The Graduate School’s Few-Glasson Alumni Society has welcomed three new members this year:
- Howard Conyers (Ph.D.’09 Mechanical Engineering), an aerospace engineer at NASA and owner of Conyers Family BBQ
- Bogdan Epureanu (Ph.D.’99 Mechanical Engineering), Arthur F. Thurnau Professor in the University of Michigan Department of Mechanical Engineering
- Kristian Lum (Ph.D.’10 Statistical Science), a research associate professor at the University of Chicago Data Science Institute and a lead statistician at the nonprofit Human Rights Data Analysis Group
First nominated by members of the Duke community, Conyers, Epureanu, and Lum were then reviewed by a committee of Duke leadership, faculty, and staff. We are excited to recognize and celebrate these 2023 inductees, whose distinct areas of influence demonstrate the impressive range that so often characterizes Duke Graduate School alumni. Read below for brief overviews of their accomplishments and continued contributions to Duke!
Ph.D.’09 Mechanical Engineering
Building on his Duke engineering degree, Howard Conyers works as an aerospace engineer at NASA’s Stennis Space Center. The recipient of an Early Career Initiative grant in 2015, Conyers served as the principal investigator for the HiDyRS-X project, a high dynamic range camera that recorded a massive booster test for NASA in unprecedented detail.
Speaking to his doctoral training experience, Dr. Conyers says, “Duke University helped me to understand the importance of ownership of ideas and being of service to others, because your findings could have global impact.”
However, Dr. Conyers is perhaps best known for his culinary contributions, and for representing the cultural histories “cooked in,” as it were, to food. His penchant for whole-hog barbecue has earned him the attention of noteworthy publications like Atlas Obscura and The New York Times, as well as the BBQ Beat podcast and the Cooking Channel’s Man Fire Food. His expertise doesn’t stop there: detailing his efforts in collecting the oral histories of black Southern pitmasters, Bon Appétit lauded him for “tracing Black ingenuity through barbecue.” In both his cooking and collecting endeavors, he pays testament to black Southerners’ pivotal role in shaping American culture and culinary history.
As a board member for Radical Xchange, and through initiatives like the #100AcresProject, Dr. Conyers demonstrates his dedication to underserved communities. His investment in mentorship and representation carries over to his work at Duke, where he was the keynote speaker for the Duke University Center of Exemplary Mentoring’s 2022 Research Summit.
Dr. Conyers shares some inspiring advice to current graduate students at Duke:
“In life, bring your authentic and whole self to the universe so others can see. Working to be someone other than you will not get you the results you desire in this world, as you have gifts that no one else has to offer. Dream big—because in your dreams other people's dreams are embedded whom you may never know and will inspire.”
Ph.D.’99 Mechanical Engineering
In addition to his professorship in the University of Michigan’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, Bogdan Epureanu serves as director of the Automotive Research Center, which partners with academic, government, and industry leaders to develop cutting-edge modeling and simulation technology for ground vehicle systems. His research focuses on biological and epidemiological systems, aerospace and automotive structures, and turbomachinery.
With over 280 publications, Dr. Epureanu has been honored with a number of awards for his research and excellence as an educator. Most recently, he received the 2021 Archie Higdon Distinguished Educator Award from the American Society for Engineering Education, recognizing his outstanding contributions to engineering mechanics education.
In continued support of Duke, Dr. Epureanu serves on the Board of Directors for the Duke chapter of Pi Tau Sigma, the International Honor Society for Mechanical Engineers. Moreover, he recently served as a member of the GUIde 6 Consortium, the sixth iteration of a pre-competitive research group launched in the early 1990s and spearheaded by Duke since 2008. Representing the University of Michigan, Epureanu collaborated on the project, “Next Generation Dampers and Nonlinear Damping Identification.”
Ph.D.’10 Statistical Science
Previously a research assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania, Kristian Lum is now a research associate professor at the University of Chicago’s Data Science Institute, where she uses statistical analysis to investigate the real-world implications of machine learning and artificial intelligence. Named a National Academy of Sciences Kavli Fellow in 2022, she is also a founding member of the Executive Committee of the ACM conference on Fairness, Accountability, and Transparency (FAccT).
In addition to her academic work, Lum has made waves in the industry and nonprofit sectors through her former role at Twitter (now known as “X”) and currently as the lead statistician at the Human Rights Data Analysis Group. Publications like Bloomberg Businessweek and Pacific Standard have highlighted her efforts to acknowledge and confront biases in the criminal justice system’s use of algorithms. Her own cowritten article for the ACLU demonstrates a new way for risk assessment instruments to be used “to aid public defenders and accused persons, instead of prosecutors and judges” by predicting—and, hopefully, preventing—unreasonably long sentences.
Underscoring the importance of using algorithms responsibly, Lum told the audience at the inaugural FAccT conference, “We need to understand fairness in the broader context in which our software will operate. We need to worry about whether we're legitimizing unfair practices with a stance that ‘science or technology says this is fair.’”
Dr. Lum has been previously recognized for her achievements as a Duke alumna, earning the Charles A. Dukes Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service in 2021. As we embark on an era defined by a significantly heightened use of AI, we are excited to stay tuned to Lum’s career and the ethical considerations she brings to the forefront.