Provost Internships Awarded to Ph.D. Students for Wide Range of Summer Research Experiences

Photos of 19 Ph.D. student grantees.
Top row: Mohammed Ali, Blake Beaver, James Chu, Rebecca Cook, Devin Cornell, Nova Déjardin; middle row: Natasza Gawlick, Nikolai Hay, Chloe Kaczmarek, Sinja Kuppers, Catherine Ji Won Lee, Botian Liu, Michael McGurk; bottom row: Joseph Ren, Elizabeth Schrader, Lorenza Starace, Nathan Tilley, Christopher Webb, Luoshu Zhang

Nineteen Duke University Ph.D. students have received Provost Internships for Summer 2022. These students will partner with Duke units and external organizations on research projects connected to their intellectual trajectories.

The recipients will be provided with a stipend as well as coverage of summer tuition and the summer health fee. They will also take part in an experiential learning workshop taught by Maria Wisdom or Rachel Coleman, or a relevant Duke Graduate Academy course.

Summer 2022 Provost Internships

Mohammed Ali, Ph.D. in History

Research and Publications, American Historical Association

Blake Beaver, Ph.D. in Literature

Preparation of Scholarly Work for Digital Projects, National Humanities Center

James Chu, Ph.D. in Music

Curriculum Development, Duke Curriculum Development Committee

Rebecca Cook, Ph.D. in Evolutionary Anthropology

Evolutionary Medicine Summer Programs Coordination, Triangle Center for Evolutionary Medicine

Devin Cornell, Ph.D. in Sociology

Data Analysis of Transfer Students, Creative and Liberal Arts, Durham Technical Community College

Nova Déjardin, Ph.D. in History

Humanities and Climate Communications, John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute at Duke University

Natasza Gawlick, Ph.D. in German Studies

Preparation of Scholarly Work for Digital Projects, National Humanities Center

Nikolai Hay, Ph.D. in Biology

Governance and Land Use, Duke Forest

Chloe Kaczmarek, Ph.D. in Romance Studies

Oral History, Historical Division, Duke Divinity School

Sinja Kuppers, Ph.D. in Classical Studies

Curriculum Development, Duke Curriculum Development Committee

Catherine Ji Won Lee, Ph.D. in English

Pedagogical Best Practices for College-Level Synchronous Online Instruction, Creative and Liberal Arts, Durham Technical Community College

Botian Liu, Ph.D. in Philosophy

Research and Grant Writing, The Purpose Project, Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University

Michael McGurk, Ph.D. in English

Preparation of Books for Publishing, Duke University Press

Joseph Ren, Ph.D. in Literature

Preparation of Books for Publishing, Duke University Press, and Qualitative Diversity and Inclusion Research, Duke Public Affairs & Government Relations

Elizabeth Schrader, Ph.D. in Religion

Curriculum Development, Duke Curriculum Development Committee

Lorenza Starace, Ph.D. in Romance Studies

Language Pedagogy for Undergraduate Education, Duke Department of Romance Studies

Nathan Tilley, Ph.D. in Religion

Oral History, Historical Division, Duke Divinity School

Christopher Webb, Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology

Evaluation of COVID-19 Relief Solutions, Duke Social Science Research Institute

Luoshu Zhang, Ph.D. in English

American Literature Research for Curriculum Diversification, Creative and Liberal Arts, Durham Technical Community College

More Ph.D. Resources

Ten Ph.D. Students Find Novel Ways to Enhance Their Education This Summer

Portraits of students with text, Graduate Student Training Enhancement Grants, Summer 2022.
Top row: Melissa Baroff, Jason Goldfarb, Dana Grieco, Jacob Harrison, Rachael Lau; bottom row: Xinyan Lin, Maria Nagawa, Ryan O’Connell, Jessica Orzulak, John Winn

Ten Duke University Ph.D. students have received Graduate Student Training Enhancement Grants (GSTEG) for Summer 2022 from the Office of the Provost.

Ph.D. students were invited to propose off-campus internships that would amplify their intellectual agendas beyond the offerings within their programs or elsewhere at Duke.

