What Is AHEAD?

**Update**: As of Fall 2022, the AHEAD program is now a year-long program entitled Health and Environment Scholars @Duke (HESP). For more information and how to apply, visit sites.duke.edu/hesp.

Currently, three Nicholas School supported programs work to address environmental injustice and the need for a more diverse workforce and student population in environmental health fields in Durham.
These programs include:
  • The Environmental Science Summer Program (ESSP) – an annual two week summer program where high school students learn about environmental studies through fieldwork,
  • HackBio – intensive day programs to engage high school students in experiential learning and broaden their exposure to STEM careers, and
  • bioSTEMs – a student organization providing school year-long environmental science, health, and college advising enrichment to students at Northern High School.
These three programs are combining this Spring and beyond in an exciting new merger – the Applying Health and Environmental Across Disciplines (AHEAD) program led by Drs. Nicolette Cagle, Jason Somarelli, and Meagan Dunphy-Daly. AHEAD will foster mentor relationships and enhance environmental health involvement among underserved Durham Public Schools high school students.

AHEAD’s Vision and Structure

Our vision is to cultivate environmental leaders in our own community. The ecotoxicologists, oceanographers, environmental journalists, and civil engineers of tomorrow need high-quality, real-world experience today.

Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment has partnered with Durham Public Schools to select talented and under-served high school students in Durham Public Schools from diverse cultural and socio-economic backgrounds, to participate in a semester-long environmental science program at Duke University featuring a hybrid program featuring biweekly zoom sessions with a variety of guest speakers as well as several weekend field trips and lab experiences. The program will run from January 20 – April 9 in the Spring of 2022.

Students selected for our program have the opportunity to:

  • Work with outstanding interdisciplinary faculty
  • Explore local environmental issues
  • Collect data in the field
  • Interact with experts in a range of environmental fields
  • Receive training with the Nicholas School’s own first-rate Career Services professionals
  • Learn to give a presentation, ace an interview, and create a resume
  • Receive one-on-one college counseling

Students participating in the Applying Health and Environmental Across Disciplines (AHEAD) at Duke are situated in the heart of main campus. During the program, students experience the Nicholas School of the Environment’s state-of-the-art facilities and Duke’s renowned laboratories. 

This spring, AHEAD students will investigate the four environmental health focused topics Plastics, Genetics/ Epidemiology, Water Quality, and Food Production/ Systems. Students will utilize Duke facilities and travel to field sites such as the Duke Marine Lab, Hilltop Hog Farms, and labs on Duke’s campus to collect and process data, as well as learn how to communicate their findings. The program will culminate in a final presentation on what they have learned and gained from the program by the students to parents and visitors.

With a strong emphasis on career development, the Environmental Science Summer Program at Duke positions students for success in college and careers in the environment.

This program is supported by generous funding from Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment and NSF’s Physical Oceanography Program