corruption more efficiently.

Leonardo Salim Saker Chaves

I was able to continue my research while living in Durham thanks to the fellowship.

Guilherme Salome

Summer was spent on: reading papers, learning Unix shell scripting, SQL and Matlab. These skills were used to start doing research (field paper), and are now a very important toolset that I use almost every day.

Wen Wang

In the summer of 2017, I worked on my project about gentrification and housing market dynamics in Los Angeles. I merged CoreLogic data with DataQuick data to refine the sample and further got transportation conditions in Los Angeles. I used the new sample to do reduced form analysis and then do the coding for my structure model. I also worked on another paper about gentrification and displacement in Los Angeles. I finished the first draft of it this summer.

I traveled twice to attend conferences during this summer. The first one was a Chinese environmental scholars forum, held in Berkeley in May, and the second one was Camp Resources, held in Wilmington in August.

Laurel Wheeler

The Graduate School Summer Fellowship freed me from typical work obligations, allowing me to make substantial progress toward cleaning and analyzing restricted-use census data housed at the Triangle Research Data Center. These data will comprise an important piece of my dissertation and I had not been able to devote sufficient time to working on them during the academic year. In addition, this summer I participated in the Price Theory Summer Camp at the Becker Friedman Institute at the University of Chicago. While there, I received top-rate instruction from price theory faculty and picked up new methods that I plan to implement in my own research.



Carolin Benack

The summer fellowship made it possible for me to attend a Summer Institute at Duke's Center for the History of Political Economy (CHOPE).

Devin Buckley

Renowned scholar of Romanticism Frederick Burwick and me after the conference

I applied to and was accepted to three summer seminars. The first seminar held at UPenn by the Collegium Institute addressed the relationship between science and faith. The second seminar, located at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, explored the philosophy of aesthetics and phenomenology. The third seminar was again at UPenn and hosted by the Collegium Institute. This seminar explored different accounts of modernity focusing on the question of what modernity is. After these three seminars I presented a paper at the Romanticism Association conference in Strasbourg, France on the romantic poet and thinker Samuel Taylor Coleridge that addressed the manner in which he combines Christian mystical theology with German idealism.

Photo: Renowned scholar of Romanticism Frederick Burwick and me after the conference

Katya Gorecki

I researched and wrote my second dissertation chapter on the Experiment in Autobiography by H.G. Wells as a philosophical example of modeling reality based on the scientific method. I also began researching my third chapter on the world imagined in Salem witchcraft trials and how it reflects principles of virtual reality.

Joanna Murdoch

Thanks to the Graduate School's Summer Research Fellowship, I devoted myself to comprehensive exam preparation. I followed a rigorous daily schedule of reading, note-taking, brainstorming, and writing in the libraries at Duke and Yale. I organized and participated in a "shut-up-and-write" group for pre-prelim and dissertating students, plus several weekend-long exam prep boot camps for my English Dept. cohort. It was a stimulating blend of private study and communal work. The fellowship also paid for a subscription to Scrivener software to keep track of my notes and ideas for exam questions, dissertation chapters, and syllabus proposals for the upcoming academic years. Being free from teaching and other service obligations meant that I could spend extra time applying to academic-year fellowships for 2017/18. Thanks to those applications, I'm now part of a Religions and Public Life working group on Minorities and Diaspora. The project I pitched to that group is turning out to be central to my dissertation research. So thank you, Graduate School! It has been a very fruitful summer.


Sonia Nayak


The generous fellowship from the graduate school enabled me to research, write, and finish the second chapter of my dissertation, entitled, "Cruelty in Motion--Cyclical Violence in W.G. Sebald's The Rings of Saturn".

Photo: Sonia Nayak, 5th Year Ph.D. Candidate in English

Kevin Spencer

I spent the bulk of my summer starting the reading lists for my preliminary exams (to be taken next spring). Unfortunately, the story is not much richer than that. I stayed in Durham and read books everyday for as long as I could bear it, then I stopped. I also spent 3 weeks in South Korea on a personal vacation.

Michelle Sroka

I spent the summer of 2017 reading about labor and laboring practices during the British Romantic Period, and putting that theory into practice through work on a local farm. I read E.P. Thompson's account of the formation of the working-class within Britain, Maurice Merleau-Ponty's account of phenomenology, and Felix Ravaisson's philosophy of habit, and sought to find ways to incorporate those works within my own dissertation on the poetry of laborers. Harvesting and canning summer vegetables such as tomatoes and squash helped me understand the various practices and ways of seeing and learning that are involved in working the land, and allowed me to apply that knowledge back to my own writing. In addition to spending time at a local farm, I also traveled to a few farms up in the Northeast, learning the differences between farming practices across regions. Moreover, I spent the end of my summer editing and revising the first chapter of my dissertation, outlining and writing preliminary drafts for my second chapter, and outlining and drafting fellowship applications to receive external funding for the next academic year.



Danica Schaffer-Smith

During the summer of 2017, I made substantial progress toward completing the Ph.D. program. I prepared a manuscript draft summarizing my second dissertation chapter, which is currently being internally reviewed by coauthors before submission. I completed a short visit to California to meet with one of my committee members and other research collaborators. In addition, I learned how to use a new Bayesian statistical modelling method, prepared data and completed preliminary modelling for my third chapter.


Environmental Policy

Kathleen Hansen

I prepared for and took my comprehensive exam in Environmental Policy. I also worked on the first draft of my dissertation proposal.

Wumeng He

I spent the summer mostly in Durham and worked on several projects at the same time. First, I worked on further developing my dissertation topic related to conservation programs and their socioeconomic impact on rural households in China. Second, I helped in designing a choice experiment in Madagascar by which we attempt to understand local farmer's preferences with respect to different kinds of conservation policies/programs. Third, I worked on the econometrics of developing a more economically meaningful metrics for evaluating conservation programs. Lastly, I was involved in a project that studies conservation on mangrove forests in South Asian countries.

Farah Hegazi

I spent this summer applying for grants to conduct field work for my dissertation. I also made progress on writing a paper that I intend to submit for review.

Yating Li

Attending a workshop on cost-benefit analysis in environmental policy in Beijing, China

Thanks to the Summer Research Fellowship from The Graduate School, I was able to work on the second chapter of my dissertation in Shanghai, China. In this paper, I estimate a flexible non-linear relationship between residential electricity consumption and temperature and then calculate the damage of climate change using 21 downscaled global climate models (GCMs) under the Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) 8.5 and 4.5 scenarios. Original data sets are stored in a confidential data center established by SGCC and become available through the collaboration with Fudan University. Therefore, it is very important for me to be able to work in Shanghai to get access to the data.

As my work mainly focuses on China, the fellowship also enabled me to attend several conferences and workshops in China to learn from other scholars working on similar topics. In particular, I attended a workshop on electricity reform and a workshop on using cost-benefit analysis in environmental policy in China, both hosted by Duke Kunshan University. I also presented in the Chinese Association of Environmental and Resource Economics 1st Annual Conference (Aug. 24-26, 2017, Beijing, China).

Photo: Attending a workshop on cost-benefit analysis in environmental policy in Beijing, China

Faraz Usmani


Summer 2017 entailed considerable progress on my dissertation-related research, which focuses on the economics of energy and development in low-income countries. I presented one of my dissertation chapters (on the role of NGOs in delivering energy and development services) at the annual conference of the European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists (EAERE) in Athens, Greece. I also had the opportunity to present a preliminary sketch of a second chapter (on the complex relationship between access to energy and economic growth) at Camp Resources, an annual environmental economics workshop in Wrightsville Beach, NC—a bit closer to home! The feedback and guidance I received at these two gatherings was immensely useful. I wrapped up the summer with preparatory work for upcoming fieldwork in Senegal, where I intend to collect primary data in the fall on rural energy-use patterns for my third and final dissertation chapter. I am grateful to have received additional support from the Graduate School (in the form of an International Dissertation Research Travel Award) in support of this work.

