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Summer Research Snapshots 2020


Summer Research Fellowships graphic

Each year, The Graduate School awards hundreds of Summer Research Fellowships, which provide funding that allows Ph.D. students to focus on making progress toward their degrees during the crucial summer months. The fellowships—made possible by gifts from alumni and supporters—proved particularly important in 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic disrupted many summer opportunities that graduate students typically rely on and forced many graduate students to adjust their research plans. Here is a look at how some of our Summer Research Fellowship recipients adapted and continued to make progress in their scholarly pursuits.

Also, check out the roundup of graduate student research being supported by The Graduate School's Ph.D. fellowships for the 2020-2021 academic year.

All images are submitted by the students.


Art, Art History and Visual Studies

Kaylee Alexander


Cover of an 1895 catalogue for funerary monuments in the collection of the Bibliothèque Forney, Paris.

I returned to Durham this summer after having spent the majority of the 2019-20 academic year in Paris conducting archival research for my dissertation project, “In Perpetuity: Funerary Monuments, Consumerism and Social Reform in Paris (1804–1924).” Being funded for this summer allowed me the time necessary to review archival material, revise and expand my datasets, and make significant progress towards my dissertation writing. I focused this summer predominantly on planning and writing the third chapter of my dissertation, which deals with the various styles and designs of funerary monuments that were available to 19th-century consumers. In examining model books, catalogues, and other forms of printed material I examine how even buyers of the most modest means were able to customize monuments to maximize utility.

In addition to working on this penultimate chapter, I was able to revise and publish an article based on another dissertation chapter—“Marbriers de Paris: the popular market for funerary monuments in nineteenth-century Paris”—in the journal Early Popular Visual Culture.

Photo: Cover of an 1895 catalogue for funerary monuments in the collection of the Bibliothèque Forney, Paris.

Yasemin Altun

This summer I had originally planned to travel to France to do archival research and a museum internship related to my dissertation. Like everyone, I had to adjust these plans to accommodate travel restrictions. The dissertation-related things I was able to get done included reading secondary literature available digitally (articles, theses, and books), reading texts in Italian to prepare for my second foreign language exam, and organizing and adding to my Zotero research files of visual and textual sources. I also did my best to plan as much as possible the archival research I hope to do next summer.

Karlee Bergendorff

This summer, I had planned to use The Graduate School’s summer funding to conduct research in the North Korean Research Center Archives and the personal archives of scholar-artist Onejoon Che in Seoul, South Korea. Within these archives there is information important to my dissertation about North Korean built museums and monuments in Africa and the Middle East. However due to COVID and Duke’s freeze on international travel, I have been unable to complete this research to date.

Also as a result of COVID, my preliminary exams were pushed from April 2020 to August and September of 2020. Consequently, I used my summer to continue preparing for my preliminary exams, working on my dissertation literature review, and writing practice syllabi. I have now successfully passed my prelim exams, and I am in a better position to begin writing my now narrowed and refined dissertation. The extra time to prepare for prelims and work on my literature review will greatly benefit my research going forward whenever it is safe to travel again.

Over the summer, my literature review has more than doubled in length, and I have a much more thorough understanding of memory studies, African and Arab philosophy, and decolonial theory. I was able to create a syllabus on memorial politics and current international debates over monuments that I would love to teach during one of Duke’s future summer sessions. I am immensely grateful for the support of The Graduate School’s funding, thank you!

Brittany Forniotis

During the summer of 2020, I spent a majority of my time reading secondary source materials that contribute both to my dissertation and to my comprehensive exams. I had planned a research trip to Milan, Italy, for May of 2020, but unfortunately have not been able to leave the United States. Additionally, I lacked library access and was forced to work with books I had checked out prior to campus closing or books that are available online.

Nicole Gaglia

My dissertation, “Visualizing Bodies: Public Health and the Medicalized Everyday in Modern Japan,” examines images to ask how visuality shaped public discourses on health, the body, and sociality in modern Japan. Due to COVID-19, my original plans to travel to Japan for final research to complete my dissertation were canceled. Instead, I spent my time in Durham analyzing previously collected documents and writing my dissertation. My first chapter, focusing on the Japanese pavilion at the 1911 International Hygiene Exhibition in Dresden, Germany, is near completion. I am currently analyzing and translating primary source materials while writing my third chapter about women’s bodies and physical activity in the interwar period.

Nikos Gkiokas


The Small Cycladic Islands Project (SCIP), surveying an uninhabited island in the Cycladic Archipelago of the Aegean Sea (Greece).

During the summer of 2020, I continued studying for a second consecutive season marble portraits in the Athenian Agora (Athens, Greece). This project is led by Professor Sheila Dillon (AAHVS). Its aim is to study and publish the portrait statuary found in the Athenian Agora from the beginning of the excavations in 1931 until 2002. Also, from June 27 to July 19, I participated in an archaeological survey that took place in some uninhabited islands in the Cyclades (Greece). This project is co-directed by Dimitrios Athanasoulis (Ephorate of Antiquities of the Cyclades), Alex Knodell (Carleton College) and Zarko Tankosic (University of Bergen-Norwegian Institute at Athens). Finally, in the Archaeological Museum of Paros, I studied marble statues that were discovered during the excavation of the sanctuary of Apollo on Despotiko. A section of my thesis is based on this material. After the study of the material, I visited and examined the sanctuary itself.

Photo: The Small Cycladic Islands Project (SCIP), surveying an uninhabited island in the Cycladic Archipelago of the Aegean Sea (Greece).

Dana Hogan

This summer I participated in two Duke Graduate Summer Academy courses, Teaching with Archives and Online Teaching. These experiences led me to apply to the Archival Expeditions Fellowship and I look forward to applying the skills I learned this fall and in my future teaching.

Thanks to the Summer Research Fellowship, I was able to buy books to begin working toward two milestones in my progress toward degree: the language exam and the preliminary exams. I used self-instruction workbooks to learn French and began preparing reading lists for my future teaching and doctoral research project.

I also devoted significant time to my role as the chair of the Graduate Student Association for the Art, Art History, & Visual Studies department. Through the support of the summer research fellowship, I was able to give my time to this volunteer position with work to improve the research access, conditions, and connections among students, faculty, and staff.

Alexandra Masgras

This summer I was planning on visiting the National Archives in Bucharest, Romania, to research the architectural policy of the Antonescu regime (1940-44). Like many others, I had to change my research plans due to an unprecedented crisis caused by COVID-19. Fortunately, I could access a few primary sources (architecture periodicals) that had been digitized before March. I indexed and summarized the articles published between 1930 and 1940 in one of the main Romanian architecture periodicals, in order to prepare for archival research once the public health crisis subsides. In addition, I co-organized a couple of informal reading groups to foster a sense of intellectual community among a few graduate students with similar research interests (i.e. Marxist methodologies; history and theory of architecture).

Jessica Orzulak


Mount Vestal, Weminuche Wilderness, Colorado

Over the summer of 2020 I undertook research into the history of the Anthropocene and the interplay among eco-criticism, popular visual culture and media, and environmentally-engaged art practices. My research led me through the history of land/Earth art; to contemporary artists using experimental medias and scientific processes in their investigation of the relationships connecting humans, non-human beings, and environments; and to explorations of how mass media has historically shaped the discourse of environmentalism.

Critiques of popular environmental discourses from indigenous activists, arts practitioners, and scholars formed an important section of my research, providing a lens through which to understand the colonial history of environmental and landscape discourses in North America and its legacy in the contemporary U.S. The research I completed will be crucial to  my dissertation’s examination of the dialogue between the visual and discursive production of the “human” and “non- or sub-human” during the modern period, the North American landscape, and the manner in which the work of some contemporary artists re-imagine what it means to be human in the present.

In keeping with my research into environmental issues and the relationship between people and environments, as well as the limits imposed by COVID-19, I also took the opportunity to do some serious social-distancing and backpacked in the Weminuche Wilderness of Colorado for a week where I climbed Mount Vestal.

Photo: Mount Vestal, Weminuche Wilderness, Colorado.

Soohyun Yoon

I spent this summer self-quarantining in South Korea (which is my home country), studying Chinese, and writing drafts for my dissertation. My dissertation is about 16th- to 18th-century Chinese Buddhist art, and my original summer plan was to conduct international research in Taipei, Taiwan. The purpose of this travel was 1) to view and study the artworks related to my dissertation at the National Palace Museum of Taipei, and 2) to advance my Chinese skill. But Taiwan became entirely unavailable for foreigners due to the COVID-19 situation.

While it was not possible for me to study the artworks first-hand in any way, studying Chinese was something that I could also do in South Korea (though not as efficiently as in Taiwan), so I concentrated on studying Chinese during the summer. South Korea has a great resource for studying Chinese, especially compared to the U.S., for the geographical reasons and the history of being part of the Chinese-character using culture. After passing level 5 of the official Chinese Proficiency Test (roughly equivalent to the level C1 for the Common European Framework of Reference for languages), I spent the rest of the summer writing drafts of my dissertations.



Gongyuan Cao

The past Summer was truly an extraordinary one. I was about to collect data for my current primary project, to test the evolutionary trajectory of a defensive protein in the tomato, Solanum Lycopersicum. To do so I need to build a process of generating such proteins in the lab, not in tomatoes of course, and test their functions with various conditions. Yet the pandemic disturbed this process and I spent most of the time available reviewing the data we gained earlier and analyzing the potential links between them and what we have already known. By late July I was very glad that things were moving, though slowly, toward a direction where work could be done without concerns. Now I’m still collecting the data I need for further analysis.

Yang Chen

My original plan for this summer was disrupted at the beginning by the pandemic. Therefore, I changed my plan and I spent the first month of this summer writing my proposal and reading background papers related to my field. As my lab reopened, I rescheduled my lab work and spent most of the time in July and August on doing experiments in my lab here at Duke. Fortunately, during this summer I got a big improvement in the basic spatial learning task that I will use for my research project, which made my results more convincing.

Chengcheng Du

Before June, I followed the regulations of North Carolina and the school and quarantined at home. During this period, as an essential person, I regularly went to the laboratory to perform necessary and brief operations to ensure the survival of our experimental organisms. After the school gradually resumed work, I began to return to the laboratory to do research.

Qichen Duan

I believe many people’s summer plans were heavily affected by the pandemic. Luckily, I still experienced a productive summer. At the end of May, we were allowed to return to campus to slowly ramp up our laboratory research, and the first task of our lab was to move! We were glad to move into a new lab space with a better view. And moving was really a good start of lab reopening. We could reorganize our equipment, tidy our working environment, and get ready for the new working paradigm—shifted and low-density—which is predicted to last for a while in the foreseeable future.

