Research Collaboration Strengthens Ph.D. Student’s Work on New Structural Design Technique

Clay Sanders.
Clay Sanders at the Louvre

Remember the pre-pandemic days when travel was possible? As he pursued dissertation research for a Ph.D. in Civil & Environmental Engineering, Clay Sanders went to Paris last year to study a new method of solving “topology optimization” problems in structural designs.

Working with the POEMS (Wave Propagation Mathematical Analysis, and Simulation) team at ENSTA Paris Tech, Sanders researched design optimizations that would determine the best structural design option prior to construction.

This opportunity provided Sanders with a significant component of his dissertation work and allowed him to explore other interests in art, architecture, and structural design. He was among 11 Duke students who received 2019-2020 Graduate Student Training Enhancement Grants (GSTEG) from the Office of the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies. His faculty mentor was Wilkins Aquino.

A summary of his GSTEG experience is excerpted below.

On campus at ENSTA-Paris

I utilized my GSTEG for a research trip in June 2019 to ENSTA Paris Tech to investigate a new computational optimization technique to design structures. I worked with Professor Marc Bonnet, a researcher at ENSTA-Paris Tech, a small engineering university in Palaiseau, France, outside Paris. Professor Bonnet is a leader of the POEMS research group, which specializes in numerical methods to simulate wave propagation and solve physics-based optimization problems.

Topology optimization describes a class of structural design problems that seek to determine the optimal shape or form a structure so that they exhibit superior performance with respect to a performance metric. A common example would seek the optimal shape of a bridge, under a maximum weight constraint, to have maximum stiffness.

Our new approach, known as the “adaptive eigenspace basis method”, borrowed from computational techniques used to solve medium imaging problems for ultrasound or geological imaging applications. We showed that our new method could equivalently represent designs usually parameterized by thousands or millions of design variables with only a few dozen variables, enabling significant computational efficiency improvements.

Following the GSTEG trip, we refined the method and recently submitted a manuscript on the work to the International Journal of Numerical Methods in Engineering.

Beyond the research work conducted, I was able to explore Paris’s sites, and tastes, throughout my trip. ENSTA-Paris was only a short train ride outside of Paris, so I was able travel into the city each evening to explore the city. Other highlights of my trip included viewing Monet’s Water Lilies at the Musée de l’Orangerie, roaming the sculpture gardens at the Musée Rodin, sketching in the Luxembourg Palace gardens, visits to the Musée d’Orsay and the Louvre, and stops in as many Parisian pâtisseries as I could find.

Sketching in the Luxembourg Palace Gardens

Learn more about Graduate Student Training Enhancement Grants (GSTEG), see other 2019-2020 grantees and learn who received grants for Summer 2020.

Economics Professor Daniel Yi Xu Leads the Triangle Research Data Center at SSRI

Daniel Yi Xu
Daniel Yi Xu (Professor, Department of Economics, and Director, Triangle Research Data Center)

The Social Science Research Institute (SSRI) recently welcomed Professor Yi (Daniel) Xu to the SSRI team where he oversees the Triangle Research Data Center (TRDC). The TRDC consists of one secure computer laboratory, located at Gross Hall, where researchers can perform statistical analysis on non-public microdata from the Census Bureau’s economic and demographic censuses and surveys.

Can you tell us a little about your background?

I am currently a Professor of Economics at Duke University and also a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. This is my tenth academic year at Duke. My research expertise is the analysis of firm and industry performance using large-scale micro-level data. In particular, I contributed to the understanding of the key determinants of firm dynamics and innovation as well as their implication for aggregate economic development and growth. My work is highly empirical and often involves the use of novel data sources from a broad range of countries in addition to the U.S.

Why economics? Why Duke?

I believe Economics is fundamentally a subject about people. I like Economics because it provides a quite systematic framework for us to think about various important social phenomena, such as how we engage in the production process, how individuals interact in the marketplace, and how we organize ourselves into different forms of governance. To that extent, Economics is rigorous but also highly versatile.