Photo: Presentation at the 2017 annual conference of the European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists (EAERE), Athens, Greece


Evolutionary Anthropology

Joseph Feldblum

I researched the social and reproductive behavior and social structure of chimpanzees, taking advantage of the unparalleled long-term study of the chimpanzees of Gombe National Park, Tanzania, which is now in its 57th year.

The Summer Research Fellowship provided me vital extra months to write up my dissertation, during which time I traveled to Beijing for an interdisciplinary conference and learned new techniques for analyzing network data in my dissertation. I also submitted a chapter of my dissertation for publication. I am very grateful for the support from the Graduate School that enabled me to improve my dissertation and emerge better-prepared for the job market.

Wen Zhou

In summer 2017, I finished three projects in Zoo Atlanta over three months.

One was a pre-post survey on children's attitudes towards conservation work and changes in their pro-conservation attitude after being involved in a conservation plan (Safari Camp in Zoo Atlanta) and being exposed to animals in the zoo for only one week.

The second project was a public goods study, which aimed to investigate effects of time delay on children's conservation behaviors.

The third one was a developmental study on the effect humanizing non-human animals has on reducing dehumanization and discrimination of humans. All these surveys and experiments are conducted on 300 children from age 5 to 13 who are involved in the Safari Camp in Zoo Atlanta.

Based on these projects, I got three decent datasets and my dissertation will take advantage of this work. I also mastered skills in conducting developmental experiments and became more familiar with typical logistic work for field studies.


German Studies

Beth Dorn


BTWH Conference

I went to Germany to attend conferences and research in archives. I also spent time in the United States compiling texts for my dissertation.

Photo: BTWH Conference in Vienna

Jeffrey Hertel

Thanks to the generous support of the Duke Graduate School and the John T. Grigsby Fellowship Endowment, I was able to be quite productive over the summer. For the first few weeks, I worked on refining an article on 1920's novels about the First World War (a side project of mine) which I hope to send out for publication in the coming academic year. The majority of the summer was spent finishing the researching and drafting of the first chapter of my dissertation, which deals with dramatic satire and the German public sphere in the early nineteenth century.

The initial drafting process yielded a chapter of around ninety pages, which was somewhat too long for a chapter. After reappraising the content of the work I had done, it was determined that the material collected and worked out was indeed sufficient for the initially planned project and the first half of a second chapter. At the end of the summer, I successfully defended the revised version of the chapter and am now in Berlin, Germany, from where I will continue to progress towards completing the dissertation. The progress I made would not have been possible without the funding I received from Duke for my research.

Edana Kleinhans


Edana Klienhans

I spent my summer researching medieval patronesses of courtly literature in the Bavarian State Library in Munich. The title of my dissertation is "The Kingdom and Kinship of Venus: Love, Politics, and Women Who Rule in Medieval and Early Modern Courtly Literature of the Habsburg Empire." The goal of my dissertation is to shed new light on women who were active as politicians, authors, and intellectuals. During the course of my research, I discovered a possible link between the Bavarian Duchess Kunigunde of Österreich and the Empress Maria Theresia. It's possible that Maria Theresia was responsible for the publication of a 16th century biography of Kunigunde. This is such an exciting find. Now I'm planning a trip to Vienna!.

Margaret Reif

When applying for my summer research grant, I had hoped to have a chapter and prospectus review with my committee this September; however, due to the death of my father in May 2017 and the aftermath, I was unable to meet that goal.

Despite the personal loss, I was still able to reach several of my other summer research goals. I read many additional primary texts, both novellas and novels that had come up after my qualifying exams and was able to read more secondary literature on the topics of wildness, children in literature, and German Realism. From that, I began work on my prospectus and how I am framing and structuring my argument in my dissertation.

I am studying abroad at the University of Potsdam for the next academic year, and from this past summer am confident that I have a solid foundation and direction to begin my archival and independent research while abroad.

Joshua Shelly


Old City in Jerusalem

Following the end of the semester (mid-May) until the end of June, I conducted research for my WPR, or, Writing Proficiency Review. This is the equivalent of a MA thesis in the Carolina Duke German Studies Program and needs to be completed by the end of the second year (Spring 2018). In July, I attended a Hebrew language summer program at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel. The program helped me improve my Hebrew language skills, which I hope to use in my research on German-speaking Jews who moved to Israel following the Holocaust.

Photo: A picture of me (farthest right) and two fellow classmates during a visit to the Old City in Jerusalem, near where I lived while studying Hebrew this summer.



Anderson Hagler


Saltillo's Municipal Archives

This summer, I travelled to Mexico for archival research. I flew from RDU to Monterrey International Airport. Upon arrival in Monterrey, I alighted a bus for Saltillo, Coahuila. While in Saltillo, I consulted the municipal archives. I found several interesting case files from the eighteenth century. Later, I decided to investigate Monclova’s municipal archive. While in Monclova, Coahuila, I consulted several nineteenth century files. The staff at both archives were extremely helpful and friendly. Overall, the trip was very productive.

Photo: Saltillo's Municipal Archives

Huijuan Li


Ecological farm

My summer research in China included three parts. The first focused on my intended Ph.D. dissertation project on the Chinese Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA). I visited The Second Historical Archive of China, Chinese National Library, municipal libraries of Shanghai, Nanjing, Sichuan Province, collected information of the local archival source base as well as their visiting policies, and collected materials for my YWCA project. Second, I investigated new methodological possibilities for my historical research. For example, I observed a Digital Humanities (DH) conference organized by Nanjing University. I also attended a summer school class on memory theories at Nanjing University, which highlighted the use of memory theories in historical studies and the framework of “history of concepts”. Third, I also developed my growing research interest in environmental history by attending an international conference titled “Environmental Justice and Sustainable Citizenship” sponsored by Duke Kunshan University and a summer school class titled “Ecological System and Human Civilization in History” held by Fudan University. By participating in these activities and communicating with Chinese historians from China and abroad, I not only acquired specific resources and research advice, but also built a preliminary academic community in China to support my future study and research. I really appreciate the financial support provided by the Summer Research Fellowship.

Photo: Visiting An Ecological Farm in Kunshan, China (fieldwork assigned by the environmental history summer school of Fudan University)





University of Basel lecture

Being granted the summer research fellowship for 2017 was pivotal for me. I passed my preliminary exams in spring 2017 so having a funded summer to research gave me the opportunity to work through my prospectus and do a lot of the foundational work for writing my first chapter. Having this opportunity where I did not need to find a second, or potentially unrelated job, I was able to present my work internationally at the University of Basel in Switzerland and meet many scholars in my field. The paper I presented was at SLSA-e.u. and entitled, “Beyond Neocortical Quantification: Dispersing Hierarchy in Mammalian Neuroscience through the Lived Worlds of Cetaceans.” Working through this paper helped me prepare for teaching my fall 2017 semester-long course, “Brains: Phallic Organ Fictions.” This means I also spent a good amount of time this summer reading and pre-writing lectures, which has been tremendously helpful. Ultimately, this funding source has helped keep me on track towards timely degree completion for my Ph.D. Because my summer was devoted to dissertation research and preparation for the semester ahead, I'm able to have my first chapter workshop on time in my fourth year.

Photo: Lecture on Animal Ethics and Empathy at the University of Basel, Switzerland

Cole Rizki


Plaza de Mayo

My dissertation, “Trans Encounters en América Latina,” centers unlikely encounters between cultural and social formations in Argentina and Chile. With the support of a Summer Research Fellowship, I completed my first chapter and prospectus. Drawing on Latin American Cultural Studies, I develop “encounter” as method, placing objects like literature, social movement discourse, legal codes, and performance art in unlikely relations. These encounters yield new interpretations of familiar cultural objects, altering theories of transgender and travesti subjectivity, representation practices, and identity formations.