One of our lab’s traditions in summer is to host undergraduate interns. However, this tradition was not able to continue due to the COVID-19-related policies on campus and laboratory working. Instead, we focused more on doing our own experiments and making progress on our thesis projects. Having to spend less time on “wet” lab, I tried to gain more experience in “dry” lab, bioinformatics. I spent considerable time learning computational and programming knowledge/skills, and also initiated a project analyzing the sequencing data that would largely feed my working hypothesis.

Another good news is that I also wrote a preview paper with my advisor this past summer, which finally yielded a publication on the journal of Current Biology. It was a really rewarding process and truly inspired me to work hard in the forthcoming academic year.

Jesse Granger

I wrote code to analyze animal telemetry tracks in relation to several environmental cues. I started working on a review paper, and I started studying for my prelim.

Justin Jorge

My research revolves around understanding how the fruits of the witch hazel are able to shoot out their seeds. In understanding this mechanism, I had to measure specific characteristics of the fruit that require me to sample fruits as they mature. Luckily for me, all of the witch hazels that I need for this study are available at the Duke Gardens. However, the fruits of the witch hazel begin to mature in June and July, which is why I needed this grant. In light of COVID, I was able to get special permission from Paul Jones of Duke Gardens to visit the gardens and collect the fruit samples that I needed for my research. 

In downtime when the laboratory was closed, I was able to film other seed-shooting plants found around campus and my house. Although previously studied, measuring dispersal in these plants helped me come up with ideas for my own experiments with witch hazel. With the information from this summer I can now work on a math model describing seed dispersal in this plant.

Carlos Pardo De la Hoz

I was supposed to be doing fieldwork in Alberta, Canada, during this past summer, but this had to be postponed because of the current restrictions on international travel. Instead, I spent most of the summer doing bioinformatic analyses of cyanobacterial genomes to understand their evolution. I also had to prepare a revised version of a manuscript with the results of the first chapter of my dissertation work. In the paper, we described a new approach that we developed to characterize specialization in networks of ecological interactions. Finally, I launched a personal website to showcase my research activities an interests (

Bryan Piatkowski


An example of a boreal peatland.

First, I finished writing the final chapter of my dissertation. I quantified variation in biomass decomposability for species of Sphagnum peat moss and related such variation to their evolutionary history. Differences among species in biomass decomposability underlie variation in peat production that, in turn, results in the formation of ecological gradients along which species sort within communities. I found that natural selection drove divergence in trait optima among major Sphagnum lineages that differ in habitat preference.

I presented these results virtually at the annual conference of the Botanical Society of America and won the A.J. Sharp award for best graduate student talk. This research establishes linkages between evolutionary relationships, ecological function, and one of Earth’s largest soil carbon pools through natural selection.

Perhaps more importantly, I was able to spend my summer mentoring an undergraduate student on a collaborative project aimed at detecting signatures of natural selection in Sphagnum genomes. The accumulation of peat produced by Sphagnum creates harsh environmental conditions within boreal peatlands that allow these mosses to outcompete other plants. Using computational methods, we found evidence for positive selection on several categories of genes that might be involved in adaptation to life in these unique wetland habitats. We are in the process of editing the manuscript and hope to submit it for publication in the near future.

Photo: An example of a boreal peatland.

Khanh Vien

This summer I was able to create several tissue/cell specific ablation lines. The lines were validated using a combination of fluorescent microscopy and elegant genetic schemes. Concurrently, I received antibodies from a collaborating lab in Switzerland to begin characterizing the expression pattern for a particular protein of interest. I will continue the characterization of protein expression as well as creating more ablation lines throughout this semester. I had also planned to develop a protocol to culture live drosophila brains and image their development ex vivo, but unfortunately due to pandemic I was unable to use the lab for extended periods of time and had to stop pursuing my live brain culture experiments.


Classical Studies

Alexander Karsten

With the help of the Summer Research Fellowship, I was able to complete the first chapter of my dissertation this summer. The fellowship offered a sense of stability in a time when it was sorely needed. The security that it offered allowed me to focus on the work at hand.

My chapter presents a survey of the manuscripts and editions of the Theognidea in order to better understand the principles of poem division that have been applied throughout the vexed history of editing this work. This involved the collection and cataloguing of various editions, and was unfortunately somewhat hampered by the restrictions put in place to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. Thankfully, I was still able to acquire and catalogue almost every modern edition.

The work of this chapter fills a previously unidentified niche in the scholarship around the Theognidea, and elucidates important differences between the approaches taken by the modern editors and those taken by the scribes of the manuscripts. By finishing this chapter over the summer, I have been able to maintain momentum on my dissertation work despite the myriad obstacles presented by this most unusual summer. That is thanks, in no small part, to the generosity of the Summer Research Fellowship.

Sinja Küppers

The Fred and Barbara Sutherland Fellowship Fund allowed me to stay in Durham over the summer and continue my dissertation work within the restrictions of the pandemic. I would like to emphasize that the summer fellowship not only provided me with the financial support necessary to continue my work, but also with the freedom not to travel, to keep my apartment, and to stay within the area of my health-care provider. Thank you for the support!

During summer 2020, I worked out ideas for my dissertation prospectus that I am going to defend in the fall semester. This took the form of two mini-proposals and a collection of ideas and resources that I can now discuss with my advisor. Furthermore, the funding made it possible to develop a conference abstract that I will be submitting this fall.

In addition to my dissertation progress, I worked as a fellow in the Archival Expeditions program. During this program, I developed a digital archival module on the Textual Transmission of Female Greek Lyric Poets that I will be teaching this fall in Professor Erika Weiberg’s class on Lyric and Hellenistic Poetry. Finally, I drafted and submitted a successful application to the Preparing Future Faculty (PFF) Program over the summer. Thanks to the PFF, I will have the chance to meet with a faculty mentor from a neighboring institution and explore what being a faculty is like at a college or university different from Duke.

Antonio LoPiano

My initial plan was to use this fellowship to conduct a ground-penetrating radar survey at the archaeological site of Vulci in Lazio, Italy, an ancient Etruscan and Roman city. This survey would have formed the foundation of my dissertation research by delivering broad-scale data on the much-considered topic of Etruscan and Roman urban planning. Up to this point, the scholarly debates have had to rely on limited data due to the constraints of traditional excavation methods and the extenuating factors of preservation. This survey would have leveraged the burgeoning technology of remote sensing to facilitate the acquisition of novel data vital to progressing the state of our knowledge in the field of ancient urban planning and how it shaped daily life in the ancient world.

While I was not able to conduct this survey this summer due to the interruptions to fieldwork caused by the COVID-19 outbreak, the summer was not a total loss. This fellowship allowed me the flexibility to nimbly pivot my research plans. Instead of exploring the archaeological landscape of Vulci, I explored the depths of the library’s collections. I was able to compile and thoroughly review all preexisting data on my modified dissertation subject and hopefully offset any interruptions to my dissertation schedule. That being said, I am still hopeful that I will be able to return to Vulci this coming summer to conduct my planned survey, which will still be of vital importance to my dissertation research.


Computer Science

Phyllis Ang

Over the summer, I worked on implementing compute-intensive kernels, such as matrix multiply, on a hardware accelerator framework in order to prove that the framework has better productivity, performance, and energy efficiency than its HLS counterpart.

The accelerator framework is a cloud-based accelerated system development platform designed to simplify the process of developing, evaluating, and scaling hardware accelerators on the FPGA while maintaining high performance and energy efficiency. The interface provided by the framework allows developers to focus solely on designing a piece of specialized circuitry that executes a kernel function, known as a core, in Chisel or Verilog without needing to manage interfaces unrelated to core design.

However, before the start of the summer, data was still needed to support the claims that the composer framework has better productivity, performance, and energy efficiency than its HLS counterpart. My work focused on utilizing different hardware optimization techniques such as data parallelism, task parallelism, data reuse, and streaming interface to implement matrix multiply in order to prove that manually optimized kernels on the accelerator framework will outperform the same kernels optimized by HLS.

Zhi Chen

During summer 2020, I was mainly working on two projects. The first project is about discovering visual concepts and their relationship in imagery data without supervision. We found that using spatial correlation in the images, one can discover novel concepts and their compositions by combining existing primitive concepts. Specifically, we segment the images into patches of primitive concepts and calculate their spatial correlation matrix. Borrowing ideas from NLP, we decompose the correlation matrix and embed the primitive concepts into a latent space where higher-level concepts can be obtained by clustering. Currently, we are actively working constructing primitive concepts also without supervision, hoping to create an unsupervised concept discovery pipeline, that benefits the interpretability of deep learning.

The second project is an extension of a new super-resolution method based on latent space exploration. We found the previous method suffers from bias and other issues due to the lack of identity information, rooted in the definition of super-resolution. We propose to add an additional identity metric as guidance to search in the latent space. With such guidance, the model is able to upscale photos such that they look like the correct person. We plan to submit our work to a top conference.

Qinwen Huang

Super-resolution algorithms are techniques that enable reconstruction of high-resolution image from single or multiple low-resolution images, thereby increasing the high frequency components and removing degradations caused by the imaging process. While many of these algorithms have shown promising results on low-resolution images with relatively high signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) such as natural or medical images, little work has evaluated the performance of these techniques in a low-SNR setting.

During summer, we analyzed the performance of SR algorithms on images with extremely low SNR. Specifically, we used raw micrographs acquired from Cryo-Electron Microscopy (Cryo-EM). Such analysis offers insight into the fundamental super resolution performance bottlenecks and how these bottlenecks can affect the feasibility of high-resolution reconstruction of Cryo-EM micrographs.

Shihan Lin

I stayed in Durham and work on research remotely with my advisor. We had some progress on our project and submitted a paper. I also finished my RIP final exam during this summer.


Cultural Anthropology

Joe Hiller


A self-portrait, completed as part of Hiller's drawing practice

My original proposal involved travel to Colombia for ethnographic study of prison reform projects. By March, it was clear that travel would be impossible. Further, my few contacts in Colombia became overwhelmed with work related to the COVID-19 crisis in Latin American prisons (and the routine challenges of childcare, food preparation, and mental health under mandatory lockdowns and social distancing regimes). I did not feel it was appropriate for me to intrude on their time with my inchoate questions.

And so, I reoriented my summer toward longer-term skill development and reading projects. I applied for and received a small grant from the Ethnography Workshop to take online drawing lessons, with the goal of incorporating drawing as both an ethnographic technique and a potential way to access prisons (as a drawing instructor). I read classic anthropology texts and attended a cultural anthropology conference online and, later, a workshop on feminist activism behind bars. I began learning ArcGIS mapping software. I participated in CLACS reading groups and (with a team) won two CLACS trivia nights.

Photo: A self-portrait, completed as part of my drawing practice.

Boyang Ma

During this summer, I mainly focused on finishing my reading lists for portfolio exams. I have done a lot of readings and finished a few synthesized articles.

Christopher Webb

This summer, I focused primarily on writing my dissertation. My original plans included a trip to Washington state for data collection, but this was canceled due to the COVID pandemic.  It was an incredibly challenging summer, as I have small children and was locked down inside my home with them (which makes academic writing all but impossible). Nevertheless, I wrote as much as I could and I am still on track to complete and defend my dissertation by spring 2021. 

