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2017 Participants

Ali Daraeepour (Environment)

Ali Daraeepour is a Ph.D. candidate in the Nicholas School of Environment. His research focuses on the evolution of electricity market design to enhance the grid integration of intermittent renewable energy resources and power system efficiency. Previously, he worked as an engineer and consultant in projects addressing the engineering, investment, and efficiency challenges of regional and national power system stakeholders in Iran. He earned his B.S. and M.S. degree in power systems respectively from the Azad University and Semnan University in Iran. Ali is interested in the economic and investment implications of energy and environmental regulations in the electric energy sector.

Yi Ding (Pharmacology and Cancer Biology)

Yi Ding is a fifth-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology. Before coming to Duke, Yi received her bachelors degree in pharmaceutical sciences from Peking University in Mainland China, where she realized her passion for the molecular biology of drug development. Her current research focuses on understanding the mechanisms mediating resistance in breast cancer. Besides research, Yi has a strong interest in science communication and technology translation. She is running a channel of self-media reporting biotech startups with the hope of introducing up-to-date technology to the general public. Outside work, Yi plays table tennis and piano and practices Tai Chi. She enjoys reading, meeting friends and traveling as well.

Fiona Duan (Economics)

Fiona Duan is a second-year master's student in Economics. She earned her B.S. in Actuarial Mathematics and Finance from the University of Pittsburgh. Fiona has internship experience in three countries: the United States, Germany and China. For the past summer, Fiona interned as an analyst in a global reinsurance company in Charlotte, NC and found her passion for helping organizations improve efficiency by using analytical methods. In her leisure time, she enjoys snowboarding, playing the piano, exploring new environments, and hanging out with friends.

Margaret Gruen (Evolutionary Anthropology)

Margaret Gruen, DVM, PhD, is a postdoctoral associate in the Evolutionary Anthropology department at Duke. She is a veterinarian, with board-certification in Veterinary Behavior. She spent the past several years at North Carolina State University's College of Veterinary Medicine, and recently completed a PhD in Comparative Biomedical Sciences with a project focused on understanding chronic pain in cats with naturally occurring degenerative joint disease. Prior to that, she was part of the NCSU-CVM Behavioral Medicine Service, and treated dogs and cats with behavioral disorders. At Duke, she studies puppy development and the impact of animal-assisted therapies. In her free time, she spends time with her husband and two kids.

Renpeng Gu (Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science)

Renpeng Gu is a fifth-year Ph.D. candidate in Materials Science. Before coming to Duke, he received his M.S. at the University of Western Ontario in Canada and B.E. at Zhejiang University in China, where he studied polymer materials. His current Ph.D. research is focused on engineering biomaterials for targeted drug delivery. Renpeng hopes to invent novel technologies and discover new materials that can enhance drug efficacy, reduce the side effects of treatment, and improve quality of life for patients. Renpeng is enthusiastic about participating in public science outreach programs. He also enjoys photography and drawing.

Sairam Jabba (Anesthesiology)

Sairam Jabba, DVM, PhD is a postdoctoral associate in the Department of Anesthesiology at Duke. He grew up in the coastal town of Visakhapatnam in South India. He received his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree from India and worked as a large animal veterinarian for a year. Later, he earned a PhD in Pharmacology in the USA. In his current lab, he is working on sensory ion-channels called TRP ion-channels, which are involved in temperature, chemical, and pain sensing. His research involves understanding the role of these channels in the sensory and inflammatory effects of toxic environmental chemicals including nicotinic products upon exposure. Sairam wants to join a research organization that would target these ion-channels for therapeutic purposes. In his down time, he likes watching sports and playing squash. 

Annie Jeong (Genetics and Genomics)

Annie Jeong is a sixth-year Ph.D. candidate in the University Program in Genetics and Genomics and the Department of Biology. Her dissertation research explores the genetic basis of copper tolerance in the yellow monkeyflower. Using evolutionary theories and genetic methods, she studies how populations survive in harsh soil environments and what genes allow them to do so. Throughout her graduate experience, Annie has developed a strong interest in finding ways to improve both undergraduate and graduate education through experiential learning, mentoring, and professional development programming. In her free time, Annie enjoys playing with her dog, trying new restaurants, going on road-trips, and binge-watching tv shows.