My first chapter, “Intersectional Motherhood and the Politics of Death,” analyzes mutual transformations between two social movements: (a) Argentine travesti activism; and, (b) the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, a renowned activist group of mothers who formed to protest their children’s disappearance. Through close readings of speeches, images, and interviews, I analyze how the Mothers developed a “politics of reception,” teaching the public to recognize, articulate, and interpret human rights abuses. I claim that travesti social actors activate this existing politics of reception, fusing trans and non-trans deaths into a single narrative of genocidal—and now gendered—extermination where travestis, like the disappeared, are marked for death. These unlikely alliances across movements suggest ways of doing politics through identification without shared identity.

Photo: Plaza de Mayo, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Jordan Sjol

I spent a majority of the summer learning to read French. This went towards my language requirements, so that I can read untranslated work by the French philosopher of technology, Gilbert Simondon. Another student and I had organized a reading group around Simondon and I needed to be able to consult work not available in English.


Marine Science and Conservation

Anastasia Quintana


Sunset over Sea of Cortez

Globally, fisheries’ efforts continue to rise. Yet poverty remains pervasive in rural fishing communities. The Basurto Lab at Duke University is dedicated to understanding small-scale fishing communities. As a rising 4th-year Ph.D. student in the lab, I am studying whether a new type of marine reserve in the Sea of Cortez, called a "Fishing Refugia", might be the tool that managers are looking for. Using interviews and observation in local communities, I contextualize my study in the socio-economic and ecological context and embedded history of this specific Fishing Refugia.

Last summer (2016), I spent 2 months in Baja California Sur, investigating an ecological monitoring program called the “Buzos Monitores”. The Buzos Monitores program, facilitated by the locally based NGO called Niparajá, engages local fishers to monitor their Fishing Refugia. Thanks to my Duke Graduate School Summer Research Fellowship, this summer (2017) I analyzed and wrote my results, presenting them at two conferences in Europe: the biennial IASC Commons conference in Utrecht, and the biennial Maritime Research conference in Amsterdam. I found that fishers who participate in the ecological monitoring program are advocates of the Fishing Refugia in their community, spreading ideas about sustainable fisheries. It turns out, ecological data collection is about a lot more than data: the Buzos Monitores are making waves.

Photo: The sun sets over the Sea of Cortez, one of the ocean's most productive areas which sustains over 15,000 small-scale fishing boats. With my summer fellowship, I analyzed and presented results about a community-based fisheries monitoring program in the Sea of Cortez.

Stacy Zhang


Predator exclusion cage

Summer 2017 was a whirlwind of field work and writing up long overdue manuscripts. I was able to devote the summer towards setting up field experiments to examine the effects of clams on seagrass restoration and the effects of large predator exclusions on seagrass bed expansion. The latter project was a massive endeavor where we built several large stockades in seagrass beds to prevent stingrays from ripping up the grasses. I also finished and submitted a paper that examined gaps in coastal habitat restoration research.

Photo: Predator exclusion cages are also pretty good at catching wild humans.

Sarah Zigler

Over the summer of 2017, I worked to prepare myself for nine months of fieldwork in Rapa Nui (Easter Island, Chile) for my dissertation, which began in September 2017. I secured my visa from the Chilean consulate. I renewed my IRB and prepared my permission documents for interviews in Spanish. I continued to work through the data that I secured in the summer and fall of 2016 in NVivo, in order to prepare my semi-structured interview guides for fieldwork. I prepared oral presentations and written explanations of my research in Spanish for distribution upon entrance into the field. I prepared a 30 page report of my previous work on the Human Dimensions of Large Marine Protected Areas project, conducted in 2015-2016, to return to the participants in this study in Rapa Nui and continental Chile. I gathered relevant documents (policy documents, online press) relevant to my research topic and processed them in NVivo in my current coding schema. I continued to gather relevant academic literature to prepare for writing my first dissertation chapter in the field. I also began working on a side project called "EPIC4: Enhancing Production in Coho: Culture, Community, Catch" to assist in writing an academic paper concerning how indigenous ontologies shape values of Coho Salmon, and the impacts this has on policy for the genetic enhancement of Coho Salmon. This project is an extension of my interest in indigenous ontologies of nature.



Chen An

The most important thing I did this summer was preparing for and passing the oral qualifying exam. I started preparing for it at the end of June, and continued studying in almost all of July, and finally passed it on August 10th. While I was preparing for it, I enhanced my background in pure math, especially in algebra and complex analysis. After passing the exam, I could began to read some papers and continued my road to mathematical research. Also, I spent most of the time in June reading Davenport's book, "multiplicative number theory." In the spring of 2017, I enrolled in the course "analytic number theory", and felt really interested on it. Thus, I considered doing research on this subject in the future. Reading this number-theoretic book taught me more knowledge about analytic number theory, which would help me through the rest of the years in my pursuit of a Ph.D. degree. Also, by reading the book, I confirmed my interest in analytic number theory. Thus, during this summer, I made sure that I had a preference about my future advisor, who is Professor Lillian Pierce, an expert in analytic number theory and harmonic analysis. I took about two weeks going back home and about one week traveling to Canada, which fulfills my summer and makes me feel relaxed, so that I can concentrate on my study in analytic number theory and my preparation for the oral qualifying exam.

Eric Hopper

I spent time studying for qualifying exams in algebra and topology. I took and passed the exams during the summer.

I also completed some readings in algebraic topology and elliptic curves under the supervision of Professor Richard Hain.

Jeffrey LaComb

During the past summer, I've focused on working on research relating to my Ph.D, primarily through independent work and weekly meetings with my advisor. The main focus of my research is on studying transitions between different equilibrium states of a physical system of interest in the presence of small amounts of random 'noise.' My personal focus has been on applications in material science, but other applications can be studied with the techniques I am working on as well. Previous works have already investigated this topic, and there are some existing algorithms for computing transition paths between equilibrium states. For some realistic applications, though, these algorithms are too computationally intensive, because the problems are very high-dimensional. My research has thus been trying to reduce this computational complexity by combining these algorithms with simplifying approximations, and mathematically quantifying how close our approximations are to the true solutions. During the past summer we have made significant progress in this endeavor, and are approaching the conclusion of the current project.

Weifan Liu

I worked on developing an improved ordinary differential equations model for droplets formed on thin films in one-dimension under the supervision of my advisor Thomas Witelski. I also participated in the Graduate Student Mathematical Modeling Camp and Mathematics Problems in Industry workshop where I worked in a team (students and faculties) on two applied mathematical modeling problems.

Erika Ordog

During the summer, I worked on my research project and attended summer school and a conference.

I spent most of my time in the summer months conducting research for a project with my advisor and another mathematician. We are working on finding a canonical minimal free resolution for monomial ideals in any number of variables. This project is trivial for the case of two variables but becomes much more complicated when more variables are introduced. I was able to come up with and prove a couple of propositions that will help us prove our main theorem. I also read several papers and chapters of books to inspire my research and get ideas to aid in answering our question.

In July, I spent two weeks at MSRI (Mathematical Sciences Research Institute) on UC Berkeley’s campus at a summer school for positivity questions in geometric combinatorics. The lectures at this summer school focused on polytopes, which closely relates to my research project. I was able to meet a lot of mathematicians in my research area and made many friends.

Finally, I went to a SIAM (Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics) conference at Georgia Tech. I attended more than twelve sessions on applied algebraic geometry, including two sessions on free resolutions, which is part of my research area. I was able to learn a lot about other current research in the field and do quite a bit of networking.

Dmitry Vagner

I spent the summer working on the primary research paper for my doctorate and travelling for conferences relevant to my long run research interests. Regarding the research project, my collaborator Michael Abel and I were able to complete a large portion of the write up for the paper we wish to submit before the end of this fall semester. Regarding the conference travel, I was accepted with full funding (both airfare and lodging) to both the Mathematical Research Communities workshop on Homotopy Type Theory and the Mathematical Science Research Institute in Soergel Bimodules. These topics represent two branches of burgeoning research in the use of category theoretic ideas. The former was designed to facilitate new collaborations in this fledgling field, while the latter was a summer school given by the top researchers in the sub-discipline. Regarding the former, I was able to participate in a group on a long term project with aspirations of eventual publication; whereas for the latter, I was able to co-author a chapter in a book cataloging the proceedings of the summer school.