Namhla Naledi Yaziyo

When my plans for preliminary fieldwork fell through this summer, I was forced to find alternative ways to do the work virtually. I dedicated my time to reading deeply into South Africa higher education history. These are, for most part, biographical materials - the life stories of vice chancellors and university founders that would assist me to piece together institutional histories. I rented a workspace in downtown Durham and spent much of the summer combing through these copies and writing an initial account of the changing role of the Vice Chancellor’s office in African and South African institutions of higher learning. I also conducted interviews virtually with employees who work in the current Vice Chancellors’ offices. In summary, I spent the summer reading and conducting virtual interviews.



Jonny Behrens


Ph.D. student Jonny Behrens setting up a trap to collect insects emerging from an urban stream near Iowa City, Iowa.

While my initial field-work plans for the beginning of the summer were unfortunately canceled, I spent the early parts of the summer analyzing datasets and connecting with researchers across the nation. I was fortunate to forge a new connection with collaborators at USGS and University of Iowa, leading to exciting field work in early August. While closely following COVID precautions, I was able to collect spiders, bugs, and sediment from Muddy Creek, near Iowa City, Iowa. The water chemistry of the stream sites has been intensively studied by our collaborators for the past few years, thus we were excited to build upon that work for our urban ecology research. I was able to test out some initial research ideas I have (Do bugs and spiders accumulate the diverse mix of contaminants found in water? Perhaps more contaminants than we can detect in the water?) while also connecting virtually with new collaborators! We fortunately were able to collect all our samples before an intense derecho came through.

Photo: Ph.D. student Jonny Behrens setting up a trap to collect insects emerging from an urban stream near Iowa City, Iowa.

Joseph Fader

Summer 2020 was one of the busiest and most productive times of my dissertation. I am in the final year of my dissertation and thus finalizing analyses and writing some parts of my thesis. This summer I completed drafts of two chapters, which are nearly prepared now to be submitted for publication. I also am teaching a master’s-level course this fall at the Duke Marine Lab on Fisheries Biogeography and Ecology. This has also required an enormous amount of work as it is my first time teaching this material. Thanks to the Summer Research Fellowship, I did not have other responsibilities for securing financial support, and thus I was able to devote most of my energy to these few, main goals.

Jacqueline Gerson

Thanks to funding from The Graduate School, I was able to focus my summer on my dissertation work. I spent this summer analyzing previously collected data and writing up two chapters of my dissertation.



Sheng-Pei Chen

Building on the coursework in my first year, I studied more New Keynesian model papers during this summer since this is the workhorse of modern macroeconomics. In addition, I embarked on a COVID-19 economic research. So far, I am still working on the benchmark modeling to get the preliminary insight. During this time, I also read many economics working papers about COVID-19 and attended some webinars.

Taking programming courses is required in the economics department. I took two programming courses, which are R and STATA courses, during the summer term. In order to finish assignments and final projects, it took me lots of time to learn, search, debug, and print out the result. I also wrote a 10-page preliminary paper on the topic of MLB batters’ performance by using R.

Piling upon the programming skills, I can now use them to examine whether there are some interesting patterns in macroeconomic data. In the past, I am a pure theory guy. I put emphasis on the mechanisms of the model, but I did not care much about the data. Now it has been changed. I could clean up the data and run some graphs by using the programming skills I learned. This is very helpful for my future research. I could gain more insights and have more skills to conduct empirical research as well.

Erin Denison

I took classes at Duke during Summer Term II.

Luke Fesko

This summer, I was supposed to be undertaking field work in Cambodia. Due to the ongoing pandemic, I was unable to do so, and lost my summer research funding because of it. Thankfully, I received the Summer Research Fellowship in its stead.

This summer, I used my time to continue my work in Cambodia from abroad, working on sampling design, questionnaires, formation intervention material, and much more for the project in Cambodia. I then continued to work on my projects in Myanmar, applying for and receiving a grant to continue our work in Myanmar but focusing on how COVID is spreading throughout the country, as well as continuing to work on data analysis for a project in Myanmar I began before the pandemic. Lastly, I continued my work using secondary data on evictions and gentrification, which has been very successful.

Ranae Jabri

Thanks to the Summer Research Fellowship, I was able to focus on two research projects this summer. The first project examines how algorithms, maximize predictive power at the cost of group equity. In maximizing predictive power, algorithms include variables—like residential location—that add little predictive power but dramatically worsen racial and economic disparities in risk scores that people receive. The second project measures impacts of using place-based predictive policing on crime and other outcomes.

I also presented the first project (virtually) at the University of Chicago Crime Lab and the Young Economist Symposium at the University of Pennsylvania. I received valuable feedback from both opportunities. This feedback and interdisciplinary discussion helped to improve the research, and connect the research to related fields and the broader research context.

Jennifer Kades

I took classes in HTML, Python, and Stata; attended remote seminars; and began developing research ideas.

Taehoon Kim

I have spent summer 2020 mostly for writing my job market paper. As the pandemic started kicking in quite seriously, accompanied with lock downs in the U.S., I decided to fly back to Korea. Working remotely there in Korea had several adverse effects, such as time differences and no office to work. Especially, it was a bit challenging to work and communicate with other colleagues and my advisors who were staying in the states. However, we were able to make it work considering time differences between places.

Also, other than working in my paper, I was able to spend some time to build connections in Korea for Korean job markets. For instance, I talked to alumni who graduated from Duke working in some research institutes in Korea and former bosses I’ve worked before. This was actually very helpful to have a sense about what I should expect from Korean job markets, which are likely to be less affected by the pandemic. 

Riley League

I acquired real-time private medical claims data to assess the impact of COVID-19 on health-care utilization and provider labor supply. I also prepared a draft for submission for a project examining the impact of a social program in Brazil on adolescent health. Finally, I prepared a draft for submission for a project examining the implementation of a payment reform in the US dialysis industry.

Eun-Seok (Ian) Lee

During summer 2020, I first studied papers for the field exam. After passing the exam, I started to read several papers related to my specific field in macroeconomics. I have mostly stayed home in Durham because of COVID-19. The scholarship helped me focus on research in these uncertain times.

Chelsea Park

I stayed at Korea in the summer, and I worked with my previous advisor on my master’s thesis, so that we could submit it to an economics journal. Since I can only use the data in Korea, I had to go back to Korea, but also had to rent my apartment during the summer. With the help of summer funding, I could afford my plane tickets and the apartment rent.

Andrew Vollmer

I wrote a draft paper and worked on slides in preparation for the job market. The paper is about demand uncertainty in the market for sports tickets.



Carolin Benack

I originally planned on attending and delivering papers at a workshop in Berlin and a conference in Zurich. Due to the pandemic, these plans changed to working on my dissertation all summer. This additional dissertation time turned out to be important, however. The political responses to COVID-19 over the summer, especially debates over stay-at-home orders and restrictions on business operations, are highly relevant to my research, which asks how economics has influenced the American cultural consciousness. These current events thus made me rethink how I previously framed my research, which ultimately led to important revisions that brought the remainder of my dissertation into sharper focus.

Mickey D’Addario

The fellowship I received enabled me to research and write a large portion of the first chapter of my dissertation. Despite the challenges of researching during a pandemic, I am in a fantastic position to submit this chapter to my advisor this fall.

James Draney

With the help of a Summer Research Fellowship, I was able to complete a rough draft of my first dissertation chapter and submit it to my advisor for a first round of feedback. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic prevented me from making a research trip to the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas. However, I was able to make progress on my work using key secondary sources. I also found time to revise a separate essay, which has been accepted for publication at good journal in my field.

Jane Harwell

I was an Anthropocene Fellow for Duke Farm. I spent the entire summer researching the history of nitrogen, or as it was called before the 1770s, nitre. I read 17th- and 18th-century husbandry guides to understand nitre’s qualities as well as how it was made. From there, I studied “nitre” and “nitrous particles” as it appeared in 18th-century British poetry, particularly georgics. I also took an undergraduate Latin course at the beginning of the summer. Finally, I read and researched poetry beyond what was needed for my fellowship, meeting weekly with my advisor to discuss.

Eun-hae Kim

My original plan to present a conference paper at a humanities conference in Seoul, South Korea, in late May was thwarted due to the pandemic. Although the conference has been postponed to an unspecified date, I nonetheless spent the summer revising and refining my paper in the hopes of submitting it to perhaps another conference in the near future.

Since all my travel plans were canceled, I mainly used my summer to prepare for my preliminary exams, which are scheduled to be taken in spring 2021. I spent the summer drafting and revising my reading lists (the English department requires one major and two minor exam fields), finding sources (the Duke Library offered a wide array of digitized resources), and getting started on reading and taking notes on texts. Compiling the various texts (novels, philosophical works, critical theory) I was drawn to for my research not only served the more immediate purpose of preparing for my exams, but also allowed me to more concretely think about the questions that will animate my dissertation project. 

Shirley Li

I had finished my prelim exams in April, so this summer was spent reading in preparation for my first dissertation chapter on the medieval poem Pearl and allegory. I read extensively on medieval allegory, Biblical exegesis, and the ars moriendi tradition. I’m now beginning to read more extensive secondary criticism on the Pearl poem itself, and I hope to have my first chapter draft completed by the end of the semester. I also continued to work on my Latin skills by reviewing earlier material and translating portions of Augustine.

Amber Manning

As I enter my third year of doctoral study, I’m working my way through my comprehensive exam reading list (Major List, Minor List, and Theory List). Most of the summer was spent working on reading these texts and writing brief summaries/analyses of the texts that I can use later. I’ve also been working on turning two of my seminar papers into articles so I spent some of the summer working on what the article form can look like and how to transform other pieces of writing into a scholarly article.

Kevin Spencer

In Summer I, I taught an online class called Long Lives, Short Stories, a class that examined the theme of how a whole life can be measured in the short story format. We covered authors from Europe, Africa, both Americas, and Asia, from approximately the mid-19th century to our own time. After that, I worked on an article that is currently being reviewed by potential publishers.



Graden Froese


Project manager Alex Ebang Mbélé gives a talk to regional environmental actors.

In summer 2020, thanks to my Summer Research Fellowship, I continued my dissertation research and boundary work with the Poulsen lab’s Nsombou Abalghe-Dzal Project in rural Gabon. Our work facilitates the establishment and study of community bushmeat hunting management by Gabonese villages to contribute to wildlife conservation and food security.

It has been a thrilling period of growth for the project. Due to COVID-19 prevention measures, we spent less time in communities than usual this summer, but this enabled us to move forward with data analysis and providing information to decision-makers. We also began facilitating ongoing planning between government, villages, and logging companies to increase the sustainability of logging.

