You are here

2018 Participants

Fawaz AlenziFawaz Alenezi (Cardiology Department)

Fawaz Alenzi, MD, is a cardiologist and a postdoc associate working at Duke Heart Center. He conducts medical research on the derivation and validation of novel echocardiographic approaches to myocardial deformation and cardiac function. His research has focused on using echocardiographic methods to understand cardiac diseases through in depth pheno-typing, and heart failure morphology. This work has led to publishing several abstracts, manuscripts and several manuscripts that are currently under review. He has also developed heart failure echocardiographic protocols for site based research projects and has been engaged in teaching medical students rotating in echocardiography for the last 5 years.

Samagya BanskotaSamagya Banskota (Biomedical Engineering)

Samagya is a fifth-year PhD candidate in the Biomedical Engineering Department. Her graduate research focuses on engineering novel polypeptide based biomaterials that can be used to deliver chemotherapeutics with higher efficacy and lower toxicity. Before joining Duke, she went to Penn State where she earned her undergraduate degree in Bioengineering. In her free time, she enjoys going to group fitness classes at Duke gym, watching tennis, cooking and trying out new restaurants in the area.

Grace BeggsGrace Beggs (Biochemistry)

Grace is a third-year PhD candidate in Biochemistry. To pursue a broad graduate education in the biomedical sciences, Grace entered Duke through the Cell and Molecular Biology program, which allows students to explore multiple disciplines during the first two years of their doctoral training. Her current research focuses on the structure and function of proteins that contribute to antibiotic resistance in pathogenic bacteria. Grace is also interested in increasing diversity in STEM and has organized and participated in outreach events and programming through Duke SACNAS (Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science) and Duke BioCoRE. Outside of science, Grace enjoys salsa dancing, reading, and hiking.

Yingxuan ChenYingxuan Chen (Medical Physics)

Yingxuan Chen is second-year PhD student in the Duke Medical Physics program. She earned her MS degree from the same program at Duke University. After graduating with her master's she spent two years working as a research and development engineer at GE Healthcare in Beijing, China, where she realized her passion for research on medical imaging and translating technology into clinical uses. Her research is focused on medical image reconstruction and image processing for image-guided radiation therapy to improve tumor localization. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, watching movies, hiking and traveling with friends.

Jessica ChoiJessica Choi (Global Health)

Jessica Choi is a first-year master’s student at the Duke Global Health Institute (DGHI). She graduated from the University of Puget Sound with a BS in Natural Science and completed post-baccalaureate work at the University of Oregon (UO). Prior to joining DGHI, she worked in the research field in institutions such as UO, University of Pittsburgh Children’s Hospital, and the National Institutes of Health. For her current research, she will be validating a rapid diagnostic tool that detects a bacterial disease, melioidosis, in Malaysia. She spends her leisure time volunteering, reading, and watching films.

Oriol ColomésOriol Colomés (Civil and Environmental Engineering)

Oriol Colomés, PhD, is a postdoctoral associate in the Civil and Environmental Engineering department at Duke. He earned a PhD in Civil Engineering at the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya in Spain. His main research focuses on the computational engineering field, developing tools to accurately and efficiently simulate physical phenomena of interest in many engineering problems. He aspires to solve engineering problems that are not within reach with the currently available computational methods. When not in the office, you can find him enjoying the outdoors: playing volleyball, running, taking pictures or hanging out with people.

Joanne DaiJoanne Dai (Pharmacology and Cancer Biology)

Joanne Dai is a fifth-year PhD candidate in the Department of Molecular Cancer Biology. Her research focuses on how the Epstein-Barr virus hijacks the regulation of apoptosis, or programmed cell death, in infected B cells and how this contributes to tumorigenesis and the establishment of latent infection. Originally from California, Joanne graduated from UC Berkeley in 2012 and worked as a research assistant at UCSF, where she studied breast cancer development and metastasis. She hopes to continue her studies in cancer development and is pursuing postdoc opportunities. In her spare time, she enjoys playing and watching basketball.

Travis DauwalterTravis Dauwalter (Public Policy Studies)

Travis Dauwalter is a first year PhD Student at the Sanford School of Public Policy. His research will focus on how electricity markets can be designed to reduce inequities. He also has an interest in the welfare impacts of electrifying communities in developing nations. Previously, he was the Director of Business Development for an Engineering, Procurement, and Construction firm that designs and constructs mid-size power plants. He earned a BS in Aeronautical Engineering from the United States Air Force Academy, an MBA from Pennsylvania State University, and an MA in Economics from Columbia University. Travis is married with two young children. He has no free time.

Anh DoAnh Do (Political Science)

Anh Do is originally from Vietnam. She is a fifth-year PhD candidate in Political Economy. Her research interests include migration, educational and gender inequality with a focus on Southeast Asia. Her dissertation examines the effects of high-skilled migration on human capital formation in Malaysia and Vietnam. Following her PhD completion, she aspires to work toward improving the quality of life for the poor in low and middle income countries.

Rebekah DummRebekah Dumm (Molecular Genetics and Microbiology)

Rebekah Dumm is a third-year PhD candidate in the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology. Her research is focused on the biology of infectious respiratory diseases, ranging from viral pathogenesis to host tissue repair mechanisms. Throughout this work she has developed an appreciation for the multifaceted nature of infectious disease and hopes to pursue clinically focused research in the future. In her free time Rebekah can be found enjoying the local food scene, travelling on weekends and exploring state parks.