Lihan Wang

During the past summer, I spent two weeks in University of Chicago for the Summer School in Analysis. I was exposed to some frontier topics in partial differential equations and got a grasp of the frontier of analysis research.

After that, I returned to Durham to continue my research on designing a weak second order sampling numerical scheme for stochastic differential equations. After some working and several numerical experiments, we finished the first stage of our work, proving theoretically and numerically that the scheme is accurate and convenient. Thanks to the summer research fellowship, I can concentrate on my research and run many different codes during the summer, and now I have started the second stage of the project, seeking to dig the problem deeper and build the correlation between our work and different areas like statistical sampling.

Yiyue Zhang

I attended the analysis summer school in Chicago and read Jost's book: Riemannian geometry and geometric analysis.



Misty Choi

During summer 2017, I was preparing for the qualifying exams, including reading through Tarauskin's The Oxford History of Classical Music and its anthology. I also continued my own research and by the end of the summer holiday I was able to produce two abstracts, "'Transposing' Poetics: From Linguistics to Musical Syntax in Maurice Ravel's 'Soupir'" and "Staging the Hero: Mallarme's Theatrical Vision in Poetry in Debussy's Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun," for two upcoming international conferences. I also completed a full article on Erik Satie's aesthetics and the literary theory about boredom.

Jon Churchill

Over the summer, I enrolled in a German course to better familiarize myself with German-language sources and prepare for the departmental language exams. Since the seminar lasted only six weeks, I also busied myself with preparations for my qualifying exam this winter. Given that the exam covers over two millennia of music history and criticism, most of the summer was focused on gaining a better knowledge of Antiquity and the medieval period, with the examination still ongoing.

In addition, I began compiling abstracts for a variety of conferences, specifically those related to 20th-century British Music. This area of inquiry is relatively neglected in modern academia, and any substantial advances grounded in analysis are greatly appreciated. One abstract concerns Ralph Vaughan Williams' symphonies as they were affected by his service in WWI and the other offers the first deep-structure appraisal of the Eighth Symphony. When combined with the second half of an earlier study, the first paper will likely form the heart of a journal article in the coming years.

Any remaining time was spent doing preliminary research for my dissertation, a step that requires a tremendous amount of score study and broad listening. Thanks to the free time offered by the funding, I was able to narrow my scope and select a number of works and a time period that will be examined in depth later.

Liz Crisenbery

During the summer of 2017, I spent a majority of my time preparing for my nine months of dissertation research in Italy and working on my dissertation. This consisted of daily Italian practice in the form of reading and translating articles, listening to recorded conversations, or listening to opera recordings. In addition to improving my language skills, I planned my research trip by creating a timeline; deciding which archives to visit when, and how much time to allot for each archive.

I also enhanced my dissertation bibliography by locating and reading numerous secondary sources and by researching digitized sources such as newspaper articles and periodicals. This research allowed me to identify the newspapers and periodicals that have not yet been digitized, resulting in a list of sources to investigate in hard copy as I conduct research at the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Roma, Archivio Centrale dello Stato, Biblioteca Livia Simoni, Casa Musicale Sonzogno, and the Archivio Storico Ricordi while on my James B. Duke International Research Travel Fellowship, 2017-18.

Meredith Graham

This summer I studied for the German exam in order to complete the requirements for the Ph.D. degree in musicology before my preliminary exams. I also spent the summer researching for my dissertation proposal, editing and expanding on material that began as an independent study with my adviser in spring 2017. This funding ensured that I could continue to work toward my degree this summer.

I took the German for Reading class offered by Duke University. This course prepared me to take my second language exam in August. In order to qualify for our preliminary exams in the Music Department, I need to have a reading knowledge of two languages. I already passed the French exam, so I continued learning German this summer. In addition to the classwork, I practiced previous translation exams given by our department. By taking this course and practicing passages from musicology scholarship, I greatly improved my translation skills.

Last spring semester I began working toward writing a dissertation proposal in an independent study with my adviser. We are required to write a writing sample, so I revised this piece of writing to allow for time to write my proposal during the school year. I plan to continue working on this project in order to prepare for my preliminary exam in March 2018. This extra funding helped me focus on the early stages of my dissertation research and figure out the parameters of the project.

Eren Gumrukcuoglu

I spent the summer of 2017 doing field recordings of man-made sound sources in Durham, studying scores, and writing musical sketches. Mostly done at my home or around the Biddle Music Building, the field recordings have become the seeds of musical ideas which I am currently using to compose my dissertation piece for clarinet, percussion, piano, and string quartet. I have recorded the sounds of home appliances, leaf blowers, printers, hair dryers, automatic doors, elevators and many other sound sources that contribute to the background noise of our quotidian lives. These sounds will also provide part of the sonic landscape in my composition through the use of electronics.

My curiosity in the phenomenon of pareidolia (in which a person perceives a familiar pattern where no one exists) has led me to compose a dissertation piece where melodic, harmonic and rhythmic patterns emerge from seemingly unfit and random sonic data. With the field recordings I made during the summer, I am able to explore meaning within the sounds of machines by trying to musically obscure aspects of their inherent psychological and social connotations.

Thanks to the summer research fellowship, I had the freedom to be indulged in sketching out ideas for my dissertation as well as studying other compositions with similar instrumentation.

Karen Messina

Since I passed my preliminary exam in spring 2017, I used the summer to get started on my dissertation research and writing. Thanks to this funding, not only was I able to hit the ground running this fall with over 150 pages of research notes and drafted text, but I was also able to do so without having to worry about how I was going to cover my living expenses throughout the summer.

Yahn Wagner Pinto

Summer 2017 was crucial for me to develop the first part of my dissertation composition. As a Ph.D. candidate in composition, part of my dissertation must be a significant musical work or works. I started to draft the ideas for this composition at the end of last spring after my doctoral committee accepted my proposal. It is a piece for the Duke Wind Symphony, which is intended to be premiered next February. This piece is a large work that required the whole summer to be written, and that is now about to be finished. It is a piece that explores a traditional kind of music of my home country, Brazil, typically used in carnival parades, called "Frevo." As it is originally a kind of street band music, I have been working with the idea of transposing the street music experience to an auditorium. It has been a great challenge, and I am looking forward to starting the rehearsals next month.



Dominique Bulgin

During the summer of 2017, I completed my IRB protocols for Duke and the University of the West Indies. I completed two independent studies (Mixed Methods and Stigma of Sickle Cell Disease). I submitted a paper for publication to the journal Medical Teacher and prepared a literature review manuscript of Stigma of Sickle Cell Disease that will be submitted to Issues in Mental Health Nursing. I also took and passed my preliminary examinations and attend two workshops at the 14th Annual Qualitative Research Summer Intensive.

Vanessa Curlee

This summer I prepared two manuscripts for publication, one which included data manipulation of large data set. In addition, I attended two conferences, one that focused on health disparities research and a second that focused on mental health. In addition, I also served as a research assistant on a research study led by an associate professor in the School of Nursing. As a research assistant, I made home visits and collected data via surveys, in addition to collecting biological samples. I then analyzed samples at a biomarker laboratory on Duke's campus. I am very thankful to The Graduate School for allowing me to partake in such activities over the summer.

Zhao Ni

From May 2017 to July 2017, I conducted a pilot study in West China Hospital, located in Chengdu, China. In the study, I developed a mobile technology-based medication reminder program for patients with coronary heart disease. In the program, two mobile apps were used to improve patients' medication adherence. The first app is called WeChat. It is the largest messaging app in China. I used WeChat to send educational materials of healthy lifestyle knowledge to participants. The other app is called BB Reminder. I used it to send participants daily medication-taking reminders. This study is a randomized controlled trial. Fifty participants were recruited and received the same educational materials. In addition, participants in the intervention group received daily reminders. I collected participants' medication adherence scores, blood pressures, and heart rates. Also, I interviewed participants about their experience of participation is this program.