The recipients will be provided with a stipend as well as coverage of fringe and the summer health fee. They will also take part in an experiential learning workshop taught by Maria Wisdom or Rachel Coleman. Together the students will reflect on their time with their hosts and discuss implications for their intellectual trajectory and career aspirations.

Summer 2022 GSTEG Recipients

Melissa Baroff, Ph.D. in Classical Studies

Summer Intern, Women’s Classical Caucus

Jason Goldfarb, Ph.D. in Literature

Research Assistant in Economic Underdevelopment Lab, University of Massachusetts–Amherst

Dana Grieco, Ph.D. in Marine Science & Conservation

The Evidence Synthesis in Marine Conservation Internship, American Museum of Natural History

Jacob Harrison, Ph.D. in Biology

Science Communication and Outreach Through Visually-Guided Narratives, North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences

Rachael Lau, Ph.D. in Civil & Environmental Engineering

Landslide Monitoring and Mitigation Using Synthetic Aperture Radar, Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Xinyan Lin, Ph.D. in Marine Science & Conservation

Philanthropy in Global Governance of Marine Biodiversity Conservation, Oceans Five

Maria Nagawa, Ph.D. in Public Policy

Burkina Faso Rural Land Governance Project, The Cloudburst Group

Ryan O’Connell, Ph.D. in Ecology

Evaluating the Impact of Multiple Management Strategies on Mountain Heartleaf (Hexastylis contracta), a Species of Conservation Concern, United States Forest Service

Jessica Orzulak, Ph.D. in Art, Art History & Visual Studies

Curatorial Intern, North Carolina Museum of Art

John Winn, Ph.D. in Literature

Curatorial Intern, Cosmic Rays Film Festival

Learn More

Faculty and Ph.D. Students Will Collaborate on New or Revised Summer Courses

Portraits of the faculty members and graduate students who are listed in the article as grant recipients.
Top row: Paul Jaskot, Sheila Dillon, Shambhavi Kaul and Robin Klaus; Ron Grunwald, Sheila Patek, Frederik Nijhout and Anna Kudla; Charlie Cox and Taylor Outlaw; middle row: Lauren Ginsberg, Joshua Sosin and Michael Freeman; Leslie Digby, Steven Churchill and Katherine McVay; John Virdin, Rebecca Vidra and Jon Choi; bottom row: Bridgette Hard, Moria Smoski, Richard Jaffe and Joseph Diehl; Laura Florand and Samar Miled; Alexander Fisher, Mine Çetinkaya-Rundel and Raphaël Morsomme; Maria Tackett and Rick Presman

Nine departments received 2022 Summer Course Development Grants from Duke’s offices of Undergraduate Education and Interdisciplinary Studies in partnership with Duke Learning Innovation. Faculty and Ph.D. students will collaborate on the development or redesign of ten summer session courses that will be offered regularly to undergraduates beginning in Summer 2023. Six courses will be revised, while four will be brand new.

These departments will receive a funding package for one Ph.D. student in Summer 2022 to work as a research assistant developing course materials in partnership with one or more faculty members, and for the faculty to receive research funding.

Duke Learning Innovation will provide both formal course design guidance, which may take the form of an intensive kick-off workshop, and ongoing consultation to faculty and RAs.

Art, Art History & Visual Studies

Introduction to World Art History (ARTHIST 102D Revised)

Faculty: Paul Jaskot, Sheila Dillon and Shambhavi Kaul

Ph.D. Student: Robin Klaus


Entomology: Insect Biology and Diversity (BIOLOGY 349L Revised)

Faculty: Ron Grunwald, Sheila N. Patek and H. Frederik Nijhout

Ph.D. Student: Anna Kudla


Organic Chemistry II Lab (CHEM 202L Revised)