Regarding the pandemic, we worked with the area’s community radio station to secure funding from National Geographic. Ivindo FM used these funds to conduct a project gathering the perceptions and insights of COVID-19 from rural and indigenous citizens to provide accurate, and culturally, linguistically, and geographically correct information about the outbreak’s impact on these communities.

Photo: Project manager Alex Ebang Mbélé gives a talk to regional environmental actors.


Environmental Policy

Qingran Li

During the summer, I was working on a paper about optimal timing of electric vehicle subsidy. Electric vehicles (EVs) may be dirtier or cleaner than gasoline vehicles in terms of environmental damages per mile depending on where EV is being charged. I explored the long-run diffusion path of EVs conditioned on the policy intervention, and how the diffusion process interacts with the evolving environmental impact with grid decarbonization. My research found that taking into account the slow diffusion process of technology, EV subsidy should start before its negative environmental externalities diminish and the optimal timing depends on how effective the policy instrument is.

Yu Ma

I spent most of summer finishing a previous project: analyzing how living next to a hog farm can affect housing price. I also started to think about other hog-related projects for my third-year dissertation proposal. One project wants to find how living next to hog farm can affect birth outcome. Another project wants to find how extreme weather, such as hurricane, can make hog pollution worse. I also got involved in a Nicholas Institute project related to PFAS pollution.


Evolutionary Anthropology

Arianna Harrington

I finished writing my dissertation, defended it successfully, and submitted my final draft of my dissertation.

Zane Swanson


Data-collection setup in dry riverbed outside of Illeret, Kenya. Data collected during March of this year were processed and analyzed this summer.

While I was unable to participate in data collection in the field as I had originally planned, I was fortunate to have been in the field during February and March of this year collecting data. That allowed me to process and begin analyses of the data that I will be using for my dissertation. Included in these data are 8,600-plus handwritten anthropometric samples, which have now been digitized, and anthropometric, biomarker, and interview data from 250-plus individuals who participated in my data collection.

Photo: Data-collection setup in dry riverbed outside of Illeret, Kenya. Data collected during March of this year were processed and analyzed this summer.


Carolina-Duke German Program

John Jolly

I spent summer 2020 editing the first chapter of my dissertation on the Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s recovery of the Christian-Neoplatonic symbol in his lyric poetry and writings on plant morphology. My goal was to submit it for review to the Goethe Society of North America in June, so that I might participate in a competitive dissertation workshop that they are hosting this fall. My chapter was accepted. 

In addition to these revisions, I was able to finish drafting the second chapter of my three-part dissertation. This chapter describes apostate Lutheran poet Eduard Mörike’s equivocal appropriation of the Christian-Neoplatonic symbol and his lyrics’ subtle turn toward a Modernist worldview that washes away the Classical symbol’s metaphysical foundations in the maelstrom of time.

Amy Jones

I spent the summer working on the second chapter of my dissertation, which is about non-normative muse figures—including non-human and supernatural muses—in the work of German poet Annette von Droste-Hülshoff (1797-1848). Because I will be presenting this chapter twice this semester—once at the annual German Studies Association conference at the start of October, and once at our departmental Works in Progress talk in November—I also got valuable experience transforming my work for different audiences. Thanks to having the time and support to focus on research, I was also able to get a much better grasp on my plan for the dissertation project overall, and I have a timeline for finishing the degree by spring 2022.

Edana Kleinhans

I researched a long lost late-medieval German manuscript about the Archduchess Kunigunde von Österreich (1465-1520) and discovered evidence that it did indeed originate in Munich according to my original theory, which began with my first trip to the archives and state library in 2015. This significant courtly biography is the first major piece of literature from this period that features a woman as its main protagonist and puts Kunigunde at the forefront of the Habsburg dynasty’s campaign to promote political power by simultaneously celebrating women as heroic figures within literature. This major breakthrough would not have been possible without Duke summer funding!

Undraa Lhamsuren

Summer 2020 was like no other. Plans, whether personal or professional, were derailed by the pandemic for, if not all, then most of us. Just one example: I was going to spend the summer doing archival research on Black German literature at the Free University in Berlin. Instead, I was forced to stay put with what seemed like no end in sight. However, thanks to the generous support of the Duke Graduate School, I devoted the summer months studying for the defense of my first chapter and dissertation prospectus, both of which I successfully defended at the beginning of August. The chapter and prospectus defense is a major milestone in our joint Carolina-Duke Graduate Program in German Studies.

Christoph Schmitz

Despite, or because of, being confined to stay home, summer 2020 turned out to be a productive time, especially concerning my dissertation writing. I was able to finish a chapter that I started in spring 2020. This chapter was particularly important as it contains the theoretical basis for my other chapters. Having established this framework, I was able to finish revisions on another chapter and started working on the next chapter. Additionally, I found time to work on some projects that will help me to use some of my research for my teaching.

David Takamura

Although I had originally meant to be abroad in Germany, I was able to keep up with studies in my minor area via an online course in Sanskrit at the Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen within the Institute for Indology and Comparative Religion. At the same time, I successfully passed my program’s preliminary exams and proceeded to prepare significant research for my upcoming dissertation chapter. Thanks to the Summer Research Fellowship, I was able to devote much of my time to this important milestone even without the chance to do archival work abroad.

Leonie Wilms

Thanks to the generous funding of the Duke Graduate School, I was able to devote my summer to research and drafting the first chapter of my dissertation. Unfortunately, my summer plans were disrupted by the pandemic and resulting travel bans. My research focuses on hate, rage, and fear in contemporary German theater, and I was planning to visit various theater institutions in Germany as well as the annual theater festival in Berlin. In lieu of this visit, I was able to research performances that were recorded and streamed online. I also had the opportunity to complete research on performance studies, affect theory, and contemporary German theater. Moreover, I was able to prepare for the annual German Studies Association conference.

Tatjana Zimbelius-Klem

I have an interest in digital humanities, so I took a one-week course with the Graduate Summer Academy in Digital Humanities: Working with Text. I also participated in an online workshop organized by the Digital Humanities Collaborative of North Carolina called Virtual Digital Humanities Collaborative Institute. 

In addition, I practiced my French in order to take the Second Foreign Language Competency Exam in spring of 2021, and I worked on a seminar paper (our first milestone, the Writing Proficiency Review, is to be completed by the end of the second year). I also read ahead for our literature survey class as much as I could, knowing that I would not have that much time to commit to reading when starting to teach German language.



Mohammed Ali

I changed my dissertation project based on a number of factors. The closure of archives worldwide due to the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated rethinking the philosophical and intellectual frameworks of my project. It also led to a change of advisors. I also completed revisions to a manuscript that has been accepted to the journal of History and Theory and began work on another manuscript, a long-form book review that I would like to submit to Diacritics by the end of my graduate program.

I also developed a social media protocol for publicizing my work and updated my Scholars@Duke page. Finally, I spent time honing my stylistic skills as a writer by reading poetry and writing creative nonfiction. One of my short pieces has been accepted to the literary journal Fine Lines.

Sarah Amundson

Although COVID disrupted my plans for onsite archival research, this summer I was able to spend a significant amount of time working with digitized archives. My dissertation centers around sex work in Charleston, South Carolina, between 1850-1945, with a focus on the lived experiences of sex workers themselves. This necessitates examining thousands of documents in hopes of a catching a brief mention of the women I study, documents spread across disparate record collections in many far-reaching corners of Charleston’s history, because sex workers left behind very few records themselves.

I spent a great deal of time this summer reading through digitized 19th-century newspapers. My favorite discovery was a newspaper published in New York that reported on Charleston’s scandalous reputation thanks to letters sent to the paper supposedly by citizens concerned with the city’s rampant vice. This reveals that Charleston’s reputation as a hotbed for sex work was known past the boundaries of the city or the state, recognized instead on a more national scale. These letters mentioned some women I already knew of, but many more I didn’t, which supplied me with dozens of new leads. Given the scarcity of records that mention sex workers specifically by name or place, let alone by descriptions of their acts and behavior, this was an invaluable find.

Nathaniel Berndt

Although I was unable to travel to Boston to conclude the archival research for my project as I had intended, I still had a productive summer here in Durham. Due to the disruptions of the spring, health issues, and the methodical approach I have taken in organizing and analyzing my source materials before actually writing, my dissertation was less far along by the beginning of the summer than I had originally envisioned.

The summer was then devoted to two projects. The first of these was finishing all the preparatory work for writing the first half of the dissertation and transitioning to the real writing phase of the project. This involved finishing large databases of over 10,300 individual radio programs and over 18,300 film screenings from the late 1950s to 1974 for a highly granular soundscape analysis of Niger during decolonization as well as arranging references from a large collection of newspaper sources, films, sound recordings, and other texts from the era. With this highly time-consuming phase of the project concluded, I finally made the transition to focus on the writing of the first chapters, which is in progress now.

The second project that I devoted a large amount of time to was for a possible publication in a forthcoming book on Arabic responses to colonialism in Africa. I decided to focus on a sound recording of an Arabic poem from 1966 by a scholar named Hassane Sodandji. This involved transcribing and translating the poem and then writing a contextual essay.

Roman Gilmintinov

During summer 2020, I worked in archives, was writing an article, and participated in a couple of Zoom events. In April 2020, I passed my comprehensive exam and was ready to start off my archival work, the key stage of the graduate program in history. My dissertation explores Soviet economic history, and the archives I need to explore are located in Russia. Due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, I had to postpone the beginning of my travel. Only in mid-June was I able to leave for Moscow. Thankfully, the situation in Russia has not been as severe as in the USA, and the Russian State Archive of Economy, the crucial for my research repository, opened up in July. I have been able to explore a couple of large funds since then.

In addition to the archival work, I was writing an article that I plan to submit by the end of the current academic year to Historical Materialism, Marxist historians’ major journal. A tentative title of my article is “Impure Socialism: Emancipation of Nature in the Soviet Union, 1965-91.”

I also participated in two important online events that allowed to me to network with my colleagues from the USA and Russia. First, I was invited as an expert to the summer school Transcending Nature: the Anthropocene and Environmental History of Northern Eurasia at the University of Tyumen. Second, I presented a short piece at webinar called Climate and Society in Eurasia: Past, Present, and Future at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Tayzhaun Glover

Restrictions related to COVID-19 interrupted my plans to do archival work in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and in the Rubenstein Special Collections. I turned my focus toward revising my own work and working on smaller research projects. I participated in the Story+ project Caring for and with Patient Archives. I was a research assistant for Susan Thorne, working on a personal project for her that used French Caribbean archival material.

Alyssa Russell

Although my plans for doing research this summer and traveling to archives were disrupted, I was still able to progress through other work for my program. Most of this summer, I focused on readings for my different fields in preparation of my third year, the preliminary exam year. I was able to put together a research plan for working toward my prospectus for the dissertation. This summer, I also had the opportunity to work as a Data+ project manager and complete research for my advisor.

