Peer Mentoring Program for First-Year Ph.D. Students

Portraits of peer mentoring fellows.
These peer mentoring fellows will lead small groups of new doctoral students in the fall.

The Office of Interdisciplinary Studies invites all incoming first-year Duke Ph.D. students to take part in small peer mentoring groups during their first semester on campus.

Facilitated by trained peer mentoring fellows (see their profiles below), these groups are designed to help new doctoral students flourish. Each group will meet over the Fall 2022 semester for approximately six hours total (likely across four 90-minute sessions, although individual groups may vary).

No two groups will be alike. The topics, discussions and activities will be shaped by the interests and skills of the peer mentoring fellow and the participants. However, every group will provide:

  • A safe, nonjudgmental and confidential space for participants to hold conversations on issues related to their Ph.D. training
  • Multiple, fresh perspectives on issues and questions that participants bring to the groups
  • Support and strategies for enhancing participants’ resilience and well-being in graduate school
  • Opportunities for participants to realize that they are not alone in the challenges they face as Ph.D. students
  • Ways for participants to widen their academic, professional and social networks across Duke and to mentor other Ph.D. students

Register Now

To take part in a peer mentoring group this fall, please register by Friday, July 1, 2022. All incoming first-year Ph.D. students are eligible. You’ll be invited to indicate your preference (if any) to work with a particular mentoring fellow. We cannot guarantee that all preferences will be honored, but we will do our best to match you to the mentor for whom you’ve indicated a preference. Group assignments will be announced before the beginning of the Fall 2022 semester.

Questions? Please email Dr. Maria Wisdom, director of interdisciplinary mentoring and coaching programs, at

Meet the Fall 2022 Peer Mentoring Fellows

Each of the peer mentoring fellows has been selected for the role on the basis of their interest and expertise in supporting the flourishing and well-being of other Ph.D. students. They have all undergone specialized training with Maria Wisdom to learn best practices and hone skills in active listening, group facilitation, coaching techniques and approaches for supporting a range of diverse learners and learning goals.

Armen Bagdasarov

Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology (Year 3)Armen Bagdasarov.

Armen’s area of study is developmental psychopathology. He uses behavioral and neuroimaging methodologies to understand how psychobiological vulnerabilities and environmental risk factors shape developmental processes and pathways of normative and atypical cognitive, social and emotional development during early childhood.

As a mentor, Armen hopes to leverage his experience as a clinician to provide a safe, judgement-free and compassion-focused space for new students as they transition into graduate school.

Armen loves to cook, check out new restaurants and bars, and travel. You might find him at your local coffee shop.

Joseph Diehl

Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology (Year 3)Joseph Diehl.

Joe’s research investigates topics such as mind wandering, contemplative science, emotion regulation and psychedelic science. He is also interested in cutting-edge methodological approaches to the classification and treatment of psychopathology.

As a mentor, he is interested in managing a good work-life balance, enforcing healthy boundaries with supervisors and colleagues, finding meaning within and outside of work life, and emphasizing having fun while in grad school.

Joe loves traveling, having any excuse to be outside, being active and frequenting various breweries and bars in Durham. He also enjoys hosting social events centered around good food and great wine.

Ze-Yi Han

Ze-Yi Han.Ph.D. in Biology (Year 3)

Ze-Yi studies rapid evolution and its effects on contemporaneous ecological processes. Her goal is to understand how rapid evolution and changes in traits affect predator-prey interactions and food web dynamics in changing environmental conditions.

Ze-Yi moved to the states from China for college, and ever since then she wanted a German shepherd. She finally got one in the first semester of grad school and named him “pretentious baby” in Chinese. Though the pronunciation of the name “Zuobaoer” gave her friends such a hard time, there was no better name for her whiny puppy. Besides playing with her dog, she also enjoys drawing, making all kinds of crafts and exercising.