Faculty: Charlie Cox

Ph.D. Student: Taylor Outlaw

Classical Studies

Intensive Greek

Faculty: Lauren Ginsberg and Joshua Sosin

Ph.D. Student: Michael Freeman

Evolutionary Anthropology

Advanced Osteology

Faculty: Leslie Digby and Steven Churchill

Ph.D. Student: Katherine McVay

Marine Science & Conservation

The Future of Ocean Use

Faculty: John Virdin and Rebecca Vidra

Ph.D. Student: Jon Choi

Psychology & Neuroscience

Beyond Ordinary Consciousness: The Science, Philosophy and Phenomenology of Contemplation

Faculty: Bridgette Hard, Moria Smoski and Richard Jaffe

Ph.D. Student: Joseph Diehl

Romance Studies

Advanced Intermediate French (Culture and Sustainability: Focus on Tunisia) (FRENCH 204A Revised)

Faculty: Laura Florand

Ph.D. Student: Samar Miled

Statistical Science

Data Analysis and Statistical Inference (STA 101 Revised)

Faculty: Alexander Fisher and Mine Çetinkaya-Rundel

Ph.D. Student: Raphaël Morsomme

Statistical Science (STA 210 Revised)

Faculty: Maria Tackett

Ph.D. Student: Rick Presman

See other funding opportunities on our site.

Six Groups of Faculty Receive Intellectual Community Planning Grants for 2022

2022 Intellectual Community Planning Grants.

The Provost’s Office has awarded Intellectual Community Planning Grants to six collaborative projects for the 2022 calendar year. The projects include Duke faculty from several schools and institutes, a number of staff members, and partners at NC State, Eastern Carolina University, UNC–Chapel Hill, UNC–Greensboro, University of Pennsylvania, University of Massachusetts and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Building a Chemical Education Research Community in North Carolina

Lead: Charlie Cox, Associate Professor of the Practice of Chemistry

Core Faculty: Maia Popova, Assistant Professor, Chemistry, University of North Carolina–Greensboro; Maria Gallardo-Williams, Teaching Professor, Chemistry, North Carolina State University; Joi Walker, Associate Professor, Chemistry, Eastern Carolina University; Dorian Canelas, Associate Professor of the Practice of Chemistry

BVLOS Duke Community for Environmental Justice

Lead: Martin Brooke, Associate Professor of Electrical & Computer Engineering

Core Faculty: David Johnston, Associate Professor of the Practice of Marine Conservation Ecology; Brian McAdoo, Associate Professor of Earth & Ocean Sciences; Michelle Nowlin, Clinical Professor of Law

Enhancing Curricular Synergies Between Marine Science and Conservation

Lead: Thomas Schultz, Assistant Professor of the Practice of Marine Molecular Conservation

Core Faculty: Andrew Read, Stephen A. Toth Distinguished Professor of Marine Biology; David Johnston, Associate Professor of the Practice of Marine Conservation; Emily Klein, University Distinguished Service Professor, Earth and Climate Sciences; Shineng Hu, Assistant Professor of Physical Oceanography; Amy Kenyon, Associate Director, Teaching Innovation, Duke Learning Innovation

Geothermal Justice

Lead: Brian McAdoo, Associate Professor of Earth & Ocean Sciences

Core Faculty: Rebecca Simmons, Associate Professor of the Practice of Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science; Neal Simmons, Gendell Family Professor of the Practice of Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science; Chip Bobbert, CoLab Architect, Innovation CoLab; Michael Bergin, Sternberg Family Professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering

New Pedagogies for Climate With the Duke Campus Farm

Lead: Saskia Cornes, Assistant Professor of the Practice, John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute

Core Faculty: Norman Wirzba, Gilbert T. Rowe Distinguished Professor of Theology; Charles Thompson, Professor of the Practice of Cultural Anthropology; Priscilla Wald, R. Florence Brinkley Distinguished Professor of English; Rebecca Vidra, Senior Lecturer in the Division of Environmental Sciences and Policy; Luciana Fellin, Professor of the Practice of Romance Studies; Charlotte Clark, Associate Professor of the Practice of Sustainability in the Division of Environmental Sciences and Policy; Bethany Wiggin, Associate Professor of German, Founding Director, Penn Program in Environmental Humanities, University of Pennsylvania; Laura Sayre, independent scholar, University of Massachusetts–Amherst