Helen Shears

My summer plans were dramatically disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Originally I was supposed to be preparing for my archival research in London, which has now been postponed until 2021. Part of this preparation involved a visit to the New York Public Library archives, which I was naturally unable to do considering the city’s strict shutdown.

Instead, I remained in Durham and continued to refine the conceptual foundation for my project by reading texts available through Duke Libraries (primarily secondary source material on early modern diplomacy), although of course library services were very limited over the summer.

I also spent a considerable amount of time attempting to adapt the research plan for my dissertation to accommodate the challenges of COVID. My proposed project was a multi-sited archivally based research project that required visiting archives in the UK, France, Spain, and possibly Canada. Adapting the contours of my project to the severe travel restrictions of COVID-19 is a significant intellectual and emotional task that remains ongoing as the situation evolves and the government fails to act.

Beginning in June, I also worked on the course development team for the fall 2020 Bass Connections digital humanities project directed by Professors Philip Stern and Ed Triplett, conducting research on early modern cartography and map-making in Europe and building a visual database of maps from the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries.

Joshua Strayhorn

This summer I worked with the National Humanities Center developing professional development courses for K-12 teachers. This summer My supervisor and I created an online course on Medieval Africa as well as the Modern Middle East. The courses will be live this fall. I learned how to develop online forums and run code to embed interactive activities for teachers to utilize. The goal for the courses is for teachers to learn how to integrate topics that are not often taught in public schools into their curriculum.

Meghan Woolley

In the summer of 2020, I had originally planned to transcribe and analyze manuscripts from a spring research trip. Because I had to cancel this research trip, I pivoted to work with edited texts instead. I read through two 12th-century law books and examined records from 12- and 13-century itinerant courts in England. Based on my analysis of these sources, I drafted a dissertation chapter.


Marine Science and Conservation

Austin Allen


Swim trial experiments at Dolphin Quest enable estimation of energetic costs of boat disturbance in wild populations.

Some types of boat approaches cause dolphins to temporarily increase their swimming speed and thus use more calories. We want to know if repeated boat approaches could impact daily energy budgets to the extent that survival or reproduction are affected. Researchers at the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program, University of Saint Andrews, and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute have deployed digital acoustic tags (DTAGs) via suction cups on dolphins in Sarasota Bay to record their movements and acoustic environment. We planned to deploy additional DTAGs in June 2020 to specifically look at the effect of boat approaches, but the project was postponed due to COVID. This led us to focus on already-collected data to model activity changes during boat approaches.

To get from activity to energy expenditure, we need activity-energetics calibration experiments. Partnering with Dolphin Quest, an accredited zoological facility in Hawaii, we asked dolphins to wear DTAGs while swimming at different speeds and breath into a respirometer to measure energy expenditure. Together, these studies will help us estimate the proportion of a dolphin’s daily energy budget that is used to avoid vessels, and ultimately, whether vessel approaches, in certain populations, could prevent dolphins from meeting their daily energetic needs.

Photo: Swim trial experiments at Dolphin Quest enable estimation of energetic costs of boat disturbance in wild populations.

Dana Baker

I used the Summer Research Fellowship to focus on data analysis and synthesis from data collected during nine months of fieldwork in Tanzania. Primary data collection, supported by the James B. Duke Fellowship, consisted predominantly of in-depth interviews with small-scale fishers in Mtwara, Tanzania.

Specifically, this award freed me of my service obligations as a teaching assistant and gave me the necessary time and energy for analysis and writing after an academic year abroad. I used the duration of the three-month fellowship to translate and transcribe 140 interviews from Kiswahili to English and to begin the process of qualitative coding all interview transcripts.

Kevin (KC) Bierlich


Drone image of two blue whales off the coast of Monterey, California.

Thanks to support from the Duke Graduate School’s Summer Research Fellowship, I was able to make significant progress on my dissertation. My research uses drones to study the morphology of baleen whales to help monitor their health in a changing climate. This summer I was able to work (remotely) with Drs. Rob Schick and Josh Hewitt (both at Duke) to develop a Bayesian statistical model for predicting photogrammetric uncertainty associated with measurements derived from drone imagery.

Our study provides robust methodology for determining the error associated with using different drone and sensor platforms to measure large animals. This ultimately establishes a framework to guide researchers in determining the most appropriate drone and sensor combinations needed to answer specific research questions, as well as facilitate collaboration amongst researchers collecting photogrammetric imagery with different levels of measurement accuracy.

Duke alum Clara Bird (now at Oregon State University) and I also published our open-source software called CollatriX, which is designed to automatically collate measurement outputs from the photogrammetry software MorphoMetriX. Last year the Duke Graduate School’s Summer Research Fellowship supported development of MorphoMetriX, so it was a great opportunity to work together and further develop these open source tools for the broader scientific community.

Photo: Drone image of two blue whales off the coast of Monterey, California.

Gregory Larsen

Summer 2020 was challenging, but I continued research and explored teaching through new modalities from the safety of my home office. I spent much of the summer working on two projects that will constitute chapters of my doctoral dissertation.

The first is a data-set that I am bringing to publication, wedding cutting-edge drone data to the latest methods in spatial statistics. This summer’s fellowship allowed me to bring that analysis to a level of completion where I can now begin writing an accompanying manuscript for submission. The second project is a data set that I collected from the field this winter, describing seal presence at sites near Palmer Station, Antarctica from drone imagery throughout the peak summer months. These data will be subject to a similar but expanded analysis, but first require simple data processing to convert raw data to remote sensing products. I established a workflow and carried out a novel analysis of associated error for several possible settings in this data handling process, laying the groundwork for bulk-processing my 95 datasets with associated error metrics.

Finally, I composed and delivered an online teaching unit for an undergraduate course (BIOLOGY.376L) on the unique cultural significance of fur seals to an indigenous Aleut community in Alaska, with input from members of the tribe (see course unit materials).

Seth Sykora-Bodie

Thanks to a Summer Research Fellowship from The Graduate School, I was able to finish my data analysis and write my third chapter on using forecasting methods to predict outcomes in negotiated collective action situations. This was my final research/data chapter, so it was an enormous step toward wrapping up my dissertation.

I also used the time to put together a Fulbright proposal to work at the Stockholm Resilience Centre in Sweden, investigating how diplomats balance conflicting objectives in international negotiations. I also revised my second chapter (on identifying conservation opportunities) for Biological Conservation and presented my research at the International Marine Conservation Congress. Altogether, the support from this fellowship allowed me the time and space to tie up loose ends and prepare for my defense this October.



Shreya Arya

In summer as part of a reading group (supervised by Professor Hubert Bray), I studied semi-Riemannian geometry with applications to general relativity. Also, I worked with Professor Ezra Miller and Xiaojun Zheng (another PhD student in the statistics department) to help classify the shape of fruit fly wings using persistent homology. We did this to answer some questions in evolutionary biology because the shape of the wings encode a lot of information via pathways.

Aygul Galimova

I attended a few summer seminars such as BiSTRO, Harvard Dynamics, and Adios. On top of this, I was part of the algebraic geometry reading group with Stephen, Cameron, and others and worked on a concrete, open question and also a complex geometry reading group where we went through the first two chapters of a complex geometry textbook.

Chun-Hsien Hsu

I was working on a research paper with my advisor, Jayce Getz, and we are about to send it to other people for comments after the final proofreading! I also started a reading group supervised by Professor Joseph Rabinoff on Algebraic Geometry in May. We covered chapters 2 and 3 and did most of the exercises in the standard textbook by Hartshorne. We have built a firm foundation on this subject and we will continue the reading group on further topics. I also attended a reading group on complex geometry by Griffiths, we only covered chapter 0 and part of chapter 1.

Hwai-Ray Tung

Over the summer, I participated in a probability working group and I did research, the results of which are currently on bioarxiv. For the working group, a group of math Ph.D. students and I took turns reading and presenting papers, book chapters, or their own research results. Our presentations last an hour and we did two presentations a week. Being in the probability working group gave me a chance to hear about topics we wouldn’t hear about in a standard class, as well as hear about ongoing cutting edge research. I mostly presented about probability on graphs and networks through an excellent book by Lyon and Peres.

As for my own research, I worked on cancer modeling with Professor Rick Durrett. We weighted in on the ongoing debate regarding whether cancer tumors evolve neutrally or not, and whether this can be seen from the site frequency spectrum. This is a heated topic that often appears in Nature Genetics. A preprint can be seen at, and we are planning to submit to a journal in the near future.



Devon Carter

Over the summer, I took a reading-intensive German course—both to fulfill the language requirements of my program and for my own research purposes. I took and passed the exam in August 2020. In addition, I immersed myself in reading theorists of the voice to improve my general knowledge of a potential dissertation topic. I also did the preliminary research and design of an independent study I am now pursuing, on medievalism in postmodern opera.

Joanna Chang

This summer I continued working on my dissertation titled, “Probing the Brahmsnebel.” Rather than conducting archival research as originally planned, I completed a separate chapter of my dissertation which examines Brahms’s reception in the kingdom of Hungary during the second half of the 19th century. Through translations of concert reviews, charting his activities in the region, as well as a comparison of his reception with members of the New German School (Liszt, Wagner, Berlioz), the chapter offers research unexplored and previously unavailable in English-language sources.

The Summer Research Fellowship also allowed me to continue work on two other related projects concerning the composers Robert Volkmann and Emanuel Moor. The drafts and revisions for these articles are in preparation for a forthcoming publication and conference presentation in the fall of 2020.

Misty Choi

In this unusual summer, I managed to finish the draft of my dissertation even though limited resources were limited. While working on my dissertation, I have also written an article for journal paper submission and two abstracts for a conference next year and a symposium this October. I have also been working on a paper presentation for the conference “Body and Corporeality in 20th and 21st Century Music,” held by University of Music and Performing Arts (Austria) this November. The paper will be taken from a chapter of my dissertation. On top of these, I have been preparing for a course—East Asian Film Music—that I will be giving at Duke in spring 2021. The amazing films I watched in this summer not only enriched the course contents, but also allowed me to have deeper reflections to events occur during the pandemic.

All in all, it was a fruitful summer, in which I achieved huge progress in finishing my dissertation and preparation for my final year.

Meredith Graham

As I get closer to graduation, this past summer with the help of the Summer Research Fellowship, I was able to write two chapters of my dissertation. Without this funding, I would not have made significant progress toward completing my project.

Jonathan Henderson


Album cover for Youssoupha Cissokho’s “Diassing Jalikunda."

This summer I began drafting my dissertation, building on the research I conducted during the previous academic year. It was a bit of a challenge to return prematurely from my fieldwork, but I jumped into the writing with as much energy as possible. My plan is to begin the writing process and fill in additional fieldwork as needed once such a thing becomes again possible.