Duke is obviously an excellent academic institution on multiple fronts. But for me, the most attractive part is a highly collegial Economics department, where we encourage works that break the boundaries of narrow disciplines and make fundamental contributions to push the frontier.

What interests you about data?

As my work is very much empirical, data is often one of the most important piece of my research. But more generally, I believe high quality data is the necessary condition for any scientific inquiries. On the other hand, the data does not speak for itself. One of the more interesting parts of our work as social science researchers is to interpret the data through the lens of our own narratives.

As an economist, what excites you about interdisciplinary research?

I believe Economics has the potential to be highly interdisciplinary. One of the exciting aspects of Economics is that we model and investigate individual behaviors. (Even firms are no more than just a technology that organize people collectively.) Economics has been evolving in terms of its methodology over the past decades, often borrowing heavily from scientific fields like math, stats, and engineering. But I believe at the core it shares the most fundamental topics with other social science disciplines for queries of technology, people, and our society.

How is the TRDC an important resource for Duke faculty, researchers, and students?

Great question. Part of the reason that I agreed to direct the TRDC is exactly its potential of engaging a broad range of Duke faculty, researchers, and students. The TRDC houses the confidential U.S. Census micro data, which are the building blocks for most of the public social and economic indicators. A potentially less known fact is that TRDC also hosts projects using non-public data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, National Center for Health Statistics, and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. These all substantially broaden the potential user base and purpose of the projects that can be conducted within the center. While these data all provide exciting research opportunities, they often require a somewhat cumbersome application process. One of our primary task here is to promote the utilization of this unique resource and help our Duke community to smooth out the access process as much as possible.

Our more ambitious long-run goal is to leverage on the unique position of TRDC and provide a platform for our faculty, researchers, and students to exchange ideas and build up collaborative projects. The fact that our data spans across a broad range of subjects like demography, firms, and health also would make these collaborations potentially interdisciplinary by definition.

Originally posted on the Social Science Research Institute 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

Propose a Humanities Project for the 2021 Story+ Summer Research Program

Story+ request for proposals.

Deadline: December 4, 2020

The Story+ Summer Research Program is now accepting proposals for Summer 2021 projects that engage undergraduate and graduate students in collaborative research on humanities-based topics. Proposals are due by December 4 at 5:00 p.m.

Faculty are encouraged to link a Story+ project proposal to a 2021-2022 Bass Connections project team. Those wishing to do so must also complete the Bass Connections proposal process, also due December 4, 2020.

About Story+

Story+ is a six-week summer program that immerses interdisciplinary teams of students, faculty and staff in humanities research and public storytelling. Story+ promotes inquiry-based learning and vertically integrated collaboration through projects that may be driven by archival research, oral history, textual analysis, visual analysis, cultural criticism or other humanistic research methods.

Small teams of undergraduates, supervised by graduate student mentors, collaborate on focused projects that contribute to the broader research, teaching, scholarly communications, and/or public engagement agendas of Duke faculty, Duke librarians, nonprofit organizations and other University or non-University project sponsors. Story+ final projects have taken the form of writing, exhibits, websites, annotated archives, short films/videos, podcasts, social media content and other genres.

A typical Story+ team consists of a project sponsor, a graduate student mentor and three undergraduate researchers. Project sponsors benefit from the opportunity to engage a team of students, who are provided with appropriate guidance and mentoring through Story+, in producing a tangible product that may further their work. Story+ undergraduate students learn how to conduct rigorous interpretive research in a team setting, connect academic knowledge to broader social issues and communicate their research stories with diverse audiences – within and outside the University – in a complex media environment. Graduate mentors get the distinctive pedagogical and professional opportunity to manage a complex collaborative project and facilitate the network of relationships that such projects entail.

Call for Proposals Story+ 2021

The Franklin Humanities Institute invites proposals from Duke faculty, archivists and other campus and community members for the Summer 2021 edition of Story+. We seek projects of any topic that are anchored in humanities research methods and questions, with well-defined project goals that can be feasibly completed in six weeks. Outcomes of past Story+ teams have ranged from finished products (e.g., a completed curatorial plan a physical exhibit or a published research report), prototypes or pilot projects (e.g., a prototype online teaching module or a proof-of-concept audio podcast), as well as preliminary, exploratory research that contributes to a larger ongoing project (e.g., oral histories, translation, transcription or archival discovery).