Kristin Wainwright


Poster presentation

This summer I completed workshops in Structural Equation Modeling, Longitudinal Structural Equation Modeling, and Mixture Modeling and Cluster Analysis. I met with a consultant 4 times to discuss my data and strategies I may consider to model that data.

I reviewed over 250 articles on the cognitive and affective symptoms in diabetes, and compiled a matrix to aid in creating themes for a manuscript I am working on with a group of students and faculty.

I began to draft my detailed data analysis plan for my dissertation proposal defense.

I wrote a draft manuscript for a literature review on the symptom experience of adults with multiple sclerosis.

I worked with an interdisciplinary multi-university group to create a survey we will be launching in a few weeks to ~2,000 people (1,000 with MS, and 1,000 matched controls). I reviewed/edited the respective documents related to this survey, and a poster was presented on the topic in August at an MS conference.

I began to clean 5 years of data for about 1,000 people with MS, creating a data dictionary, and running basic demographic statistics.

I drafted a presentation on the Adaptive Leadership Framework I presented in September, and began to work on a presentation on the symptom experience in people with multiple sclerosis that I will give next week.

Photo: Poster presenting one of the projects I worked on this summer.



Max Beninger

Over the summer of 2017, I wrote a paper defending the Global Neuronal Workspace Theory of consciousness (GNWT). According to GNWT, consciousness arises in the brain when information in the brain is globally broadcast to higher-order areas of the brain, including the prefrontal cortex. Some philosophers and neuroscientists have raised objections to this theory, which purport to show that consciousness does not depend on the prefrontal cortex (as GNWT predicts). In my paper, I argued that these objections are all misguided, and thus that GNWT remains a viable theory of consciousness.

Songyao Ren

I attended a conference on comparative philosophy at Deakin University in Australia and presented a paper on the Zhuangist views on emotions.

I also worked on the history of moral philosophy and prepared for my future research study.

Sungwoo Um

During summer 2017, I was able to concentrate on developing my dissertation, "Filial Piety and the Virtues of Personal Relationships." It aims both to shed light on the nature of filial piety as a relational virtue and to explain the nature and distinctive value of intimate personal relationships. I focused on two chapters, which are titled, ' Duty, Love, and Filial Piety,' and 'Relational Virtue and Filial Piety,' respectively. In the first chapter, I argued that filial piety should be understood in terms of virtue, rather than duty, by criticizing the idea of duty to love. In the second chapter, I introduce what I call a 'relational virtue,' a virtue required for an individual as a participant of some personal relationship. I then argued that filial piety is a paradigmatic example of relational virtue. These two chapters involve core arguments in my dissertation, and I am very grateful for the Summer Research Fellowship for giving me an opportunity to concentrate on those chapters during the last summer. Thank you!!


Political Science

Fatih Serkant Adiguzel

I started working on a project that tries to measure the effect of social media trolls on twitter in competitive authoritarian states. I am working on this project with two colleagues. During the summer, we worked on how to scrap the relevant data from the internet and we learned the methods how to analyze such data. We are still collecting data for this project. I also made extensive readings on my research interests and, thanks to these readings, I now know which specific questions I am mostly interested in. This will help me to choose my dissertation topic.

Eric Cheng

I spent the summer revising my preliminary paper in preparation for submission into a journal article. In addition, after having defended my dissertation prospectus, I began work on my dissertation in earnest. I largely finished one chapter and began work writing the second. In doing this, I was able to gain a good grasp of where my project is heading and am cautiously optimistic about my ability to finish it in a timely manner. The SRF allowed me to concentrate on my pursuit of this goal.

Ida Hjermitslev

I made some critical progress on my dissertation. I completed a time-consuming literature review and set up a solid theoretical framework that will guide my work in the years to come. Additionally, I was able to present at the conference of the European Political Science Association (EPSA), which was held in Milan, Italy. In the following week, I traveled to Turin to participate in a workshop about Empirical Implications of Theoretical Models (EITM).

Zeren Li

I conducted an online survey experiment in China with an online panel of 1200 respondents recruited by a major online survey company. The total budget for this project was $3,900. The budget consists of three main parts: 1) air and ground transportation, 2) focus group compensation, and 3) survey implementation. Table 1 presents the budget table containing the specific categories and estimated expenses. The total travel cost was $1,300 for air tickets and $100 for the ground transportation. For the focus group recruitment, I would like to recruit ten people with a diverse demographic background to generate rich discussion. The discussion will last for 90 minutes, and each participant will be paid 200 RMB (approximately $30 USD) for his or her contribution to the study, thereby the cost of focus group recruitment is $300. The third part the budget is for survey implementation. The total cost of a sample with 1200 respondents is 15000RMB (approximately $2,200 USD). The expense of the online survey is quoted from

Antong Liu

With the fellowship in summer 2017, I was able to focus on developing my dissertation project on sense of honor and how it may motivate individuals to fight disrespect in a principled way. In specific, I revised a chapter on Kant's idea of the relationship between aesthetic honor and ethical honor, wrote a chapter on Rousseau's thought on the inevitability of disrespect and how sense of honor may counterbalance it, and prepared materials for the next chapter on Hobbes's repudiation of pride and vanity. Furthermore, the fellowship made it possible for me to attend an academic program at Humboldt University in Berlin, Germany, where I taught a self-designed seminar on the theme of militant democracy and gained some teaching experience. Finally, I spent some time revising a journal article draft on Rousseau's view of natural pity and how it is theoretically necessary for impartial moral judgments.

Elliot Mamet


Elliot Mamet

This summer, with the generous support of a Summer Research Fellowship, I completed the Intensive Greek Summer Workshop in the Department of Classics at the University of California, Berkeley. The program consisted of ten weeks of all-day language training in Attic Greek: six weeks of grammar, vocabulary, and syntax, and four weeks of translating Plato’s Symposium and Aristophanes’ Clouds.

The program was extraordinary—rigorous, intellectually challenging, and replete with a stimulating group of instructors and students. Outside of learning ancient Greek (a dizzying and magical language), highlights from the workshop included lectures from Berkeley classicists and visiting the Berkeley papyri collection. I am eager to apply my Greek language training to research in ancient political thought, and am very grateful for The Graduate School’s support.

Soo Min Oh

During the summer of 2017, I worked on two major projects: my dissertation and USAID impact evaluation project on Palestine (Local Governance and Infrastructure, LGI). For my dissertation, I did two things: first, I refined the theory as per the suggestions from the committee members during my prospectus defense that was held just before the summer. To that end, I read the relevant literature and rewrote the theory section of the dissertation. Second, I collected data that I needed for the empirical section of the dissertation in Indonesia, as Indonesia is one of my cases for the dissertation. I visited Indonesian statistical agencies as well as international agencies such as the World Bank to obtain the necessary data. For the USAID impact evaluation project, I spent the summer preparing for the final report on the project. This involved (1) coming up with a pre-analysis plan that lays out how the empirical analysis would be done prior to running the analysis (one that would be registered and made public prior to data analysis), (2) cleaning up the data, and (3) running statistical analyses on the data.

Hannah Ridge

I studied Moroccan colloquial Arabic in Fes, Morocco for six weeks to develop skills for my research in comparative politics. I worked on my preliminary paper in consultation with my adviser.

Jeremy Spater

I traveled to India to gather original survey data in support of an ongoing project.

Kaitlyn Webster

I used my summer time to get a lot of research done, free from other obligations that typically occur during the academic year. I had four projects that I worked on this summer. The first and most important is my dissertation. I passed my prospectus earlier this year, so I used a good portion of the summer to work on theory building for my dissertation. I also updated the first quantitative section of my dissertation and presented it in September at the Annual Political Science Association Conference. I also spent time revising a paper that has been co-authored with another student, Jordan Roberts, and has been going through the review process at journals. That paper is about to be submitted to the Journal of Peace Research. Third, I drafted large sections of a paper on gender hierarchy and international conflict, which I am co-authoring with Dr. Kyle Beardsley and Chong Cheng, another graduate student. We presented the results of that paper at the APSA conference in September. Fourth, I worked a lot on the empirics for another co-authored project (with several Duke graduate students and faculty) about predicting civilian responses to state policies designed to mitigate dissent. The project recently received an NSF award and was also presented at APSA this year.