My work this summer involved transcribing interviews that I conducted with world music record producers in London and at the world music industry conference, WOMEX, in Finland. I also completed a recording project that I undertook during my fieldwork in Senegal last fall, for the kora player Youssoupha Cissokho. Reflecting on my own participation in producing this recording, along with several others, will inform my final chapter focused on the practice of world music record production.

I made good progress on the first chapter of my dissertation over the course of the summer, a version of which I will share at this fall’s Society for Ethnomusicology conference. I am very grateful that the Summer Research Fellowship allowed me the opportunity to jumpstart my writing process—I feel that I am carrying positive momentum into the fall semester.

Photo: Album cover for Youssoupha Cissokho’s “Diassing Jalikunda,” produced and mixed with the support of the Summer Research Fellowship.

Hannah Krall

My summer consisted of studying for my qualifying exam and taking the German language course. Studying all of music history in one summer sounds daunting, but with funding, I was able to focus on studying. I passed! The German language course was online this summer and I was able to practice German translation. Despite the unusualness of the summer with the pandemic, I was able to be productive.

Huijuan Ling

Just like everyone else, my summer went differently than I originally envisioned. Instead of attending music festivals in person, I spent more time at home this summer, composing and preparing myself for the upcoming preliminary exam. Though more sparse than I would like, two pieces of mine were performed virtually this summer. I presented my melodica solo piece, “A Secret Garden of Great Beauty,” at the 2020 Nief-Norf Virtual Marathon. Moreover, my violin solo piece, “Diagonal Swing,” was played at Contemporaneous Virtual Community Salon, and violinist Kate Dreyfuss’s Violin on Quarantine Concert.

During the summer, I also attended the Nief-Norf 1:1 Collection, in which I worked closely with two Nief-Norf faculties, and will produce a cello solo piece to be premiered in December.

Emily Shyr

I studied for my qualifying exams, prepared to teach my first course as an instructor of record, studied for my French language exam, and wrote applications for fellowship grants.



Jiepin Cao

I spent my summer working on the systematic review on the risk and protective factors associated with intimate partner violence against Chinese women. After the whole summer’s work, our team was able to submit the draft to a peer review journal at the beginning of the fall semester, which is a wonderful product of this two-year project.

While working on the systematic review, I have also devoted my time to navigate my dissertation project during the COVID-19 pandemic. After closely working with my advisor and dissertation committee members, we have revised our proposal to better capture intimate partner violence in the post-pandemic Chinese context and prepared to move the next stage of the dissertation project in the fall. I really appreciate the Summer Research Fellowship offered to me, which secured a protective time for me to concentrate on my dissertation research, especially during this uncertain and stressful time.

Brian Douthit

Summer was extremely productive and I am thankful to have received the Summer Research Fellowship. First, I was inducted as a student editor for Applied Clinical Informatics, a journal of the American Medical Informatics Association. I spend time learning about the editorial process and developing my skills as a reviewer. I was able to write several manuscripts and have some in the review process. One such article was just recently published in American Nurse, the journal of the American Nursing Association.

I have also had the opportunity to work with mentors at Duke Health to develop evaluation methodology to assess for functionality of their clinical decision support tools. A manuscript from that work is underway. Again, thank you so much for the opportunity to work full-time through the summer on my academic goals.

Yufen Lin

I participated in several projects related to cancer nursing and symptom science. I was working with my mentor team on two National Institute of Health-funded R01 projects—“Caregivers-guided pain management training in palliative care” and “Couple communication in cancer”—to learn symptom management strategies in oncology patients. I screened eligible patients in the Electronic Health Record (i.e., Epic), recruited patients and consent research participants, and involved in weekly meetings, data analysis, and manuscript development. Additionally, I was working on several manuscripts for my dissertation.

Jihye Scroggins

I took one graduate-level elective course (3 credits). I also worked on the manuscript for publication. This work will be published through a poster presentation in mid-September at a conference. I plan to submit this manuscript for publication beginning of next year. I also worked on my grant proposal for the National Institute of Health predoctoral award towards the end of the summer.

Shamatree Shakya

This summer, I developed a grant proposal. My grant is titled “An Impact of Cardiometabolic Sydrome on the development of frailty in older adults”. I am in the process of finalizing my application for a grant from the Southern Nurses Research Society. I am using publicly available datasets from the Health and Retirement Study to do data analysis.

Heeyeon Son

Although my plan for summer 2020 was affected by pandemic, I did more than I expected in conducting my dissertation study in Korea. I collected data for my dissertation study as I planned during summer 2020. At first, I collected data in person at one clinical site. Because of COVID-19 issue, I had to be cautious when I met potential study participants. However, thanks to the health-care providers at the clinical site, there were no difficulties because of COVID-19. The only limitation that I experienced is that I couldn’t contact admitted patients to avoid chance of infection. Additionally, to reduce face-to face data collection, I also collected data via online survey. It was my first time to collect data online, but I learned many things in conducting online survey. While I still need to collect more data, I got closer to the target number.

Personally, thanks to the grant, I could spend more time with my new-born baby while collecting data. I appreciate this.



Rui Dai

This summer, I spent my time in Columbus, Ohio, at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, performing experiments and writing for my thesis project. I was able to complete two manuscripts given the downtime due to COVID-19. After some experiment restrictions were lifted, I was able to perform some of the experiments that we had planned for the summer.



Kobi Finestone

I spent the summer of 2020 writing two chapters of my dissertation. I had conducted the necessary textual research during the spring semester and used the summer months to construct a writing schedule where I was able to write a large portion of the dissertation.

Valerie-Jean Soon

I spent the summer working on three articles in various stages. The first was a revision of a paper about individual reasons for cooperation in collective action problems. I wrote another paper on freedom of association, and have just submitted that to a journal. Finally, I wrote up a proposal for a review article on social structural explanations, which I plan to submit early this fall. I also presented a paper on the ethics of personalization technologies at the Society for Business Ethics (held online).


Political Science

Robert Allred

This summer, I ran a national survey on Lucid that asked respondents about the intelligence community, their political preferences, and how confident they were in various American national security agencies. The survey will serve as the primary empirical data for my second dissertation article. After collecting the responses, I spent the remainder of the summer analyzing and writing.

Benjamin Broman

Most of my time was spent on research projects. I made significant progress on a milestone paper in my program, and moved two other projects forward.

Jared Clemons

This summer, I was able to make a great deal of progress in my program. First, I was able to defend my dissertation prospectus in June, which meant I could the move on to working on my dissertation in earnest. I spent much of the summer really working on the theoretical foundation of my project—incorporating the feedback I received during my prospectus defense. Moreover, I was also able to work on some co-authored projects that will be submitted for journal publication. The support of The Graduate School allowed me the time and space to be able to do all of the above.

Andrew Kenealy

My summer work consisted of two major themes: First, I took an intensive, compressed probability course through Duke (Math 730). The class significantly bolstered my understanding of these fundamental concepts, which will in turn directly improve my capacity to conduct statistical analysis and further my own research. Second, I worked on several of my own research projects.  These included making substantial revisions to a 15,000-word working paper that I produced last year and hope to submit to a journal for review this fall. I just received further feedback from my advisor, and will be continuing to improve the paper over the semester.  I also chipped away at some other research proposals that I generated last year, working to refine my theoretical claims, and deriving testable implications. Last, I continued to read some of the prominent literature in my field (decision-making in the international security context).  

Gabriella Levy

Over summer 2020, I was able to make significant progress on my research. I primarily worked on my dissertation prospectus, and I passed the defense in early August. I now have a concrete plan for how I will spend the rest of my time in the program. My dissertation will be about why people support armed groups in civil conflicts. Specifically, it will concern how armed group violence against civilians, ideology, and governance shape civilian support for armed actors. 

I also submitted my preliminary paper to a journal, received reviews back on that manuscript, and worked on a revision of the paper. I plan to resubmit the revised manuscript in September. Additionally, I made progress on several co-authored projects unrelated to my dissertation. One of the resulting manuscripts will be presented at a conference in early September.

Thank you so much for the support!

Zeren Li

I finished two chapters of my dissertation in this summer. I also revised a coauthored paper with my advisor in the summer and submitted it to a peer review journal.

Elliot Mamet

This summer, I worked on my dissertation, revising a chapter on Tocqueville, and I also submitted two papers to journals for review.

Hannah Ridge

Summer 2020 was, of course, greatly influenced by the pandemic and stay-at-home orders.  Though some of my plans were modified, I was able to draft two chapters of my dissertation. I also was able to finalize revisions I submitted in the spring on a journal article, which I anticipate will be published in the fall.

Viola Rothschild

During summer 2020, I continued work on a paper with my advisor and another graduate student. Our manuscript is currently under review. I also published an op-ed in the Jamestown Foundation’s China Brief. I was selected to be part of this year’s Future Strategy Forum, and attended the conference in June. At the end of the summer, I presented a research proposal to the Chinese Politics Working Group I am a part of. I also continued my methods training, completing a probability course.


Psychology and Neuroscience

Fernanda Andrade

During the summer of 2020 I worked on my preliminary exam, which, in Psychology and Neuroscience, is a research paper and oral presentation. I had been working on this project for a year, and the summer afforded a good opportunity to finish writing and preparing my defense presentation. I also submitted for publication my first first-author paper, which was a project our lab had been working on but needed someone to take the lead. This was a great learning experience and I was fortunate to have the time to work on it during the summer.

Besides these two larger projects, I worked on several continuing research collaborations, applied for and received an internal grant in collaboration with another P&N student, and worked on data I collected using another grant I received earlier this year. This was a very productive summer for me in terms of research and reaching program milestones. Some of this work had been pushed toward the summer due to the pandemic and related health disruptions, but having the Summer Research Fellowship gave me the opportunity to catch up with many projects and get a move on others that had been stalled.

Matthew Bachman

My original plan for summer 2020 was to collect data on several projects that would go into my dissertation work. Unfortunately, all these projects would have required close contact with human volunteers, and consequently have been suspended for the time being. However, I was able to use this time to instead focus on several different writing projects.

In July my paper “Physical Salience and Value-Driven Salience Operate through Different Neural Mechanisms to Enhance Attentional Selection” was published by the Journal of Neuroscience. Over the past few months I have also written a full draft of another manuscript investigating how reward-associated distractors affect sustained attention.

While I am disappointed to have been unable to collect data on my previously planned projects, these circumstances have unexpectedly led to other opportunities for me as well. I am now collaborating with Dr. René San Martín, a Duke alumnus who shares my interest in the interaction between attention and reward. We’re working together to analyze some of his previously collected data to better understand how expectations modulate the neural processing of reward outcomes.

Jessica Coleman

With funding from The Graduate School, I was able to further my research focusing on interpersonal violence, trauma-informed medical care and engagement in health care. I worked toward developing a plan for my dissertation, taking into consideration COVID-19 and the need for remote data collection with patients receiving cancer care. I submitted and received a grant to conduct a qualitative study, which will inform the development of an intervention for my dissertation, and worked on study start-up tasks. I have also been revising my major area paper to submit to a peer-reviewed journal for publication, in addition to collaborating on several other manuscripts. I also mentored an undergraduate student this summer on a systematic review.