We encourage proposals that build upon or towards course offerings, Humanities Labs, or Bass Connections teams during the regular school year. As possible points of reference, please see our Story+ website for descriptions and outcomes from previous teams. P.I.s or projects previously supported by Story+ are eligible to apply, but note that priority may be given, in these cases, to projects that demonstrate a significantly new direction or outcome.

Individuals are strongly encouraged to consult with Amanda Starling Gould about interest and available opportunities. Story+ is built upon the foundational values of care, inclusion, and community. Our primary objectives are to enable undergraduate and graduate students to participate in rigorous, hands-on humanities research, to facilitate collaborative and creative research transmission and to promote teamwork and interdisciplinarity as humanities modes of work.

Our values also animate how we reach out for partnerships across Duke and beyond Duke, in the projects we solicit and select, in the ways we recruit and support students, and in our common programming throughout the summer. We understand that our work is done with and within a privileged institution of higher education that has a historically complicated relationship with research subjects, objectification and positivism. To generate humanistic research means paying attention to how structures and systems influence the collection of evidence, methods of analysis and communication of results and to our particular identities and contexts as researchers.

This embrace of situated knowledge does not require that Story+ projects adhere to certain topics, modes of work; or presentation practices; it does however, require a self-awareness about the choices any particular project makes from subject matter, to methodology, to communication with the public, to divisions of labor and supervisory authority. As such, we ask all potential and participating partners to consider how you might (no matter your topics or goals) acknowledge, address, or understand intertwining systems of oppression (ableism, racism, sexism, heterosexism, etc.) as you create your projects and, more importantly, your projects’ plans of student work.

Project sponsors should plan to be accessible to their teams on at least a weekly basis and are expected to be regularly available to collaborate with their full team. The most successful and highly ranked of our projects are those with dedicated sponsors and clearly articulated goals.

Please Note: We anticipate Story+ 2021 will again be a remote experience. Feeling a little stuck on how to translate or transform your project to online-only? Amanda Starling Gould is available to help all teams envision and enact collaborative remote research practices and methods.

Please submit proposals via Qualtrics by December 4, 2020 at 5:00 p.m.

The Qualtrics application form will ask for the following components:

  • Brief description of the overall project
  • Description of the specific project goal(s) and output(s) you hope to accomplish through Story+. Please include here a basic timeline (approximately May 13 to June 25), project milestones, expected outcome(s) and how/why this work is important to your research/your unit/your organization.
  • Description of how your project aligns with the mission and goals of Story+ to offer a rich humanities research and public storytelling experience for graduates and undergraduates
  • Workplan: this is optional but ideal. This might include a sketch of methods, methodologies, weekly schedule, opportunities for students, campus/community partners who might collaborate, post-Story+ afterlives of the research.
  • List of essential skills undergraduates will need to contribute to the project
  • Do you have a graduate student in mind for the role of your graduate mentor? If you would like us to help match you with a mentor, please list essential skills you would like this person to have.
  • Any funding from external sources or other Duke units that can support the work of the team

For queries about the program and/or to discuss specific project ideas, please email Amanda Starling Gould. Story+ is funded by Together Duke and administered by the Franklin Humanities Institute in conjunction with Bass Connections, with additional support from the Duke Libraries.

Faculty Can Propose Interdisciplinary Data+ Projects for Summer 2021


Deadline: November 2, 2020


Data+ is a ten-week summer research experience that welcomes Duke undergraduates interested in exploring new data-driven approaches to interdisciplinary challenges.