Psychology and Neuroscience

Nadia Brashier

Discriminating facts from fiction has never been straightforward, but misinformation becomes mainstream even more rapidly in the digital age. It can be overwhelming to decide whether the claims we encounter in our daily lives, from political rhetoric to marketing campaigns, are “alternative facts.” Revealingly, the public’s interest in combating misinformation recently increased: Google searches about “fake news” spiked dramatically during the 2016 presidential election. Cognitive science suggests that we respond to complexity and ambiguity by keeping it simple. Rather than adopting time-consuming strategies (e.g., carefully considering whether or not a source is reputable), people fall back on a repertoire of heuristics, or rules of thumb. Our own affect likely serves as one such “shortcut.” My research over the summer investigated whether people judge truth through rose-tinted glasses, particularly in old age. Given that older adults preferentially attend to and remember positive over neutral information, they may be particularly likely to conflate positivity with truth. Data collection is still in progress, but the predicted results would suggest that unrelated, positive information makes false headlines and news stories more persuasive, and that older adults are particularly susceptible.

Emily Cherenack

This summer I worked on my MAP, which is a systemic review of mental health, menstruation, and sexual risk in low-income settings. I also traveled to Tanzania to work with the NGO Femme International and plan the logistics of my dissertation. I submitted my dissertation protocol to ethical review boards in Tanzania. I completed a training at the University of Miami on the use of biological markers in HIV and mental health research. I also provided psychotherapy as a trainee in the Duke Psychology Clinic and the Eating Disorders Clinic.

Jee Young Kim

During summer, I mostly continued working on projects that I developed last semester. I conducted several online studies, collected data from more than 300 people, and analyzed the data. As the fall semester began (soon after the summer was over), I gave a data blitz on the data I collected in front of my departmental area. I have also discussed and developed ideas for new projects that I will conduct in this semester with my advisor.

Namsoo Kim



I study how the brain controls movements. This summer, I worked on setting up the miniature fluorescence microscope (UCLA miniscope) that uses field fluorescence imaging to record neural activity in awake, freely moving mice. To set up the miniscope, I had two projects. First, I had to assemble the miniscope. Second, I had to master the Gradient index optic lens (GRIN lens) surgery.

First, to assemble the miniscope, I needed much time to practice soldering small parts including charge coupled device (CCD) camera, GRIN and achromatic lenses, excitation, emission and dichroic filter. This work required me to practice soldering them many times. In addition, I studied these parts and understood why they are required for the miniscope. This work allowed  me to make a set of miniscopes.

Second, to record good neural activity, a good GRIN lens surgery is required. I also practiced many times to master the GRIN lens surgery. At the first surgery, it was really hard and took much time. However, through the practices, I mastered this surgery procedure. These practices let me record good neural activity.

With funding from Duke for the summer, I was able to focus on these projects above. As a result, I have a set of miniscopes and have mastered the GRIN lens surgery. This preparation during the summer accelerates my research.

Photo: Miniscope

Katherine (Kibby) McMahon

This past summer, I continued to work on my line of research investigating the relationships among mindfulness, emotion regulation, and empathy. Specifically, I submitted three manuscripts to academic journals for peer-review (two as a first-author), submitted a new abstract to present as a symposium talk at the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapy conference, and wrote a fellowship application. I also designed and prepared the data collection for the Bass Connections project, Mindfulness and Human Development. I'm greatly appreciative of the fellowship for allowing me the time and resources to pursue these research activities.

Aaron Reuben

Can the physical environment we are raised in help determine our cognitive ability, mental health or well-being later in life? Just as exposure to polluted environments can harm child development, can exposure to clean, natural spaces promote and enrich development? Intuitively, we believe: yes. But parents and policy makers need to know, more precisely, to what extent exposure to nature is important for children (and in what dose).

With summer funding from the Duke Summer Research Fellowship, I was able to explore these research questions using data from the Environmental Risk Study (E-Risk), which has followed, from birth, over 2,000 individuals born in the mid 1990’s in the UK. With a wide variety of measures of neighborhood greenspace, including data from satellite images, measures of factors important to child development, like maternal IQ, parenting style, and school quality, and measures of adolescent cognitive and emotional outcomes, like depression symptoms, the E-Risk Study represents one of the best resources for trying to answer these fundamental public health research questions.

We found that childhood exposure to greenery does in fact relate to cognitive ability, even after controlling for family SES and a child's own genetic propensity for success. The association was small but remained detectible as our study children grew up. We found no relationship between greenery and mental health outcomes. We are now writing up these results for publication.

Marcus Rodriguez


Marcus and daughter

This summer I worked on my dissertation in Beijing, China. I am investigating the feasibility and efficacy of a just-in-time adaptive intervention that uses task-sharing to enhance engagement in a brief, self-guided, web-based mindfulness intervention for stress and anxiety among Chinese students. Task sharing, where mental health care is provided by non-specialist providers (NSPs; e.g., nurses, clergy, community members), has recently been explored as a promising strategy to overcome human resource shortages in lower- and middle-income countries. This summer I recruited, screened, trained, selected and began supervising the NSPs for my study.

Traditional in-person psychotherapies are proving incapable of addressing mental health needs globally. Fundamentally new approaches are needed to increase access to effective mental health care in an economic and scalable manner. Novel, feasible and culturally-sensitive approaches are needed to not only improve treatment implementation, but also treatment engagement. Hopefully my research will make a unique and meaningful contribution to our society’s effort to close the large gap between mental health treatment need and actual treatment received globally.

Thank you Duke Graduate School!

Photo: Marcus and Journey (daughter) camping on the Great Wall

Stephanie Santistevan-Swett

Thanks to the generous support of the Summer Research Fellowship, I spent this summer designing and conducting a series of studies that are based in psychological theory but have important real world implications. These studies investigated the effect of “perceptual ease”, or “fluency”, on judgments of medical information in a healthcare context. My overall goal is to identify ways that patients’ judgments of medical information are changed by variables other than the information itself. This work has important implications for how medical information is communicated to patients.

The SRF allowed me to build a body of work that will contribute greatly to my dissertation. I am very grateful for this support.

Matthew Scult

I study how to better match individuals with effective mental health treatments. The first step in doing this is to better predict psychological disorders. Over the summer, I completed work on several papers, one of which found that lower cognitive functioning in childhood predicted the likelihood that individuals would experience multiple psychological disorders during their lifetime. The paper was recently accepted at the journal Development and Psychopathology. I also completed another project which found that a combination of brain regions that process threat, reward and complex mental operations, collectively predicted change in anxiety symptoms over the course of several months. This work has been submitted and is currently under review.

I am thankful for the Duke Summer Research Fellowship from The Graduate School, which allowed me to complete these collaborative projects this past summer and make progress towards my dissertation.


Public Policy Studies

Laura Bellows


Effects of teacher preparation programs

Thanks to Duke's Summer Research Fellowship, I was able to continue work on my independent research as well as begin and complete a collaboration with a senior colleague at the University of Texas at Austin. In this collaboration, we built on our previous work on the evaluation of teacher preparation programs (TPPs). A number of states hold TPPs accountable for their graduates' effects on student test scores. However, in prior work in Texas, published in 2016 in Economics of Education Review, we find it difficult to differentiate between TPPs when using appropriate statistical techniques. In our new paper, we reanalyze published results from six states and find - once we apply new statistical techniques - that differences between TPPs are negligible. This paper is currently under review and has been covered already by an education blog.