Social Epidemiology for Place and Health Equity

Co-Leads: Christine Gray, Assistant Research Professor of Global Health, and Emily D’Agostino, Assistant Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery

Core Faculty: Aaron Hipp, Associate Professor of Community Health and Sustainability, North Carolina State University; Chantel Martin, Assistant Professor, Epidemiology, UNC Chapel Hill; Carmen Gutierrez, Assistant Professor, Public Policy, UNC Chapel Hill; Kristen Rappazzo, Epidemiologist, US Environmental Protection Agency

About Intellectual Community Planning Grants

A key goal of the Together Duke academic strategic plan is to invest in faculty as scholars and leaders of the university’s intellectual communities. Intellectual Community Planning Grants (ICPG) foster collaboration around new and emerging areas of interest. Project funds ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 can be used to cover the cost of meeting venues, external speakers, event materials, books or other meeting costs, and/or exploratory research (as by a student research assistant) into potential collaborators.

Due to the pandemic, ICPG were not offered in 2021. See the 2020 ICPG report.

From Dolphins to Dementia, Summer Internships Enhance Doctoral Education

Graduate Student Training Enhancement Grants.

Eight Duke University Ph.D. students have received Graduate Student Training Enhancement Grants (GSTEG) for Summer 2021 from the Office of Interdisciplinary Studies.

The goal of this grant competition is to expand the opportunities for Ph.D. students to augment their core research and training by acquiring skills, knowledge or experiences through an off-campus remote summer internship.

The internships will last for three months, and grant recipients will receive a stipend as well as coverage of summer tuition and the summer health fee. Students will also take part in an experiential learning workshop taught by Maria Wisdom, where they’ll reflect on their time with their hosts, troubleshoot issues and discuss implications for their intellectual trajectory and career aspirations.

Explore the Summer 2021 GSTEG Projects

Jordan Bryan, Ph.D. in Statistical Science

Jordan Bryan.

Assessing the Value of Government Statistics

Host: American Statistical Association, Office of Science Policy
Faculty Advisor: Sayan Mukherjee

Jordan Bryan will work with the director of science policy and the science policy fellow who have produced white papers dealing with pressing issues at the intersection of statistics and government, such as the 2020 Census deadlines in the face of the pandemic. Bryan’s primary role will be to assist with literature review, data analysis and writing of white papers and academic articles. Working with the ASA will give him an opportunity to expand the body of his applied work outside the field of genomics.

Ann-Marie Jacoby, Ph.D. in Marine Science and Conservation

Ann-Marie Jacoby.Engaging the Public to Understand the Historical Occurrence of Bottlenose Dolphins in the Potomac River, U.S.

Host: Potomac Conservancy
Faculty Advisor: Andrew Read

Ann-Marie Jacoby will focus on developing and launching a strategic communications plan to raise awareness within river communities about her research on bottlenose dolphins in the Potomac. The goal of this communications plan will be to engage with and acquire data from river community members on their dolphin sightings throughout time, to better understand the historical occurrence of dolphins in the Potomac — the crux of her first dissertation chapter.

Ekta Patel, Ph.D. in Environmental Policy

Ekta Patel.International and Domestic Water Laws and Policies

Host: Environmental Law Institute
Faculty Advisor: Erika Weinthal

Through opportunities to collaborate with four leading environmental scholars and to produce public scholarship, this internship will support early progress on Ekta Patel’s dissertation and strengthen her professional skills on project development in international and domestic water laws and policies. Her dissertation, “Explaining Desalination Governance and the Roles of Public and Private Stakeholders Across Scales,” investigates who shapes decisions about adopting seawater desalination, in what ways and for what purposes.