Students join small project teams, collaborating alongside other teams in a communal environment. They learn how to marshal, analyze, and visualize data, while gaining broad exposure to the modern world of data science. In Summer 2019 there were 30 such teams, and they all worked together in Gross Hall, sitting in a dedicated workspace provided by the Rhodes Information Initiative at Duke (iiD), the Social Science Research Institute (SSRI), and the Energy Initiative. In Summer 2020, there were 29 teams, and the experience was necessarily virtual. There is clearly a chance that we will be virtual again in Summer 2021, but we will not know this until later in the year.

Each undergraduate participant receives a $5,000 stipend. Each summer, Data+ runs from late May until the first few days of August. As the communal atmosphere is essential for student success, please note that Data+ projects only run during these ten weeks, and that all student participants are required to contribute full-time efforts (no employment, no other classes).

This is a call for proposals for faculty-sponsored Data+ projects in the Summer 2021 edition of Data+. We are especially interested in proposals that involve a partner from outside the academy, or a faculty member from a different discipline. We also encourage proposals that involve previously untested ideas or unanalyzed datasets, and we hope that the Data+ team can make a contribution with important proof-of-principle work that may lead to more substantial faculty work and/or connections in the future. We also welcome proposals that will lead to the undergraduates creating tools that might be used in the classroom or that might facilitate community engagement with data and data-driven questions. Finally, we are particularly excited about projects that foster links between Duke and Durham City/County/School government and/or community groups, as well as between Duke and North Carolina Central University.

How to Apply

To apply, please prepare a document (three pages maximum) that responds to the following prompts, ideally in this order.

Name of Project: Please use a short name that succinctly describes the nature of the project and is not overly technical. If your project is selected for Data+, then this title will be used for the project web page and project listings, and we may ask you to shorten it later for that purpose.

Summary: Please write a project summary, including the basic ideas behind the proposal.

Faculty Leads: Data+ is especially interested in projects that connect faculty from distinct disciplines, as well as projects that enable faculty to branch out in new directions. Please describe the intended faculty leads, and the expected benefits from their participation.

Mentoring: Day-to-day faculty involvement in Data+ is not expected. Instead, each Data+ project has a mentor, usually a graduate student or postdoc, who is on hand to give the student team more focused guidance. The time commitment tends to be 5-7 hours per week, and funding is generally available to cover this person’s time. If you have a mentor in mind, please indicate who this is and why they are well-suited. If you do not, please describe the skills you would like this person to have (we are generally able to find faculty-mentor matches)

Goals: describe the intended goals and products of the project, in the following manner:

  • Describe entirely reachable goals that you fully expect the students to achieve: these could be answers to a question, explorations of a hypothesis, and things of that nature.
  • Describe a tangible product the students will create in the course of their research, which ideally will be of use both to further researchers at the university and to the students as something they can show off to future employers or graduate schools. This could be, for example, a good piece of well- commented software, or a visualization device, or a detailed curation of previously raw data.
  • Describe a more outrageous goal that you would be quite (pleasantly!) surprised to see the students achieve, along with a plan for them to build a potential roadmap towards that goal. For example, this goal might only be reachable if you had data that you currently do not have, and the students might build a speculative roadmap towards acquiring that data.

Data: Most Data+ projects involve analysis of datasets. Some of these are publicly available, and some are not. As it is essential that students actually be able to analyze the needed data for the project, we are very interested in plans to ensure that this will happen. Please address this in the following manner:

  • For each dataset that will be analyzed by the student team, please give a high-level description of the dataset (what’s in it, how was it collected, and for which purpose, how large is it, etc.).
  • For each dataset, indicate whether you anticipate IRB approval will be needed for student access, and if not, why not. If IRB approval will be needed, indicate whether a protocol already exists, and your plan for incorporating the student involvement. If it does not already exist, please describe your plan (including a timeline) for obtaining one.
  • For each dataset, indicate whether it is owned and/or is being provided by an outside party. If so, please describe the intended path towards ensuring that students will be granted the ability to access the dataset (we are often able to assist in crafting Data Use Agreements with outside parties, for example).

Outside Partners: Some of the best Data+ projects have a partner from outside of the university, or at least from outside the traditionally academic parts of the university. This might be someone who is invested in the data or the questions, and to whom the students will in essence “deliver analysis and insight.” Ideally, this partner will be able to come two or three times during the summer to hear updates from your students and provide feedback.