Shannon Dailey

Thanks to the Summer Research Fellowship, I was able to make substantial progress on my research during the summer of 2020. Although I was not able to stick to my original plan for the summer because of COVID-19, I was still able to make progress towards my research goals.

My primary project this summer was to revise and submit my master’s thesis to a journal for publication, and to prepare a second manuscript for publication. I also started my practicum project (a requirement for my Ph.D. program). I was able to connect with a faculty advisor, propose a research project, and lay the groundwork to complete my practicum during this academic year.

In addition, I led my lab’s effort to transition to online testing this summer, after in-person testing was suspended in March due to COVID-19. Once we had a protocol in place, I converted my ongoing experiment from in-person testing to online testing. This was a crucial step to ensure my lab is able to continue its research despite the disruptions caused by COVID-19. I also completed a number of other research tasks, such as scoring measures for a longitudinal study, and I attended the four-day virtual conference of the International Congress for Infant Studies.

Emmaline Eliseev

Thanks to the generous Summer Research Fellowship from the Duke Graduate School, I was able to propose and write a review paper exploring the cognitive and mnemonic consequences of storing personal memories externally (e.g., through photos, in diaries) and, more recently, digitally (e.g., on social media), which is currently under review at Trends in Cognitive Sciences.

While the pandemic disrupted many of my original research plans, I was able to adapt an in-person study on how internet searching affects learning and memory for online data collection. I also successfully applied to present this work (virtually) at the Annual Meeting of the Psychonomics Society this fall. Additionally, I developed a new project for my dissertation and began creating stimuli for this study.

Madeline Farber

I worked with an interdisciplinary team of faculty, graduate students, and undergraduate students; mentored an undergraduate student through the Vertical Integration Program on deliverables and conceptualization and initiation of senior thesis project; and studied neural markers of metacognition before and after “Curriculum as Intervention.”

Jiayue Liu

I spent the whole summer on reading the literature in cochlear synaptopathy and refining my computational model of auditory nerve fiber loss. In June, I went to the Virtual Conference on Computational Audiology and shared a bit of my work there. To sum up, the Summer Research Fellowship supported me to focus on my research work toward my degree.

Justin Rasmussen

This summer changed a lot of my research plans. Instead of going to Kenya to conduct qualitative interviews, I helped start a study to use some of what we have learned there to support parents here during the pandemic. We received some seed funding for that project and further funding to continue during this year.

I also started a learning collaborative with the master’s students at Moi University, our collaborating university in Kenya. Alongside that I began work on several projects to understand the ways religious congregations have been involved in past projects and how we might adapt our intervention to have a better fit in these settings. I also was able to help TA a Visualizing the Pandemic course and begin working with a Somali undergraduate student who is interested in exploring mental health in her community.

Adam Stanaland

(Joint Ph.D. with Public Policy)

With the generous support of The Graduate School, I spent the summer shifting my experimental research to take place online. I had planned to launch three projects (with several sub-studies each) for in-person behavioral experiments in fall 2020. Because of COVID-19, instead of delaying my research, I worked with my advisors (Dr. Sarah Gaither and Dr. Anna Gassman-Pines) to move these studies entirely online. These experiments are crucial to my dissertation research, so we thought this was the best approach. Broadly, these experiments explore the causes and consequences of “fragile” masculine identity development, particularly how it affects young men’s and boys’ aggressive cognition, political beliefs, and even environmentalism. Fingers crossed for the (online) launch of these studies this fall!


Public Policy

Claire Le Barbenchon

This summer presented a good opportunity, in the absence of my ability to travel, to pivot my research focus on work that can be completed from home and/or using existing data.

First, I prepared for future field work by receiving IRB approval for my project, developing the survey instrument, and deepening contacts with research partners abroad, via the internet. This proposed field work will collect survey data from Venezuelan migrants and refugees in Costa Rica to better understand how they use their networks to find a job host country. While I was not able to start data collection immediately, I am glad I was able to make progress without being in the field.

Second, I worked on three manuscripts for submission to journals. The first, with my advisor Giovanna Merli, Ted Mouw (UNC) and Allison Stolte, focuses on implementing a novel sampling method to sample migrant populations in the Raleigh-Durham area. The second paper, with Lisa Keister, seeks to understand how migration levels in the U.S. relate to nonprofit financing. The third paper, which will complement my field work, studies whether and how Colombian return migrants from Venezuela use their networks to find work. This paper has been accepted to a conference this Fall.

Kelly Hunter

During summer 2020, I was scheduled to conduct survey research in Western Kenya and participate in methodology training at the University of Michigan. However, due to the COVID pandemic, I was unable to travel as planned. Instead, I conducted interviews over zoom with sexual and reproductive health organizations in Kenya about their experiences with the United States’ global gag rule and providing sexual and reproductive health services and advocacy during the COVID-19 pandemic. This research is ongoing, but I have submitted an article for publication in a journal that I will revise and resubmit in the next month. I hope to continue these interviews and write an additional paper on this research. Fortunately, I was still able to attend the University of Michigan's ICPSR program virtually, as it was held online this year.

Jane Leer

This summer I worked on my comprehensive exam manuscript, in which I am examining the mechanisms through which income inequality at the country, state, or local level might influence adolescent health, education, and behavioral outcomes. I also submitted one proposal for a pre-registered analysis and two journal articles—one of which was just accepted (!) at the Journal of Translational Issues in Psychological Science.

The summer funding also made it possible for me to advance in research design and data analysis for several projects that will hopefully become part of my dissertation work, examining the developmental consequences of economic and racial inequality in schools and neighborhoods. Finally, I was fortunate to be able to work with two exceptional undergraduate students as a research mentor this summer. I learned a lot, and I’m feeling newly motivated to conduct research that contributes to meaningful structural change for a more equitable and just society.

Farrah Madanay

I was involved in four streams of research. First, I studied attitudes toward SNAP recipients and SNAP policy using online surveys. Second, I examined whether editorial cartoonists were fat shaming Trump and why mass media fat-shaming may have negative consequences for both those shamed and for onlookers. Third, I started collecting data to examine geopolitical associations of hydroxychloroquine prescriptions during COVID-19. This included working with both a private company that has the prescription data and Duke’s Office of Research Collaboration to ensure alignment on the NDA and DUA. Fourth, I conducted a literature review of applications of behavioral economics in health behavior and healthcare.

Sarah Nolan


Visual explanation of Latent Class Analysis logic

India has rapidly expanded its higher education system. Yet it remains unclear if this expansion has created more opportunity for talented young people from every walk of life. If students from working class origins do surmount the many barriers to college access, what strategies did they use?

In summer 2019, I was lucky enough to travel to India and conduct survey of over 10,000 engineering college students across the country, with support from the Duke Graduate School’s Summer Research Fellowship. I conducted several interviews with such young people and learned that there were indeed many systematic barriers, from sudden family economic catastrophes to scammy test-prep centers and that having many sources of information and support proved critical.

I planned to return in summer 2020 and this school year to conduct far more interviews. However, given travel difficulties, I returned to the survey data from 2019. I taught myself a statistical technique, latent class analysis, that can help me capture a multi-dimensional, inductive, and intersectional understanding of individuals’ social origins, using survey responses. This “person-oriented” approach has shown that there are indeed students from many backgrounds at India’s engineering universities, facing complex and nuanced barriers to opportunity. I also developed innovative ways to visualize these findings for general audiences, and hope to share this technique with more scholars of social mobility and intersectionality.

Photo: Visual explanation of Latent Class Analysis logic.

Sarah Petry

During summer 2020 I worked on several projects. First, I tried to convert a qualitative study of Medicare-Medicaid dual eligible beneficiaries that I began in February from in-person to virtual. This effort is ongoing. Second, I worked on my comprehensive exam. Finally, I wrote two commentaries, one about grief during COVID-19 and one about caregiving.


Religious Studies

Joel Archer

I passed my French reading exam, submitted four articles to various journals, began to study for the German reading exam, and started reading in advance for this fall’s classes.

Adam Booth

I attended a symposium for clergy who are also academics. We represented three nationalities (American, British, Ugandan) and several fields of study, including theology, law, anthropology, and communication studies. I was able to try out my job talk on them, which I hope to use for faculty applications this year, and get feedback from people outside of my discipline.

Brad Boswell

I originally planned to use my summer funding for a three-week intensive intermediate Syriac language course in New Jersey. After the pandemic began scrambling summer programs and academic configurations more broadly, I shifted my focus back toward writing my dissertation. Thanks to summer funding through The Graduate School, I was able to complete an entire draft. Given the widespread uncertainty about the short- and long-term effects of the pandemic on higher education, it is an enormous relief to know that I’ll be able to defend my dissertation in 2020-21 and still have time to track and pursue the shifting opportunities for after I graduate.

Mary Dance Berry

Because of my Summer Research Fellowship, I was able to devote my time to preparing for my upcoming examinations. These include two preliminary examinations (German and biblical Hebrew) and comprehensive examinations as well. I also spent time familiarizing myself with new and/or important works that pertain to my dissertation topic.

Cody David

I used the money from the Summer Research Fellowship to help pay for three months of online advanced and intensive Modern Standard Arabic classes through Qalam wa Lawh, an Arabic Language Institute based in Morocco. I had two hours of live class per day—it was only myself and the professor in the class, so I had ample opportunities to improve my conversation skills! In addition to this, I spent another 2-3 hours per day doing assignments outside of class, such as reading, writing and listening to the news.

My Arabic improved drastically through the time I spent with Qalam wa Lawh, such that I now feel comfortable picking up and sight-reading advanced Arabic texts in almost any topic, understanding conversations on topics as diverse as mental health and the economic effects of COVID-19, and expressing myself competently in writing and speaking. Thank you for this award—my Arabic abilities are now far higher than they were before I started, and it would have been hard for me to fund this study without the money from the award!

Susannah Duerr

During the summer of 2020 I was unable to travel to Japan to conduct my planned research. Instead, I read primary materials for my research, began preparing for online ethnography in the fall, and participated in Princeton’s 2020 International and Intensive Program on Buddhism, a forum that enabled me to share and further develop my research with the guidance of prominent figures in Buddhist Studies and fellow graduate students from all around the world.

While I was unable to access periodicals from the library for some time, I took the opportunity to delve into other texts I had previously collected while abroad, which helped reshape and refine the direction of my research. Through these texts I discovered the annual forum Zen 2.0, about which I found plentiful information online. I also discovered that, for the first time, Zen 2.0 will be held online, so I began doing more background research and the initial stages of the IRB protocol review process that will enable me to do online ethnography in the fall. All of this work was influenced and supplemented by the seminars and conversations enabled by Princeton’s Intensive Buddhism Program, which helped me expand my international network of Buddhist Studies colleagues.