Crystal Peoples, Ph.D. in Sociology

Crystal Peoples.Understanding a University’s Role in Increasing Racial Minority Student Retention

Host: Academic Affairs Division, Longwood University
Faculty Advisor: Eduardo Bonilla-Silva

Crystal Peoples will work on a project to understand and recommend improvements to the retention rates for students of color at Longwood University. Her supervisor will be David Shoenthal, Associate Provost and Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs, who is coordinating the institution’s reaffirmation of accreditation over the next few years. Together they have developed a plan of action that blends Peoples’ research interests in race in higher education with the institution’s commitment to advancing the quality of student learning for all students, but particularly for racial minorities.

Hannah Read, Ph.D. in Philosophy

Hannah Read.Social-Emotional Skill Training in Schools

Host: The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL)
Faculty Advisor: David Wong

Hannah Read will acquire hands-on experience assessing current social and emotional learning strategies, articulating their value to educators and policymakers, and facilitating implementation of these strategies in schools across multiple states. This internship will inform her dissertation on the value of empathy and the need for empathy training in schools and other public institutions. Read’s work concerns the moral importance of social-emotional skills — such as empathy — as well as effective strategies for developing such skills, particularly in educational contexts.

Hannah Salomons, Ph.D. in Evolutionary Anthropology

Hannah Salomons.Career Training as a Research Scientist Within a Zoological Facility

Host: Dolphin Research Center (DRC)
Faculty Advisor: Brian Hare

Working with the director of research, Hannah Salomons will receive training on protocols for behavioral observations and interactive cognitive research sessions. She will assist in data collection for current studies and participate in the planning and design of new studies, learning about everything that must be considered when planning research with dolphins in a facility setting. Salomons proposes to work with dolphins at DRC for her dissertation research, and she aims to study marine mammal cognition in her future career.

Ben Sarbey, Ph.D. in Philosophy

Ben Sarbey.The Ethics of Dementia Care

Host: The Hastings Center
Faculty Advisor: Wayne Norman

Ben Sarbey will work with Research Scholar Nancy Berlinger on The Hastings Center’s Dementia and the Ethics of Choosing When to Die grant project. He will assist with research and writing for the academic literature that will be published on the findings, and will collaborate with a team of bioethics scholars across the country who specialize in end-of-life ethics and health policy. Sarbey’s dissertation is on understanding how we can die well, and he plans to pursue an academic career in bioethics.

Joshua Strayhorn, Ph.D. in History

Joshua Strayhorn.Anti-Racism: Beyond the Classroom

Host: National Humanities Center
Faculty Advisor: Adriane Lentz-Smith

Joshua Strayhorn will develop two online courses and supplementary materials for high school educators that can be accessed through the National Humanities Center’s open education platform. He will create modules on race, teaching race and how to utilize the lessons from the past to speak to our current moment. The courses will teach critical moments in the history of race and offer teachers strategies and tools to integrate this content into their curricula. This internship will deepen Strayhorn’s pedagogical training and build skills for a career in education.

Duke Institute for Brain Sciences Announces Seed Grants for Five Interdisciplinary Teams

2020 Research Incubator or Germinator Awards.

Five interdisciplinary teams have received 2020 Research Incubator or Germinator Awards from the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences (DIBS). The awards are designed to promote high-risk/high-return neuroscience research that is collaborative, crosses disciplinary boundaries, and is likely to draw external funding.

The research teams will address health issues affecting millions, including spinal-cord injuries, the relationship between tobacco use and chronic pain, how changes in the gut are communicated to the brain, the use of novel technologies to understand the neural mechanisms of Parkinson’s disease, and the effects of toxins on the developing brain. They represent multiple departments and schools, including the Duke School of Medicine, the Pratt School of Engineering, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences, and the Nicholas School of the Environment.

Three of the Incubator Award teams will receive $75,000; a fourth will be funded at $100,000 through the generosity of the DIBS External Advisory Board. Previous awards have brought in significant external grants after the initial seed funding, resulting in a seven-to-one return on investment over the past six years. The follow-on grants typically come from the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and private foundations. The fifth is a Germinator Award of $25,000 that will support a study led by a graduate student with support of faculty mentors.