As a mentor, Ze-Yi is interested in building supportive mentor-mentee relationships, finding a healthy work-life balance, facilitating first-year students’ transition into grad school, and identifying and overcoming imposter syndrome. As an international student herself, she is well aware of the difficulty and insecurity related to identity and background. She aims to empower others who are facing similar challenges and is here to create a safe space to support her peers in finding their own best ways of personal growth.

Caleb Hazelwood

Caleb Hazelwood Ph.D. in Philosophy (Year 4)

Caleb focuses on key concepts in evolutionary biology. He is especially concerned with how biologists investigate, explain and model causal relationships in evolutionary phenomena.

As a mentor (and mentee), he is interested in managing perfectionism, enforcing healthy boundaries with supervisors and colleagues, developing sustainable work habits and finding play in productivity.

He aims to apply a holistic approach to life as a graduate student. We are humans first, scholars second. He prioritizes inclusivity and is committed to listening, learning and providing support however he can.

Hansel Alex Hobbie

Alex Hobbie.Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering (Year 4)

In research, Alex develops novel engineering approaches to solve problems for interdisciplinary applications by employing concepts of material science, electromagnetics and electronic design. His work aims to progress ideas from first principles to device development for fields ranging from medicine to sustainable materials.

Alex aspires to be a network of support for first-time graduate students as they find their footing to walk through the rest of graduate school confidently. This support can encompass anything from learning the literal lay of the land here at Duke to having someone to chat with about the new, and occasionally challenging, relationships we make in our graduate school experiences.

For his work-life balance in graduate school Alex enjoys being outside in the sunny Durham weather, grabbing a coffee or beer, and climbing. No matter what you enjoy in your free time, Alex can offer plenty of ideas for making the most of Durham and the Triangle area culture and cuisine.

Dana Hogan

Dana Hogan.Ph.D. in Art History & Visual Culture (Year 4)

Dana’s research examines patterns of mobility among early modern Italian women artists and analyzes their depictions of Otherness. She is enrolled in the Graduate Certificate in Gender & Feminist Studies.

As a mentor, Dana aims to facilitate group generation of strategies for effective communication, organization and work-life balance, recognizing that the best ideas are often refined with patience, flexibility and collaboration.

Danting Jiang

Danting Jiang.Ph.D. in Biostatistics & Bioinformatics (Year 4)

Danting’s main research project investigates the role of gut bacteria in HIV acquisition, using bioinformatic and statistical tools. This summer, she will be interning at a pharmaceutical company where she will analyze clinical data to better understand a rare genetic disease.

As a mentor, she is passionate about helping first-year students identify their unique career paths within and outside of academia and prepare for wherever life leads them in their doctoral training. As a woman in STEM and an international student who has been studying in the U.S. for eight years, she has plenty of stories to share and is eager to learn about others’.

In her free time, she likes walking around Carrboro with her favorite cat, Apollo, and hosting dinner parties with her favorite human, Joseph.

Dillon King

Dillon King.Ph.D. in Environment (Year 5)

Dillon’s research focuses on sex differences in mitochondrial function, mechanisms of chemical-induced toxicity, and mitochondrial DNA repair. She is enrolled in the certificate in Integrated Toxicology and Environmental Health and the Certificate in College Teaching.

As a mentor, Dillon is interested in helping others define what success means for them, navigating cultural norms in academia, exploring careers both inside and outside of academia, and cultivating meaningful relationships in graduate school.

In her free time, Dillon enjoys cooking, gardening and eating at the many restaurants in Durham.

Arvind Krishnamurthy

Ph.D. in Political Science (Year 5)Arvind Krishnamurthy.

Arvind studies the politics of criminal justice in the United States. His dissertation work explores how police are institutionally insulated from democratic inputs because of the structures of local government.

As a mentor, Arvind hopes to empower students to find their own strengths and personal pathways to success. He is interested in building spaces for diverse voices and perspectives, helping students navigate the power dynamics of academia and creating an environment of growth, learning and collaboration.

