Ashle Page received a master’s degree in Bioethics and Science Policy from Duke. She also received bachelor’s degrees in Chemical Engineering and Polymer & Color Chemistry from NC State and a juris doctor from UNC. While a student in The Graduate School, she served as an Associate Editor of the Duke Science Review as well as a mentor through Duke F1RSTS. She now works with emerging technologies in intellectual property, and stays connected with Duke through the Duke Hospital Ethics Committee, Triangle Regional Board, and Alumni Admissions Advisory Council.
WHAT LED YOU TO PURSUE A GRADUATE DEGREE IN BIOETHICS AND SCIENCE POLICY?
I did not start out in undergrad saying, “I’m going to study bioethics and science policy.” But it is something that I learned to really be interested in through my research and entrepreneurial experiences—the interdisciplinary nature of technology, policy, ethics and law. As an undergrad, I studied engineering and chemistry, so I enjoyed the technical aspects of science. I loved going into the lab and doing research projects. To me that was the best way to learn, because I could see a problem and really understand the underlying causes. Research has provided me with both an overarching perspective of how science affects society, and a more microscopic perspective of how it affects people on an individual level.
I enjoyed being able to delve into science in a very technical way, but I also really enjoyed getting involved outside of the classroom and research lab, seeking the broader implications of the world beyond. Sometimes I think that as a scientist, you can get caught up in numbers, data, and statistics. I realized that there is often a gap between the technical procedure of science and how it is applied in the real world. So, I tried to get outside the lab to view different perspectives and to better understand the people and issues behind the numbers. I wanted to find out the reasons underlying the research. When I participated in volunteer work and global experiences, I felt more fulfilled because I was able to see firsthand: This is why the data matters—it has a direct impact on issues facing society—everything from environmental issues and keeping astronauts safe, to the COVID-19 pandemic and technology affecting daily life. My volunteer experiences allowed me to learn to be part of a community and recognize the instrumental function technology plays in our society. I began to gravitate toward the interdisciplinary nature of what I was studying.
HOW DID YOU END UP AT DUKE?
I had witnessed firsthand Duke’s investment in students when I was in the Duke TIP program in middle school and high school. Fast forward to looking at graduate programs, I knew I wanted to join a program that was on the forefront of emerging issues. When I happened upon the Bioethics and Science Policy program at Duke and learned about its focus on combining scholarship and practice, I knew I was at home. The program proved to be even more than I expected, allowing me to excel in my intellectual endeavors while putting into practice technology ethics in real-world applications.
The pressing issues of our time will inevitably be driven by science and technology. Addressing tough issues demands an interdisciplinary approach. The Duke Bioethics and Science Policy program has prepared me and my fellow graduates to be uniquely situated to tackle present-day challenges. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to learn, engage, and collaborate at the forefront of those issues.
WHAT MADE THE PROGRAM AT DUKE SO SPECIAL?
Every moment was a new learning experience. The program’s leadership encouraged me and other students to pursue our own interests, connecting us with different professors, researchers, and industry leaders. That was a powerful and unique aspect of the program that allowed me to build relationships with individuals engaged in real work affecting real people.
From the classes to the final project, I was able to explore a variety of contemporary issues in technology, from AI software and data privacy, to energy and the environment. In my Science, Law, and Policy class, for example, I investigated issues with a Congressional act that addressed lung cancer research. As part of the SciReg Lab, I worked alongside fellow students to draft and submit comments to the Federal Register on pain and medical disabilities, orbital debris in space, and drone safety. Within that process, we consulted experts in respective fields, crafted solutions, and ultimately had a voice in the rule-making of the federal agencies leading technological advancement nationwide.
The program also encouraged students to get outside the classroom, and become involved in organizations, internships, and diverse opportunities on campus and in the community. I had the opportunity to be a part of the Duke Science Review which allowed me to engage in research from other students. I also became involved in the Duke Hospital Ethics Committee where I was able to engage with the community more than I had in other organizations. It is a humbling experience to realize the extent of decision-making that medical professionals, patients, and families are faced with in critical situations. Utilizing the skills I learned in my graduate program has allowed me to provide another perspective to that conversation.
As a graduate student, I was also involved in the Duke F1RSTS group for first-generation graduate students. The mentoring program matched first-generation graduate students with first-generation undergraduates. I still keep up with my mentee today, and I definitely have learned more from her than I think she will ever learn from me! Being a part of that program enabled me to realize the power of relationships and communication. I have tried to apply those principles to build long-term relationships in my government, corporate, startup, and non-profit sector experiences, as well as my work with technology clients. I know that countless times in my life, whether it has been through a formal mentorship program, professor, family member, or fellow student giving me a word of advice, people have invested in me. I strive to continue that process by investing in other people because it supports my own growth and the collective growth of society.
DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE for CURRENT GRADUATE STUDENTS?
Along the way, a number of mentors have advised me that success can be derived from one word: potential. Many times, you will find yourself in unchartered territory—a new stage in life, a difficult class, or a unique work experience—and it may not be what you expected. Maybe you had really high expectations and it did not turn out as you had hoped, or you had the opposite perspective and it turned out to be something you were really interested in. The most constructive approach is to see the potential of every opportunity as something to help you learn and to help build you as a person, using it as leverage to continue moving forward and growing. And it is hard sometimes when you are in the middle of something very challenging to see the light at the end of the tunnel. But when you look back, you can view experiences in a different light. That is something I have gained from engaging in the research process—finding challenges, developing solutions, and repeating the process. Sometimes it works out. Sometimes it doesn’t. But each time, we gain more information to do it better the next time.
Unbridled optimism, on the other hand, can become problematic—you have to be realistic and recognize when things are not working out and you need to change direction. I like to keep a checklist of things that worked out, skills I have gained, and things I need to continue to work on and grow even more. At the end of the day, if you maintain the ability to understand your strengths and weaknesses and engage in self-reflection, you can grow as both an individual and member of your teams, communities, and society as a whole.
No matter what you end up doing, if you are constantly continuing to understand yourself and know the gaps you need to fill to get where you want to be, you have already forged a path to your goals. Incorporating that perspective with a willingness to listen to others and to collaborate with them to fill those gaps is a combination of skills that can empower your success. If we invest in others, learn from their diverse experiences and backgrounds, we can invest in ourselves and all work together to provide a solution to whatever challenges we face.
Recent M.A. graduate, Bioethics and Science Policy
Professional Development Tag
- Careers Beyond Academia
- Professional Adaptability