Nathan Hershberger

I worked on my dissertation proposal.

Jonathan Homrighausen

I studied for and passed my German exam, began studying for a major Hebrew exam for my program, compiled and published a glossary of medieval Jewish exegetical terminology, completed an incomplete course, submitted a book review to a scholarly journal, took a Duke Graduate Summer Academy course, began a digital humanities project, and began compiling reading lists for my prelims.

Sungjin Im

I had originally applied to travel to Seoul, Korea, for archival research related to my project. Due to COVID-19, however, I ended up postponing my preliminary exams to fall 2020. I did not want to risk travel under the circumstances, and ended up studying for my preliminary exams in Durham over the summer.

Erica Ridderman

This summer I took at German reading course, studied extensively after the course ended, and passed my German proficiency exam. That was my main goal. I also submitted edits for an article that I’m in the process of publishing in a peer-reviewed journal in my field, and I worked on and submitted another original article to a different journal.

Elizabeth Schrader

This summer I read many books and chapters for my comprehensive exams, took a course in German to help keep my language skills sharp, and worked on independent research for my dissertation project. The annotated bibliography for my dissertation readings is now at 127 pages single-spaced, mainly due to the time I was able to devote to reading this summer (I went to Perkins and the Divinity Library the day before they closed, so fortunately I was able to get nearly all of the books I needed for my readings, but I did have to purchase a few that were checked out at that time). Thanks to the German class I translated a German article that is relevant to my research.

During the summer I also did text-critical research that led to a substantial patristic discovery that I will incorporate into my dissertation, regarding Theodore of Mopsuestia’s Commentary on John. Unfortunately, the two main books I needed to check my work were not able to be accessed over the summer, so I had to contact the books’ authors to obtain screenshots. I wasn’t able to get the entire book (plus another book the author recommended to me) until the library opened again in August.


Some of my research discoveries this summer, suggesting redactional activity around Martha in Theodore of Mopsuestia’s Commentary on John.

Photo: Some of my research discoveries this summer, suggesting redactional activity around Martha in Theodore of Mopsuestia’s Commentary on John.

Zexi (Jesse) Sun

This summer has undoubtedly been a challenge for scholars and researchers. My initial plan was to visit Yale Divinity School for the archival records in their special collections. With the disruption of the pandemic, the plan had to be canceled, delaying my progress toward finishing the dissertation proposal.

Meanwhile, I took this “break” as an opportunity to work on other writing projects. Thanks to the support of Summer Research Fellowship, I was able to concentrate and publish a paper on Politics, Religion & Ideology regarding Sun Yatsen’s political religiosity, finish a draft on the theme of nationalism in Chinese Christian posters, and compose an entry on the Shandong Revival for Brill’s Encyclopedia for Global Pentecostalism. Again, I’m grateful for the fund through the Summer Research Fellowship that allowed me the focus that I would otherwise not have.

Erin Zoutendam

My original plans for the summer required some adjustment because of the pandemic, but fortunately I was able to pursue a number of opportunities online. In June, I took an advanced reading course in medieval Latin. In August, I attended a four-day seminar on medieval theologians and theological anthropology. Via Zoom, I also gave a talk on Hildegard of Bingen for a high school in Oklahoma and attended an inter-faith conference on the topic of religion in the time of COVID. The fellowship afforded me time to pursue these opportunities and to make considerable progress on my dissertation proposal.


Romance Studies

Camille Chanod

I continued my research in Italy, and wrote one chapter of my dissertation. The COVID crisis made it difficult for me to access documents in library and archives—both were closed. However, I was able to access some online material and to re-organize my plans.

Jessica Doyle

During my summer I was working on finding sources for a research project which I have been writing for being published. I also was working on my portfolio by revising my paper from past courses. Lastly, I was working on improving my Spanish with a combination of online programs from a Spanish institute and a private lesson with a Spanish professor form Mexico. Initially, my plans were to spend the summer in Columbia as part of my research and Spanish acquisition, which is crucial for my program since I will be teaching Spanish soon. However, COVID-19 forced a change of plans.

Samar Miled

Because of COVID, my summer plans got disrupted. I was unable to travel to do my research, so I stayed in the U.S. the whole time. The Summer Research Fellowship helped me with paying for rent and have a decent summer in North Carolina. I was able to buy some books and study from home. 

Elia Romera Figueroa

Originally, I was planning to travel to Spain to conduct research at different Spanish Archives. I did manage to make it to Spain, but due to COVID-19 archive research was very restricted and it was particularly difficult to access them. Therefore, I decided to focus exclusively on one archive, Hemeroteca Española, where I located magazines that helped me to formulate my thesis proposal.

Being in Spain was also useful to participating in the three days congress ALCESXXI. While the panels took place online, it was helpful to be in the same time zone as other panelists. Since for a good part of the summer there were stay-at-home orders in Spain, I used this time to write both a book review that has been published in Contrapulso magazine, and my dissertation proposal, which will now be defended in October 2020. Finally, being in Spain helped me to locate new bibliography, which I have been able to track down at the Spanish National Library in Madrid.



Aidan Combs

I spent most of summer 2020 studying a type of model that I was unfamiliar with so that I could use it to rework a project I started during the school year. I haven’t finished applying it to the project yet, but I made significant progress in furthering my understanding of it. I also performed some descriptive analysis for a Bass Connections project and helped administer the 2020 Summer Institute in Computational Social Science, an online workshop for graduate students and early-career faculty.

Anna Holleman

I spent most of summer 2020 reading for my comprehensive exam in sociology of religion. I also conducted qualitative interviews for a project on the Sanctuary Movement and began a manuscript on female clergy health.

Crystal Peoples

During the summer of 2020, I was able to write and submit a pedagogical piece based on student data from a course I taught in spring 2020. I was also able to revise and resubmit an article I wrote with my dissertation chair. Finally, I was able to further analysis on one chapter of my dissertation.

Joseph Quinn

While the pandemic affected my ability to move forward with my proposed dissertation plans, funding from The Graduate School allowed me to redesign the proposal and conduct new studies. One project from these efforts, a social exchange experiment about interactions between different groups online, is in the field this fall.

In addition to dissertation work, funding through the Summer Research Fellowship allowed me to collect and analyze data for two articles that I co-authored and submitted to journals in September, and gave me the bandwidth to complete a book chapter on computational modeling strategies that has been accepted for publication. I am very grateful for the opportunity to make progress on both my dissertation and related research projects this summer, as this progress will allow me to use the fall and winter to disseminate my findings at (virtual) conferences and to conduct studies that build on these efforts.

Chengzuo Tang

For summer 2020 I have been consistently focused on my graduate studies in transition to the second year of the Ph.D. program, and the Summer Research Fellowship contributes a lot by supporting my basic life and study needs here in Durham. One of the central tasks, for example, is to finish the first-year essay exam in our department as required, which prepares the theoretical cornerstone for the incoming second-year paper project. Also, I have been able to host multiple American Sociological Association Annual Meeting’s virtual sessions through the online meeting tools, which can hardly be done in the absence of this fellowship support. It is indeed a quite different but equally fulfilling summer time for me.

Gabriel Varela

I completed the required first-year exams for the program, which consists of two 8,000-word literature reviews that dissect the influence of a seed work on the field of sociology.

I participated in the Summer Institute in Computational Social Science (SICSS), at the Rutgers site, where I worked to produce a pipeline to download and analyze YouTube video transcripts, allowing us to map out how likely certain media are to talk about other countries than their own.

I also spent some time during the summer supporting Californians in the hotel industry apply for unemployment benefits, and reflecting on my own position and responsibility amidst the BLM tidal wave.  

Ruth Wygle

I spent the summer continuing work on my second-year paper, which examines how recidivism (whether or not and how quickly an individual becomes incarcerated again after being released) outcomes differ based on whether or not an individual was confined in a prison or a jail.

My interest in the role of jails in the US criminal justice system has to do primarily with the way jails have changed in form and function as a result of the era of mass incarceration. At their inception, jails were meant to be holding places for individuals awaiting criminal conviction and imprisonment. Over time, jails have maintained this role while also taking on several others, including being increasingly tasked with confining convicted individuals as a way to alleviate the burden of overcrowding in state-run prisons.

My analysis takes advantage of techniques for analyzing survival times that have been well-established in the field of demography. I construct Kaplan-Meier curves to visualize the instantaneous probability of survival (i.e., not recidivating) assuming survival (i.e., not recidivating) to a given point. I subsequently construct Cox proportional hazard models to see the association between survival times and predictor variables.

Working on this paper also allowed me to jumpstart the planning process for my dissertation and prepare to participate in the International Max Planck Research School for Population, Health and Data Science (IMPRS-PHDS) program, to which I was accepted this summer.


Statistical Science

Jordan Bryan

Early in the summer, I composed and submitted an article for publication in Biostatistics. The article presents a method for using large genomics datasets as external information that can help power hypothesis tests in future experiments. Later in the summer, I worked on revisions for the article. I also began a new research project, for which tools from optimal transport are used to do statistical inference with multivariate count and proportion data.

Raphael Morsomme

I joined a research project under the supervision of Professor Jason Xu. We have been developing new methodology for fitting stochastic epidemic models. In particular, we are working on a novel data augmentation scheme for such models.

Zhuoqun Wang Wang

During summer 2020, I was working on building statistical models for 16S sequencing data under the mentorship of Dr. Li Ma from Department of Statistical Science. Specifically, I started from preprocessing the raw sequencing data with bioinformatics pipelines, performed exploratory analysis, and explored a new generative model for microbiome compositions.

In all, I spent the summer in a way that is close to what I planned, except that things were moved online. I had weekly video calls with my advisor to discuss the projects, and I participated online group meetings and joint meetings with collaborators.

Keru Wu

This summer I stayed at home in Durham and did research with my advisor remotely. I mainly worked with Professor Yuansi Chen on Markov Chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) mixing time analysis (theory). I summarized three typical approaches in this field: conductance, stochastic differential equations, and Lyapunov functions. Then we used some of these techniques to do the following researches.

We focused on how to use Lyapunov function and coupling technique to get the best mixing time upper bound for Hamiltonian Monte Carlo (HMC). As a result, we improved the choice of step size in HMC to be of order O(1/d), where d is the dimension.  We also worked on MCMC mixing time lower bounds and how they can be applied to specific algorithms such as MALA and MRW. There’s little literature in this direction, and we are still developing theoretic results.

Anna Yanchenko

My research is focused on time series modeling and this summer I focused specifically on personalized forecasting in a retail setting. Predicting individual purchasing trends can be very challenging, due to noisy and heterogeneous data across individuals. However, there is some structure in the data, in particular information about the types of items purchased. This summer, I focused on interpretable, hierarchical models that utilize structure inherent in the data to improve individual level forecasts. Thanks to the Summer Research Fellowship support, I was able to finalize results and begin drafting an upcoming paper based on this summer work.