For each such partner, please describe their expected interest in the project, how much they would interact with the team, whether or not they’d be able to contribute funds toward student stipends, and please also identify a point-of-contact for this partner.

Deadline and Contact

The deadline for completing this application is November 2, 2020, 5:00 p.m. Please submit your proposal to Ariel Dawn ( on or before that deadline for consideration.

If you would like help in developing your proposal, please contact Paul Bendich ( or Gregory Herschlag (

Changing Their Summer Plans, Duke Ph.D. Students Find New Options for Virtual Employment

Provost’s Office coordinates a wide range of summer funding opportunities, including fellowships with RTI International

View of campus.
Aerial of Duke University showing Abele Quad

Travis Knoll expected to be in Brazil this summer. A Ph.D. student in History, he planned to visit film and Catholic Church archives to further his work on the relationship between Catholic thought, modern Black movements and education policy. But COVID-19 intervened.

Recognizing that many students’ plans for teaching, research trips and in-person internships were overturned, Provost Sally Kornbluth and Executive Vice Provost Jennifer Francis pledged that Duke would provide employment opportunities for Ph.D. students who needed them this summer.

Behind the scenes, many of their colleagues scrambled to identify virtual opportunities for students to receive funding while advancing their career development. Their outreach resulted in full coverage for all Ph.D. students in need.

A Robust Slate of Opportunities

Ed Balleisen, Duke’s Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies, spearheaded this effort. He contacted units across campus to identify remote projects that would further Duke’s academic strategic plan, Together Duke, while providing significant professional development for doctoral students. Along with Maria Wisdom, Director of Interdisciplinary Advising and Engagement, he also sounded out several external organizations about developing similar projects.

In just three weeks, Balleisen and Wisdom came up with more than 100 funding opportunities. These summer positions – experiential fellowships with eight external organizations and research assistantships with more than 20 Duke units – supplemented teaching opportunities across Duke and research fellowships from The Graduate School.

“We were thrilled to see the creativity that Duke units and our external partners brought to this undertaking,” said Balleisen.

Other Ph.D. funding from the Provost’s Office came from Reimagining Doctoral Education (RiDE) Implementation and Graduate Student Training Enhancement Grants (GSTEG).

In addition to funding support, free online short courses through the Duke Graduate Summer Academy provided professional development opportunities. Topics ranged from software development and entrepreneurial strategy to science policy and teaching with archives. Student demand was so high that all courses filled up within 15 minutes, prompting Duke to launch a second session that was also heavily subscribed.

Partnership Spotlight: RTI International

Jacqueline Olich When Duke needed to identify hosts for remote internships at short notice, Balleisen reached out to Jacqueline Olich, Vice President for University Collaborations at RTI International. Based in Research Triangle Park, RTI is one of the world’s largest independent research organizations.

Jackie Olich.
Jacqueline Olich

Olich, who has a Ph.D. in history, leads the University Collaboration Office and oversees the RTI University Scholars Program and the RTI Internship Program.

Balleisen explained that Duke would provide the funding if RTI scholars would commit their time as supervisors.

Olich quickly identified researchers who were willing to come up with project descriptions in a hurry. “I targeted colleagues who already had a tie to Duke,” she said, “such as alumni, or through Duke-RTI Scholars, or individuals who had previously received our mentor award for working with interns, as well as colleagues who had experience in academic settings.”

Her own office is working with a Duke intern this summer. “If we’re going to do this, we should model it,” she said. “That’s what RTI is about.” She hired Travis Knoll, whose research trip to Brazil had been canceled.

“COVID-19 forced me to put [the trip] on hold,” Knoll said. “Another door opened when RTI invited me to interview dozens of its researchers, staff and executives for a project mapping RTI’s vast organizational structure, which spans global development, education, health research and applied sciences. With this information, I am synthesizing a history of RTI’s past and future collaborations and most important to my own research, learning how RTI is working to improve racial equity internally and through its partnerships.”