Along with the paper itself, I also wrote a Stata program (called caterpillar) that implements some of the techniques we use in the paper, which has been released and is available to general Stata users on the Statistical Software Components archive.

Photo: Effects of teacher preparation programs in Texas closely match what one would expect if effects were only random noise

Sarah Nolan


Bangalore, India

This summer, I developed the syllabus and activities for the Bass Connections Class - "Visualizing Social Mobility in the Developing World." This is the first time this course has been taught, and also my first time teaching. Curating a relevant syllabus from the broad social mobility literature took some time, as well as developing hands on ways to start up student research efforts. Secondly, I traveled to Mumbai and Bangalore, India to connect with local non-profits that serve disadvantaged youth. I hope the experience and contacts I gained throughout my three weeks facilitate future research partnerships. These organizations all set out to improve the upward mobility of talented youth from poor backgrounds, but don't commonly conceive of themselves as social mobility organizations. I hope to develop new ways to measure their upward mobility impacts during my time as a Ph.D. student.

Photo: Primary school children walk home from an afterschool class run by Dream a Dream in Bangalore, India. The class teaches life skills, like teamwork and communication, through sports.

Romina Tome

During the summer I prepared my comprehensive exam. For this exam, I wrote a literature review of human capital accumulation and family economics with a focus on evidence from developing countries. So, I spent my summer reading many articles and writing. I took the exam at the beginning of the academic year. Furthermore, during the summer I worked on my Second Year Paper, and I explored some potential research questions for my dissertation.

Xiaolu Zang

Thanks to The Graduate School’s Summer Research Fellowship, I was able to spend this summer writing my dissertation. Since I'm planning to be on the job market next fall, I'm planning to finish up my dissertation before my fifth year. My dissertation is about property rights upon divorce and women's welfare in China. On August 13th, 2011, a new interpretation of the 1980 Marriage Law was enforced by the Chinese Supreme Court. The new interpretation stipulates that upon divorce, immovable property obtained prior to marriage, including mortgages, belongs to the original buyer. This legal change has generated debates regarding whether the new interpretation is ethical and just for women. In response to these debates, my dissertation examines how the 2011 divorce law affected women by examining the causal effect of the law change on women’s consumption of leisure.

I have also submitted two papers for journal publication, attended and presented at three conferences. It was a really productive summer for me. 


Religious Studies

Chris Blumhofer

This past summer I undertook the final push of research and writing on my dissertation. With the extra time afforded me by a Summer Research Fellowship I was able to widen the scope of my work and consider the broader implications of my project more than I would have otherwise been able to do. Thank you for the generous support!

Fr. Adam Booth

I attended a dissertation-to-monograph workshop in Chicago, followed by the North American Patristics Society Annual Meeting. I spent most of June back at Notre Dame (the U.S. mother house for my religious order), polishing up a seminar paper for submission to a journal, and working on revisions to another paper which I had received a revise-and-resubmit on from another journal. Also, during this time, I participated in a workshop for priests in their first five years of ordination. I spent July in Munich, participating in a Goethe Institute German language program. In August, I returned stateside and finished revisions on that paper, as well as maintaining my German so as I could take the German reading exam at the start of the fall semester (which I passed) and reviewing my Latin, as I knew one of my fall classes would involve a large amount of Latin reading and I was somewhat rusty.

Brad Boswell


Brad Boswell

The American School of Classical Studies in Athens offers an intensive program in Medieval Greek every other. In 2017, I, with 11 other American and European students, spent my days translating texts, learning basic skills for reading and handling ancient manuscripts, and visiting sites throughout Greece that are significant for the study of the Byzantine world.

Emily Dubie

This past summer, I prepared for my candidacy exams in Religion, which I will be taking in November. Thus, I spent most of my time in the library reading classic texts in religious theory, Christian ethics, and cultural anthropology. I also gave a paper at a graduate student colloquium at Princeton Theological Seminary on the German theologian Karl Barth.

Susannah Duerr

I did immersive Japanese at the Middlebury Japanese School, and spent the remaining weeks of the summer assisting my advisor with the editing of his manuscript and doing my own independent research on American and Japanese Buddhism through interviews and a search for new source materials.

Ryan Juskus


Birmingham metal art

Summer funding provided me the space and time to complete my modern language reading competency requirements, preliminary exam reading lists, a paper for an emerging scholars conference on the Anthropocene, book reviews for leading journals in my field, and two field research trips to Alabama. One trip was part of my involvement in a grassroots effort to resolve wastewater problems in one of the economically poorest counties in rural Alabama (see this recent article by The Guardian on the issue). The trip, and subsequent conversations with the project leadership, led me to focus on the intersections of religion, water, soil, and Native American and African American relations in Alabama's Black Belt. The second trip was a preliminary site visit to a faith-based environmental health justice initiative in Birmingham, which I anticipate will be part of my dissertation research.

Photo: "No Justice - Why?" by Joe Minter, a Birmingham metal artist who transforms industrial trash into yard sculptures of lament, prayer, and hope for those who suffer.

Brenna Keegan

The first Catholic church built in Butte, Montana

I spent the summer finishing research for my dissertation project in Montana. I visited state, county, and diocesan archives, met with community members, and traveled deep underground in old copper mining tunnels in order to understand the lives and labor of nineteenth-century copper miners in Butte, Montana. My summer research will enable the completion of my third dissertation chapter, exploring labor, Catholicism, and industrial capitalism in late nineteenth-century Montana.

Photo: The first Catholic church built in Butte, Montana

Stephanie Ladd

I went to Berlin, Cologne, Dresden and Bremen to do research on the artist I am studying, Käthe Kollwitz, and on topics related to her. I spent most of my research time in museums of prints and drawings in the various cities, as well as in the Kollwitz Museum in cologne. I also interviewed experts on the artist.

Yael Lazar

Summer 2017 was all about writing. I was part of a dissertation writing group which met almost every day during the entire summer. We utilized different writing techniques, mainly Pomodoro, and we all worked on our dissertation with the shared goal to graduate this year.

Having this structured dedicated group helped me a lot in maintaining focus and progress towards this end. As my project deals with religion on cyberspace, I was able to combine my digital research and writing from the comfort zone of our group. I also conducted an online survey during the summer and was able to analyze its results during this time.

Thanks to The Graduate School’s continuous support, and especially the summer research fellowship, I was able to merely work on my dissertation this summer. I am grateful for this privileged opportunity and for the ability to spend my time researching and writing on what interests me the most.

Erin Walsh

Due to the support of The Graduate School, I was able to advance my research and make progress on the completion of my dissertation. Part of my work has been the translation of the Syriac poet, Narsai. Given the incomplete publication of his works and the lack of modern language translations, few scholars have worked on his corpus of poems. I have produced an edition and translation of one of his poems along with translations of several more. My work on this progressed over the summer, and the highlight of that time was my participation in a workshop held at Brigham Young University on the state of the field and new avenues of research. Due to my translations and publication, I was one of sixteen scholars from Europe and North America who participated. The paper I presented will appear in an edited volume of essays on re-imagining the historiography on this central figure in Syriac literature. Thanks to this generous grant, I was able to travel to Salt Lake City and complete these projects for publication. I am grateful to have the time without teaching obligations to finish and submit these pieces.

Joshua Young

I conducted research for my dissertation including archival research at Liberty University and The Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, online participation in several megachurch conferences and worship experiences, and participant observation at the Global Leadership Summit in Chicago, IL. I also made initial contact with potential sites for future research.


Romance Studies

David Dulceany

I spent the summer working on my dissertation, sorting through the archival documentation I had collected in Cuba and conducting further reading and writing on my dissertation, especially for my first and second chapters. I also used the time to polish my job market applications and research and prepare materials to apply to grants this fall.

Rendon Foy

In the summer of 2017, I traveled to Madrid and surrounding cities for two weeks. There, I visited modern art museums relevant to my research interests and conducted some research at various institutions, including the National Library and the library of the Reina Sofia Museum. I spent the rest of the summer reading and arranging possible ideas for my portfolio, as well as revising papers for potential publishing.