Loise Ng'ang'a (Global Health)

Loise Ng’ang’a is a global health master’s student at the Duke Global Health Institute. She is interested in health system strengthening, non-communicable diseases, and health equity, especially for underserved populations. Her current research focuses on determining sex differences in modifiable risk factors for Atrial Fibrillation. Loise received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from Moi University, Kenya and has experience working in the public and private health sector in Kenya. She aspires to use her expertise towards improving the health of individuals around the world. To start a conversation with Loise, ask her about her favorite cultural meal.

Meghan O’Neil (English)

Meghan O’Neil is a Ph.D. candidate in the English Department. Her research and teaching interests are broadly interdisciplinary, ranging from contemporary literature to cultural geography to the philosophy of history. An enthusiastic believer in collaboration and mentorship across disciplines, Meghan helped design, facilitate, and lead two unique Bass Connections projects, and she currently serves as co-chair of the Bass Connections Student Advisory Council, where she advocates for innovative approaches to graduate and undergraduate education. Meghan is also passionate about the outdoors and documentary photography. In her spare time, you’ll probably find her running, hiking with her dog, or taking photos in and around Durham.

Nadine Sanchez (Global Health)

Nadine Sanchez is a first-year master’s student in Global Health at the Duke Global Health Institute. She holds a B.S. in neuroscience with a minor in anthropology from the University of California, Los Angeles.  Her current research involves estimating the countrywide prevalence of epilepsy in Uganda. Nadine is interested in finding solutions to alleviate the burden of neurological disorders in resource-constrained settings. In her spare time, Nadine enjoys reading, baking, playing the piano, and visiting her home state of New Mexico. 

Juliane Totzke (Pharmacology and Cancer Biology)

Juliane Totzke is a third-year student in the Pharmacology program. Her research focuses on the characterization and biochemical characterization of a small molecule inhibitor of TAK1, a protein that has been identified to play a role in cancer metastasis and the pathogenesis of rheumatoid arthritis. In her free time, Juliane enjoys running, swimming, and cycling and is also engaged in community outreach opportunities like volunteering at the Cancer Center and mentoring middle school students in the Sensor Saturday Academy.  

Jessie Uehling (Genetics & Genomics)

Jessie is a PhD student in the University Program for Genetics & Genomics. For her dissertation research, she is using bacterial and fungal genomics to generate and test hypotheses about the evolution of symbioses. Originally from Boise ID, Jessie studied plant and fungal biology at Humboldt State University before coming to Duke. During her master’s research (also at HSU), she lived in the Amazon rainforest where she researched fungi, and found and described new species of plant associated fungi. In the future, she hopes to continue researching fungal symbioses and applications that will improve our quality of life. 

Karolina Woroniecka (Pathology)

Karolina Woroniecka is a fourth-year MD PhD candidate currently in her second year of PhD training in the Department of Pathology. Her research focuses on enhancing immune responses against brain cancer through overcoming “T cell exhaustion.” In addition to her research, she enjoys teaching as a USMLE Step 1 and Step 2 tutor for medical students. Upon completion of her dual degrees, Karolina aspires to pursue a career as a physician-scientist at the forefront of translational research in cancer immunotherapy. In her spare time, she enjoys collecting eggs from her backyard chickens and hiking with her husband and dog.

Xin Yu (Pathology)

Xin is a fourth-year PhD candidate in Pathology. She earned her B.S. from Sun Yat-sen University in China and spent two years working in the drug R&D sector of Sinopharm Co.Ltd before coming to Duke. Her current research involves development of immunotherapies in glioblastoma patients. Xin loves working with laboratory animals. She is also an active supporter for Animals Asia Foundation, a charity that seeks to end cruelty to animals in Asia. In her spare time, she enjoys visiting camel and llama farms.  

Wanxin Yuan (Electrical & Computer Engineering)

Wanxin Yuan is a first-year master student in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Duke University. She is deeply interested in electric motor design and data mining. She received her B.S. in Electrical Engineering and Automation from Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics in China. She is working to combine traditional electric motors with advanced data mining techniques, and to design novel electric motor drives with higher efficiency and better performance. In her spare time, she enjoys listening to music, watching movies, and travelling the world.