Duke students at RTI this summer.
First row: Travis Knoll, Cole Campton, Tom Cinq-Mars, Khari Johnson, Shawn Li; second row: Gabriel Madson, Francisco Meneses, Mavzuna Turaeva, Tara Weese

Other Duke Ph.D. interns at RTI this summer are Cole Campton (Computer Science), Tom Cinq-Mars (History), Khari Johnson (Biomedical Engineering), Shawn Li (Environment), Gabriel Madson (Political Science), Francisco Meneses (Public Policy), Mavzuna Turaeva (Economics), and Tara Weese (Philosophy and Law).

On June 8, more than 90 people took part in RTI’s summer internships kickoff meeting, including the entire executive leadership team. Amy Vargas-Tonsi, Project Operations Manager for University Collaborations, said the interns will participate in panel discussions at an end-of-summer virtual event. The 12th Annual RTI Internship Showcase is on August 7 from 9:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

Olich said her colleagues’ positive engagement with doctoral students “is a testament to RTI’s commitment to training the next generation of researchers [who are] improving the human condition and advancing science. I’m honored that Duke recognizes our importance as a partner in giving students this experience.”

By Sarah Dwyer; originally posted on Duke Today

Open Design+ Course Asks Students, How Might We Use the Pandemic to Transform Learning?

Aria Chernik.

Aria Chernik (Associate Professor of the Practice, Social Science Research Institute) will co-lead Open Design+ in Summer Session II. Open Design+ is a new summer program offered through the Duke Innovation & Entrepreneurship Initiative and is part of Bass Connections.

This summer, students will work through the open design thinking process to create a prototype in the problem space: In light of COVID-19, how might we transform learning at Duke?

Why is this course a good fit for summer during the pandemic?

Open Design+ teaches students how to ideate, create, test, and iterate impactful solutions to real-world, complex problems. The pandemic, of course, is an example of just this kind of problem. We need to be able to think big and act creatively—and above all with empathy—to find solutions that can propel communities forward. That’s what students will be doing this summer.

Why did you want to teach this course?

This course combines some of my most strongly-held professional and personal interests and passions. It combines student-driven education innovation with the ethics of open source values and design thinking methodologies.

Can you give us an overview of what you’ll be teaching?

Students will use design thinking to develop innovative solutions to complex, real-world problems. This summer, the challenge space is how might we use the experience of COVID-19 to transform learning at Duke?

Working in small, interdisciplinary teams of undergraduate and graduate students, participants in Open Design+ will gain an understanding of open design, a variation of design thinking that emphasizes the ethical implications of how and what we design.

Students will learn qualitative research skills and conduct extensive interviews with stakeholders in the challenge area, including Duke students, faculty, and administrators to ideate solutions for sustained learning innovation at Duke; they will also learn critical skills and mindsets such as: brainstorming ideas and creating prototypes, testing and iterating solutions, communicating across audiences and media, thinking divergently and convergently, and collaborating and problem-solving in uncertain situations.

How important is collaboration?

Collaboration is absolutely essential. The open design process requires deep and thoughtful collaboration across myriad learning contexts, such as interviewing stakeholders, brainstorming sessions, testing and evaluating prototypes, defining problems, and communicating results. Very little work is done alone. The challenge for us is to create a virtual environment in which the team can collaborate authentically, meaningfully, and frequently, but we are optimistic that we can do this!

What do you hope the students gain from taking this course?

Competencies and mindsets that are critical and applicable across all learning disciplines, careers, and even civic life: listening and creating with empathy, robust collaboration, convergent and divergent thinking, compelling communication across media and audiences, resilience in the face of uncertainty and frustration, creative problem-solving, failing forward, and iterative creation.

Why is social science research so important?

Social science research asks us to reach across disciplines and engage skills ranging from qualitative ethnographic research to quantitative data-driven research. In our increasingly complex world, interdisciplinarity is critical if we are to understand and solve problems that have direct positive social impact.

Originally posted on the Social Science Research 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.