“We are pleased to be able to make these awards and highlight the value of interdisciplinary research,” said DIBS Director Geraldine Dawson, PhD, in announcing the award recipients. Even during these financially challenging times, Dawson noted, “we remain strongly committed to supporting collaboration and innovation in the neurosciences at Duke. We were especially pleased to see the breadth of departments and schools that received funding.”

Dawson also expressed gratitude for the generosity of the External Advisory Board. “Our board members are very enthusiastic and generous supporters of the Incubator program, and we thank them for making a fourth Incubator Award possible for 2020-2021.”

Following is information about all award recipients and their research projects:

DIBS External Advisory Board Incubator Recipient, $100,000

Timothy Dunn, PhD

Neurosurgery, School of Medicine

Michael Tadross, PhD, Biomedical Engineering, Pratt School of Engineering


 Parkinson’s Advance with DART and DANNCE

Parkinson’s disease is caused by a degeneration of brain areas controlling movement. However, while we know which area of the brain degenerates, we have not yet understood exactly how this degeneration leads to movement defects such as tremors and slowing/stiffening of body motions. If we understand this mechanism in animal models, we will be one step closer to next-generation therapies that mitigate the disease without debilitating side effects and without a loss in effectiveness over time. Two fundamental obstacles to this goal have been (1) that relevant brain areas contain intermingled neuron types that have been hard to individually manipulate with clinical drugs, and (2) movement impairments are complex and diverse, so we have not yet been able to measure these defects quantitatively. Our collaboration unites two different technologies, creating a novel framework for understanding Parkinson’s. The first, Drugs Acutely Restricted by Tethering (DART), enables delivery of any clinical drug to a specific brain-cell type in an animal. DART has already shown a novel causal link between the neurotransmitter glutamate signaling onto one neuron type and Parkinson’s disease. The second technology, 3-Dimensional Aligned Neural Network for Computational Ethology (DANNCE), uses deep learning to track the fine details of body movement in 3D. This technology allows us to more precisely identify the movement defects in Parkinson’s. With DIBS Incubator funding, we will pair DART with DANNCE to discover new relationships between neurons and movement defects and identify potential therapies.

Incubator Recipients, $75,000 each

Timothy Faw, PhD

Orthopaedic Surgery, School of Medicine

Daniel T. Laskowitz, MD, MHS, Neurology;

Muhammad Abd-El-Barr, MD, PhD, Neurosurgery;

Haichen Wang, MD, Neurology, School of Medicine

 A Novel Apolipoprotein E (apoE)-mimetic Pentapeptide to Improve Recovery in Acute Spinal Cord Injury

 Novel therapies that improve mobility after spinal cord injury (SCI) could lead to better quality of life and save billions of dollars in lifetime costs. Targeting the early inflammatory response to SCI is appealing, as it is the main cause of tissue damage after the initial injury. Apolipoprotein E (apoE) plays a critical role in mediating this neuroinflammation after nervous system damage. However, systemic delivery of the intact protein is ineffective as a therapeutic because it fails to cross the blood-brain barrier. As such, we have developed small, apoE-based peptides that mimic the function of the intact protein, cross the blood-brain barrier, and have few side effects. Here, we will test the hypothesis that early treatment with an apoE-mimetic peptide, CN-105, reduces inflammation, tissue damage, and improves recovery in a clinically relevant animal model of SCI. This peptide, developed at Duke, has received Investigational New Drug and Orphan Drug designations from the Food and Drug Administration, which will facilitate translation to early clinical trials.

