Kate Thomas, a Ph.D. student in Biology, was among 18 Duke University students who received Graduate Student Training Enhancement Grants (GSTEG) in 2017-18 from the Office of the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies for training beyond their core disciplines. Her faculty mentor is Sönke Johnsen. She shared an update:
GSTEG funding allowed me to spend two months working on an interdisciplinary project that was outside the scope of my dissertation research. I wanted to improve my skills in coding and computational modeling, so I proposed to undertake a coding-intensive research project to work with a detailed record of over 30 years of deep-sea observations at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI).
I was mentored by Steve Haddock (coauthor of the book Practical Computing for Biologists) and Anela Choy at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in working with huge datasets using computational tools. I spent two months in residence at MBARI using physical oceanographic data collected at sea to model light levels in the deep ocean and test how these correlate to patterns of animal distributions.
This project expanded the scope of my scientific training and how I think about my future research goals. In addition, it has turned into an ongoing collaboration across three institutions and a long-term effort to understand the variability of midwater light fields and their effects on deep-sea communities.
Thomas graduated this semester and will start a postdoc in August at the Natural History Museum in London.
This internal funding mechanism from the Office of the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies encourages doctoral and master’s students to step away from their core research and training to acquire skills, knowledge, or co-curricular experiences that will give them new perspectives on their research agendas. Graduate Student Training Enhancement Grants are intended to deepen preparation for academic positions and other career trajectories.