In his free time, Arvind loves to make music, play sports and get far too competitive during board games with his friends.

Jessica LaLonde

Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science (Year 3)Jessica LaLonde.

Jessica’s area of study is in mechanical engineering and materials science, specifically focusing on using machine learning to improve the design process for bio-derived polymers and biodegradable plastics.

Jessica grew up all over the USA but mostly in the Bay Area in California. She went to college in Cleveland, Ohio. In her free time, she loves the guitar, writing, rock climbing, running and trying to learn how to cook. She also loves riding bikes and caring for her many house plants.

As a mentor, Jessica is interested in first-generation, international, LGBTQA+, BIPOC and neurodiverse student allyship and inclusion. She’s particularly interested in fostering safe, honest spaces to promote mental and social health and growth.

Jessica Levasseur

Ph.D. in Environment (Year 4)Jessica Levasseur.

Jess’ research uses analytical chemistry to address exposure science and environmental health questions. Her dissertation focuses on identifying and measuring chemical exposures from consumer products such as personal care products and building materials.

As a mentor, Jess is interested in refining communication habits and expectations, addressing feelings of inadequacy, and enforcing healthy boundaries in our personal and professional lives.

Jess loves reading, cooking, traveling, spending time outside and spending time with her family.

Miguel Martinez

Ph.D. in Political Science (Year 4)Miguel Martinez.

Miguel Martinez is a political science candidate at Duke University. His research focuses on how Latinx/a/os understand race and racism, their standing in the U.S. racial hierarchy system and how their conceptualization of race influences their political attitudes and behavior.

As a mentor, Miguel recognizes that successful mentoring involves active listening, engagement and the ability to adjust to the needs of mentees. His desire is to provide mentees with the space and opportunity to comfortably share their questions and challenges so they can collectively find the best way to move forward. As a first-generation student, Miguel is committed to helping graduate students transition into their respective programs as smoothly as possible.

During his free time, Miguel enjoys exercising and playing with his wonderful cat Cole.

Leann McLaren

Leann McLarenPh.D. in Political Science (Year 4)

Leann’s area of study is race in American politics, Black political behavior, immigration and identity politics.

She is passionate about a whole realm of social problems, so she is open to discussing the range of problems graduate students encounter as they transition into graduate school. She also loves to discuss out-of-school hobbies and has recently delved into painting and crochet.

Leann received her undergraduate degree at the University of Connecticut as a first-generation college student. She loves to travel, hear about different traveling experiences and engage in community service whenever she can!

Carly Sciandra

Ph.D. in Biochemistry (Year 4)Carly Sciandra.

Carly’s research focuses on cancer biology and understanding a DNA damage tolerance pathway heavily utilized by cancer cells after taking chemotherapeutics.

As a mentor, she is excited to assist incoming graduate students as an advocate for their well-being and a support system anytime they need someone in their corner. She is here to help you overcome imposter syndrome and supports a work-life balance mindset as you navigate graduate school.

Carly received her undergraduate degree from UMBC and lived in Maryland her entire life up until graduate school. She loves to cook, cycle, play board games and is slowly developing a green thumb!

Danielle Vander Horst

Ph.D. in Classical Studies (Year 2)Danielle Vander Horst.

Dani is a Roman archaeologist researching experiences of cultural contact and exchange between the Roman military and local populations of the northwestern provinces through urban planning and material culture. She is also interested in archaeological and museum ethics.

As a mentor, Dani aims to create a safe space focused on fostering good practices for mental health and self-care. She is keenly aware that, although we are scholars with important and fascinating work, we are first and foremost people with unique backgrounds and needs. Her goal is to work with her group to generate strategies to holistically approach graduate life in healthy, mindful ways.

Outside of academia, Dani can usually be found taking long walks with her dog, Pearl, in Durham’s many nature parks or working on her latest art or freelance journalism project.

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