Shannon EsherShannon Esher (Molecular Genetics and Microbiology)

Shannon Esher is a PhD candidate in the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology. Prior to coming to Duke, she received dual bachelor’s degrees in Biochemistry and Biological Sciences from Virginia Tech. Her dissertation research is focused on understanding how pathogenic fungi sense and respond to the host environment. Using the tools of fungal genetics, she is studying how the fungus Cryptococcus neoformans remodels its cell surface to facilitate its survival within the infected host. Shannon aspires to a career on the academic track where she can continue to work on microbial pathogenesis and fungal immunology. In her spare time she enjoys reading, running, crafting, and traveling.

Elena GhanaimElena Ghanaim (Bioethics and Science Policy)

Elena Ghanaim is a master’s student in Bioethics and Science Policy. She earned her BA in Genetics from Rutgers University with minors in Philosophy and Psychology. Before coming to Duke, Elena was a post-baccalaureate IRTA fellow at the National Institutes of Health for two years. Elena is interested in genomics and health policy. In her free time she enjoys staying active, reading, and spending time with family and friends.

Maya KaelbererMaya Kaelberer (Medicine and Gastroenterology)

Maya Kaelberer, PhD, received her PhD in Cellular and Molecular Physiology from Yale University. For her doctoral work she used RNA sequencing to define how inflammation affects vagal nodose neurons. As a postdoctoral fellow in the Bohórquez Laboratory, Maya uses single cell sequencing and intravital imaging to discern how sensory function in the gut is integrated by the vagus nerve. Maya’s ambition is to become an independent scientist in the field of sensory neurobiology. Maya has focused her training in this area because she believes a comprehensive understanding of this neural circuitry will provide a foundation to alleviate gastrointestinal symptoms.

Melissa KayMelissa Kay (Global Health)

Melissa Kay, PhD, is a Postdoctoral Associate at the Duke Center for Childhood Obesity Research and at the Duke Global Digital Health Science Center. She is interested in the connection between maternal and infant diet. Her research focuses on the implementation and dissemination of innovative digital health interventions to improve diet quality. Melissa is from Massachusetts where she completed her BA at the College of the Holy Cross and MS/MPH at Tufts University. She is also a Registered Dietitian. Melissa came to North Carolina 7 years ago as a fellow from the CDC and stayed to complete her PhD in Nutrition at UNC.

David KearneyDavid Kearney (Political Science)

David Kearney is a 5th year PhD candidate in the Department of Political Science at Duke University. His present research explores authoritarian institutions and Chinese politics. He was a translator and doctoral fellow at Zhejiang University and spent a summer at National Taiwan University on a Foreign Language and Areas Studies Grant. He developed his doctoral fieldwork in mainland China on a James B. Duke International Research Travel Fellowship and is a member of the Society of Duke Fellows. In his free time David is a photography enthusiast and is presently enjoying the versatility of the Lumix DMC-G7K.

Yanzhen (Jasmine) Li (Biomedical Engineering)

Yanzhen (Jasmine) Li is a PhD candidate in Biomedical Engineering. Her research aims to elucidate how the miscommunication between cells in the heart affect cardiac function and thus lead to the progression of heart failure. Awarded a pre-doctoral fellowship by the American Heart Association, Yanzhen is combining a mouse model of heart failure and 3D tissue engineering techniques along with molecular and histological tools to discover novel mechanisms underlying heart failure in the hope of developing more effective therapeutic strategies for treating heart disease. Prior to Duke, Yanzhen earned her MS from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign studying stem cell biology.

Zhiping MaoZhiping Mao (Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science)

Mao is a third-year PhD student in mechanical engineering. His research focuses on the fluid-structure interactions in aircraft engines to ensure the safety of flights. Originally from China, he received his bachelor’s degree from Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and two master’s degrees from Duke and the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden. Mao has a strong interest in technology and business. He is currently the chair of student board at American Societies of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), and the president of Duke APD Consulting Club. In his leisure time, Mao enjoys cooking, extensive reading and outdoor sports.

Sean PiwarskiSean Piwarski (Chemistry)

Sean Piwarski, PhD, is a postdoctoral research associate in the Chemistry department at Duke. He is a cancer biologist, specializing in environmental and small molecule toxicology. He completed his graduate studies at Marshall University, earning his PhD in Biomedical Sciences with a project focused on identifying novel cancer therapies by understanding how environmental toxins and compounds regulate cell signaling pathways in breast cancer. At Duke he researches RNA targeting therapies for metastatic prostate cancer. In his free time he spends time with his three dogs and works part-time as a freelance artist.

Nicholas RogersNicholas Rogers (Civil and Environmental Engineering)

Nicholas Rogers is a second-year PhD candidate in the civil and environmental engineering department at Duke. He received his BS in chemical engineering, with a focus in environmental engineering and sustainability, from the University of Maryland Baltimore County. Prior to enrolling at Duke, he worked with the Maryland State Department of Natural Resources on projects relating to Chesapeake Bay preservation. At Duke his research focuses on understanding fungal pathogenicity and utilizing methods in surface chemistry to abate virulence towards plants. His hobbies include playing sports, exercising, traveling, playing music, and an occasional nap.

Stephanie StefanskiStephanie Stefanski (Environmental Policy)

Stephanie Stefanski is an Argentine-American 4th year PhD Candidate in Environmental Economics at the Nicholas School of the Environment. Her research evaluates the economic and ecological outcomes of environmental policy design in Argentine fisheries. Previously, she worked on her Master’s thesis to assess economic values for recreational marine wildlife viewing in Peninsula Valdes, (Patagonia) Argentina, environmental and economic impacts of hydropower development in Chile with the Futaleufu Riverkeeper, sustainable forestry in Panama, and sustainable tourism practices in Argentina, Canada, Mexico, and Guyana. Stephanie complements her work with outdoor leadership through her DukeBOLD participation and as a scuba Divemaster and tourism guide. Stephanie holds a Master’s of Environmental Science from the Yale School of Forestry and a BS in Economics and a BA in Political Economy from Tulane University.