Maggie Sweitzer, PhD

Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, School of Medicine

Katherine Martucci, PhD, Anesthesiology; F. Joseph McClernon, PhD, and Alison Adcock, MD, PhD, Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, School of Medicine

Neural Mechanisms Underlying Tobacco Withdrawal-Induced Hyperalgesia

Chronic pain and cigarette smoking influence one another, in that smokers are more likely to have pain, and individuals with pain are more likely to smoke. People with chronic pain have more difficulty quitting smoking, in part, because temporarily going without smoking (early withdrawal) leads to increased pain sensitivity. The goal of this study is to examine the brain’s response to heat pain stimuli among smokers in early withdrawal, to better understand the reasons for increased pain sensitivity. Daily smokers will complete two fMRI sessions, one after smoking as usual, and one after not smoking for 24 hours. During the scans, participants will experience heat pain delivered through an electrode and will provide ratings of their pain response. It is expected that participants’ ratings of pain in response to heat stimuli will be greater during the withdrawal session, and that this increased pain will be associated with greater activation throughout a network of brain regions involved in perceiving pain. This approach will allow us to determine which brain regions are most involved in pain sensitivity during withdrawal, which will help to identify targets for treatment. In addition, these processes might differ among smokers who also have chronic pain, compared to those who do not. As such, half of the participants will be those diagnosed with chronic pain, while the other half will be pain-free. We anticipate that the effects of smoking withdrawal on pain-related brain function will be more pronounced among those with chronic pain.

Eva Naumann, PhD

Neurobiology, School of Medicine

John F. Rawls, PhD, Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, School of Medicine

Gut-to-Brain Sensory Conduction in Zebrafish

Debilitating neuropsychiatric conditions such as autism, obesity, depression, and epilepsy can all be improved by changing diet and microbiome in the gut. Yet, it is largely unknown how these changes originating in the gut are communicated to the brain. Recent studies have revealed that gut-to-brain communication begins with a special cell type in the lining of the gut called enteroendocrine cells (EECs). For decades we have known there are different types of EECs that sense and respond to chemicals from diet and microbes by releasing hormones and neurotransmitters to influence the brain and other organs. Recent studies at Duke have revealed that some EECs also directly contact the vagal nerve, which serves as a key entry point to the rest of the brain. What we don’t know is whether EECs are able to communicate with deeper regions of the brain in general, and whether distinct chemical stimuli and distinct EEC types in the gut evoke distinct patterns of brain activity. Here, we propose to address these gaps in knowledge by combining the skills of a gut specialist, Dr. Rawls, and an expert in brain imaging and anatomy, Dr. Naumann, to establish a powerful vertebrate system to examine this gut-to-brain communication.

Germinator Recipient

Carina Fowler, Graduate Student, Psychology & Neuroscience, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences

Michael Gaffrey, PhD, and Aaron Reuben, PhD, Psychology & Neuroscience

Heather Stapleton, PhD, Environmental Ethics and Sustainable Environmental Management, Nicholas School of the Environment

Neural Correlates of Multi-toxicant Exposure in Preschool-age Children

Animal studies show that certain chemicals, called toxicants, may change our brains. Exposure to flame retardants, pesticides, air pollutants, and second-hand smoke appears to harm parts of the brain involved in learning, memory, coordination, emotion regulation, and long-term planning. Children are particularly vulnerable to these types of changes because they have greater exposure and fewer biological defenses than adults. This is particularly problematic because early childhood is a period of major neurobiological growth, and changes that occur during this critical developmental period can become permanent. However, many of the toxicants that could harm children’s brain development have yet to be studied in children directly, and no research to date has tested whether exposure to multiple toxicants produces greater harm—even though children are routinely exposed to multiple toxicants at once. Our study will help us understand the association between children’s brain structure and (1) exposure to individual toxicants and (2) combined exposure to multiple different toxicants at once. We believe that this work can help parents, pediatricians, and policymakers protect the developing brain.


By Kathy Neal; originally posted on the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences website

Pilot Grants from Duke Global Health Institute Support Innovative Pandemic Projects

Research will address key issues such as vaccine distribution, pathogen detection and the mental health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Prof. Eroglu

Nine months after the novel coronavirus began to spread among human populations, the world still faces critical challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 40 DGHI faculty have pivoted to conduct research related to this global health crisis, in many cases launching projects outside of their existing research and with minimal or no external funding.