Tessa Nunn

I traveled to New York City, where I participated in CUNY's "Approaching Dance" conference and worked in the archives at the NYPL Jerome Robbins's Dance Division. I then traveled to England where I presented my research at the Luce Irigaray Circle's annual conference, Chelsea University of the Arts, and the Society for French Studies' annual conference. I spent the rest of the summer in France, doing research in the Cinémathèque.

Marcelo Simoes Nogueira


Reel-to-reel audio tapes

This 2017 Summer Research Fellowship allowed me to visit important archives in Brazil and Europe, which had an incredible effect on my investigations and ideas for the work I'm developing at Duke. As highlights, I would point the Museu da Imagem e do Som [MIS-SP], in the city of São Paulo, and the Arquivo Edgar Leuenroth, hosted by Unicamp, in the city of Campinas. There I had access to manuscripts of important authors such as the founding father of Brazilian modernism Oswald de Andrade, and the contemporary poet Hilda Hilst. I also was able to find a recording of a rare interview made with Jorge Luis Borges in his visit to São Paulo in 1984. All added to my ongoing investigations from the 1950s on in Latin America, where I observe how sonic productions react semantically to other materials like plastic productions and conceptual writings, especially from Brazil around the Dictatorship years (1964-1985). In Europe, the fellowship helped me while attending to the Summer School in Global Studies and Critical Theory, held by the Università di Bologna in partnership with Duke University and the University of Virginia. For two weeks, students from all around the globe got together in Bologna to participate in a series of talks, seminars, and discussions with major scholars in the field of contemporary Critical Theory.

Photo: Reel-to-reel audio tapes I have listened this summer in the archive Edgar Leuenroth, while visiting the University of Campinas (São Paulo, Brazil).



Colin Birkhead

Sociology Ph.D. students spend the summer of the first year working on preliminary exams, which are submitted in August. I spent the summer reading two literatures and writing reviews that were each 32+ pages. And I passed the exams! Neat!

Simon Brauer

I spent my time furthering my dissertation research and teaching. I worked on a completed paper that received a rejection and comments back from American Sociological Review. I also worked on the data cleaning and analysis of a second dissertation paper. The second is considerably more complex in its methods, and required recoding 8 waves of intergenerational data. I also taught introduction to sociology and got to cater my syllabus to different types of students.

Taylor Brown

I spent the summer (1) making final revisions to a manuscript accepted by the American Sociological Review, (2) making revisions to a manuscript given an R&R at the American Journal of Sociology, (3) finalizing my Master's thesis for submission to a journal, (4) progressing my dissertation research, and (5) attending a workshop in Computational Social Science. (1) and (2) are co-authored endeavors with my advisor. (3) and (4) are solo-authored. I also attended and presented at the flagship sociology conference: ASA.

Josh Bruce

With the support of the Summer Research Fellowship, I was able to make progress on three papers that are all under review for publication currently. I also refined my dissertation proposal and began writing my dissertation. I was able to attend and present my research at the annual American Sociological Association meeting and the annual conference of the Society of Institutional & Organizational Economics at Columbia University.

In addition to my own academic work, I advised three Duke students completing a 10-week internship as part of the summer Data+ program. Our team relied on data provided by a private company, Academic Analytics, to develop visualization tools to explore graduation and hiring dynamics in higher education. This data plays a central role in my dissertation, and having the freedom to analyze the data over the summer helped me make significant progress on my research.

Molly Copeland

With support from The Graduate School this summer, I was able to make substantial progress on several research projects; I worked with co-authors to begin a new project that examines the reciprocal relationship between depression and peer networks, to rewrite and submit to co-authors a paper on network isolation, and to revise and submit for review a paper examining components of close relationships using data collected in the Duke IBRC lab. I also improved two dissertation papers, revising one paper examining adolescent depression and integration in peer networks for submission to a flagship journal in the field, and completing a literature review, quantitative models, and draft of my second dissertation paper, which investigates adolescent peer networks, gender, and self-harm.

Joshua Doyle

This past summer, I spent time writing the front end of my dissertation and working on the first paper of my dissertation. This involved analyzing cross-national survey data from the ISSP research group. I had to learn new statistical methods to work with clustered data, and new causal inference techniques. Further, I prepared my syllabus and course materials to teach Soci 338, Theory and Society this fall (2017).

Miles Marsala

I submitted two different papers to journals for publication. One was granted a revise and resubmit. The other was rejected, but has since been reworked and submitted to another journal. I also was a reviewer for another journal. Furthermore, I participated in and presented at the 2017 American Sociological Association's annual meeting in August.

Friedolin Merhout


Immigration motives

During the summer 2017, the Summer Research Fellowship enabled me to finalize a paper that I presented at the Annual Sociological Association meeting that August and thereafter submit for publication which demonstrates how individuals misperceive the motives of immigrants and how these misperceptions are associated with opposition to immigration. Specifically, after having finished the analyses previously, I used the summer to delve more deeply into the literature and tailor my argument to the most current status of the literature as well as teasing out the broader implications for sub disciplines that my argument touches only tangentially. This detailed work with the literature and the argument renders the paper a suitable candidate for the highest ranking journal for general sociology given its cutting-edge focus combined with an appeal to a broader audience. Additionally, I used the time afforded by The Graduate School's summer funding to gather data from Facebook about German newspaper sites and their description of immigration and the refugee crises in 2015 which will inform one of my three dissertation papers.

Photo: Reported and perceived motives for immigration to ten European countries in 2014

Carlos Tavares

With the generous support of the Summer Research Fellowship (SRF) through The Graduate School, I was able to submit three articles for publication and prepare my materials for the job market. All of the articles that I submitted over the summer are currently under review at top sociology publications. One of them is a dissertation chapter and the other two are collaborative projects that I was able to help finish over the summer. The SRF also allowed me to focus attention on completing my job market materials. I presented a paper at the American Sociological Association Meeting in Montreal and met with several academic departments that have current openings in my research areas. The SRF was crucial during a very important part of my graduate career and I am very thankful for the support of the graduate school.

Lauren Valentino

I worked on the first draft of my dissertation paper, which I presented at the American Sociological Association's annual conference in August in Montreal, Quebec. The paper uses a new nationally representative dataset and an innovative analytic approach to quantify how we think about women's work, and the cultural meaning we assign to those kinds of jobs. I got some great feedback at the conference, and I am now preparing the paper for submission to a top journal in my field. I also worked on a theory paper that I co-authored with my advisor, Steve Vaisey. The paper advocates for interdisciplinary conversations between sociology, psychology, and economics by using language that is common to the "judgment and decision-making sciences," such as 'beliefs,' 'endowments,' and 'preferences.' That paper is currently under review right now at Poetics.

Jessica West

This summer, I revised and submitted a paper on the relationship between hearing impairment and depressive symptoms. The paper has since been accepted for publication in Social Science & Medicine. I presented the paper earlier in the summer at an invited talk at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in Boston.

With Dr. Jen'nan Read, I worked on a project in which we disaggregated ethnic diversity in disability outcomes among the non-Hispanic white population. The manuscript is currently under review at a top sociology journal.

I also began work on a project looking at racial/ethnic diversity in hearing impairment, which I presented at a roundtable at the 2017 American Sociological Association conference in Montreal.


Statistical Science

Yuhan Chen

Over the summer, I developed statistical models in hopes of a paper. In particular, we are interested in the Dirichlet distribution, which has been routinely used in modeling of probabilities in broad ranging applications. Mixture modeling, model-based clustering, categorical data analysis, and topic modeling of documents represent some of the most popular application areas. However, the Dirichlet distribution has several major liabilities such as having only one concentration parameter which can make it inflexible. We proposed to extend the Dirichlet distribution into the threshold Dirichlet distribution that would have nice properties, be easy to implement and be more intuitive philosophically than a traditional Dirichlet distribution. We are still working out the details but the method does seem to yield good results so far.