During summer 2020, DGHI awarded pilot grants to support several teams working to understand key questions related to the pandemic. Wendy Prudhomme-O’Meara and Kelly Deal, DGHI’s associate and assistant director of research, respectively, recently talked with researchers on each f these projects about their goals and progress.

Preparing for a COVID-19 Vaccine

DGHI’s pilot grants are supporting two important efforts led by the Center for Policy Impact in Global Health (CPIGH) to identify the most effective strategies to ensure that global allocation of a COVID-19 vaccine achieves maximum public health impact and equity.

In one project, CPIGH director Gavin Yamey, professor of the practice of policy and global health, and David McAdams, a professor in Duke’s Fuqua School of Business, are working with the World Health Organization and Gavi, the global vaccine alliance, to map out strategies for deploying an effective COVID-19 vaccine worldwide. Fundamental to their work is defining strategies that prevent high-income countries from monopolizing effective vaccines and instead ensuring that all countries have equal access.

At the same time, DGHI assistant professor Osondu Ogbuoji is leading efforts to help countries prepare for vaccine deployment by making key investments to strengthen their national health systems. Ogbuoji is leading a diverse, interdisciplinary team including physicians, health finance experts, engineers, policymakers, economists and infectious disease epidemiologists from several countries to identify concrete, actionable steps that can strengthen health systems to deal not only with COVID-19, but health challenges beyond the pandemic.

New Ways to Support Mental Health in a Pandemic

Many families are experiencing unprecedented stress and isolation during this pandemic, even as access to mental health and family services is restricted. DGHI’s global mental health research group has been working for years to develop alternative interventions that can provide support in places where formal mental health services are scarce – strategies that may prove effective to aid families during the pandemic.

Eve Puffer, an assistant professor of psychology, neuroscience and global health, and Rae Jean Proeschold-Bell, an associate professor of global health, are working to implement such interventions to help support caregivers in the Durham community. Their work centers on promoting a healthy, hopeful outlook even while confronting the stresses of the pandemic. They plan to share ideas and results with researchers worldwide.

DGHI also awarded a pilot grant to support an assessment of the economic and mental health burden of the COVID-19 pandemic in three low- and middle-income countries, led by professors Christine Gray, Kathryn Whetten and Nathan Thielman.

Early Detection of Novel Infectious Diseases

DGHI is supporting two projects seeking to create a global network to discover and detect novel pathogens like the coronavirus behind COVID-19 as soon as they begin to infect humans.

Led by DGHI professors and infectious disease experts Gregory Gray and Gayani Tillekeratne, this project involves testing samples from patients with pneumonia at hospitals in several countries, including Malaysia, Kenya and Sri Lanka. Samples will be evaluated on site, and through further testing at Duke labs, for the presence of several different viruses, including the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The goal of the study is to establish a network of hospitals for surveillance of emerging viral respiratory pathogens, which would serve as an early warning system to identify novel zoonotic pre-pandemic viruses.

Central to this program is building capacity for virus detection in partner laboratories in a sustainable way that provides actionable information for local clinicians and public health experts.

Originally posted on the Duke Global Health Institute website

2020 ReMed Fellows Will Address Medical and Ethical Challenges of COVID-19 Pandemic

ReMed logo.

Reimagine Medicine is an innovative summer fellowship for rising juniors and seniors preparing for health professions. The goal of ReMed is to foster the character, imagination, and practices needed to work effectively in contexts of human suffering and healing. The curriculum uses graphic art, music, expressive writing, embodiment and puppetry, improvisation, mindfulness and non-traditional hospital shadowing to explore themes often ignored in traditional medical education.

In the historic summer of 2020, the program will be conducted virtually and will also address COVID-19 and the medical and ethical challenges highlighted by the global pandemic.

ReMed is a collaboration among the Kenan Institute for Ethics, Trent Center for Bioethics, Humanities & History of Medicine, Science & Society, Duke Divinity School: Theology, Medicine and Culture, and the FHI Health Humanities Lab.

Congratulations to the 2020 ReMed Fellows! Learn more about each student on the Kenan Institute for Ethics website.

ReMed Fellows 2020.