Faculty, Send Us Your Ideas for Summer 2022 Data+ Projects

Data+.

Deadline: November 1, 2021

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

Students join small teams and work alongside other teams in a communal environment learning how to marshal, analyze and visualize data, while gaining broad exposure to the field of data science. There are typically around 25-30 Data+ teams. We hope to be in-person this summer. If so, all teams will have dedicated workspace in Gross Hall, provided by the Rhodes Information Initiative at Duke (iiD), the Social Science Research Institute (SSRI) and the Energy Initiative. The last two summers we have successfully run Data+ as a remote/hybrid experience, and we are prepared to do so if this is required.

Data+ is offered through the Rhodes Information Initiative at Duke (iiD) and is part of the Bass Connections Information, Society & Culture theme. In 2022, the program will run from May 31-August 5. During this time, students are required to contribute to the team full-time and may not take classes or have other employment.

Request for Proposals

Rhodes iiD invites proposals for faculty-sponsored Data+ projects in Summer 2021. The deadline for submitting an application is November 1 by 5:00 p.m.

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 facilitate community engagement with data and data-driven questions. Finally, we are including a special segment within Data+ 2022 called Climate+ for projects connecting data science to issues around climate change.

Faculty may propose a Data+ project linked to a year-long Bass Connections project through the Bass Connections proposal process. Your proposal should articulate how you will connect the summer research experience with the year-long project. Please note that funding decisions will be made by each program individually, so it is possible that your proposal may be accepted for only Data+ or only Bass Connections. Please contact Laura Howes if you want to discuss how other faculty have linked these experiences in the past. Specific questions about Data+ should be directed to Paul Bendich or Gregory Herschlag.

Data+ Application Format

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+, 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 different 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 five to seven hours per week, and funding is generally available to cover the mentor’s time.

If you have a mentor in mind, please indicate who this is and why they are well suited. If you do not have a mentor in mind, 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 or other 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 future 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, 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 toward 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 toward 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 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 describe 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 toward 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 had a partner from outside 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 to Gross Hall two or three times during the summer to hear updates from the 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 towards student stipends, and also identify a point of contact for this partner.

Funding: Please indicate if you or some other entity, including an outside partner, would be able to contribute funds towards the student stipends on your team.

Special Call for Climate+ Projects

This year, we are seeking to host four to five Data+ projects that are thematically focused on climate change. These projects will form “Climate+”. Climate+ is aligned with Duke University’s commitment to advancing interdisciplinary understanding of the causes and societal impacts of climate change as well as potential solutions for long-term sustainability including climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies.

Climate+ takes a wide-angle view of relevant topics that extends well-beyond climate science stretching across disciplinary boundaries including (but not limited to) such areas as:

  • Climate and inequality (jobs, justice and economy)
  • Climate and health (lungs, heat and pollution)
  • Climate and oceans (fisheries, hurricanes and coasts)
  • Climate and biodiversity (forests, species and ecosystems)
  • Climate and energy (systems, resources and policy)

All projects must meet all Data+ requirements to be considered.

Project fit: Not sure if your project fits the Climate+ theme? If your project is thematically close, but you are not quite sure if it’s an exact fit, don’t hesitate to submit it as a potential Climate+ project. Projects that are submitted as prospective Climate+ projects but are not deemed to be thematically aligned during the review process will receive consideration as a prospective Data+ project.

Benefits to proposers: Compelling projects focused in this thematic area will receive preferential consideration.

Benefits to students: Climate+ students will be part of a subcohort of thematically related projects that will engage regularly, in addition to the wider Data+ content, with climate, environment, and energy researchers and practitioners.

How to be considered for Climate+: Projects proposing in this thematic area should note this on the top of their proposal. Data+ projects that fit topically as Climate+ may be considered for either program.

Deadline and Contact

The deadline for submitting this application is November 1 by 5:00 p.m. Please email your completed application to Ariel Dawn. If you would like help in developing your proposal, please contact Paul Bendich or Gregory Herschlag.

Please note that you may propose a Data+ summer project linked to a year-long Bass Connections project through the Bass Connections RFP (due November 1 by 5:00 p.m.) If you are proposing joint Data+ and Bass Connections projects, you only need to complete the Bass Connections RFP; you do not need to complete a separate application for Data+.

Learn More

Explore Data+ Projects for Summer 2021 and Apply Now

Data+.

Deadline: February 26, 2021

Interested in exploring new data-driven approaches to interdisciplinary challenges? Student applications are now open for this summer’s Data+ research program. The application deadline is February 26, but applications will be evaluated on a rolling basis, so students should apply as soon as possible.

Data+ is a full-time ten-week summer research experience for undergraduates and master’s students. Students join small teams and learn how to marshal, analyze and visualize data, while gaining broad exposure to the field of data science. In 2021, the program will run from June 1 through August 6.

Data+ is offered through the Rhodes Information Initiative at Duke and is part of the Bass Connections Information, Society & Culture theme. See details and apply.

2021 Data+ Projects

Check out the virtual Data+ Information Fair on January 29 from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. EST. Register here.

Faculty Can Propose Interdisciplinary Data+ Projects for Summer 2021

Data+

Deadline: November 2, 2020

Overview

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 (ariel.dawn@duke.edu) on or before that deadline for consideration.

If you would like help in developing your proposal, please contact Paul Bendich (bendich@math.duke.edu) or Gregory Herschlag (gregory.herschlag@duke.edu).

Sure Signs of Addiction: More Than Just a Feeling

Nicole Schramm-Sapyta.

Whether it’s finishing this season’s fifth box of Girl Scout cookies or binge-watching a Netflix show, it can be easy for the average, healthy person to think they’re developing a problem.

“I can’t believe I just finished another sleeve of Thin Mints, I’m so addicted,” or “Wow, I’m so addicted to Dexter—just finished the seventh season this weekend!” are common phrases overheard in coffee shops and grocery store lines.

However, when addiction researcher Nicole Schramm-Sapyta, PhD, an associate professor of the practice in the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences, hears these phrases, she knows that these people, more often than not, are not truly addicted. Addiction has a clinical definition: when a person continues to do something despite experiencing major negative consequences. And, she says, this behavior is linked to changes to the brain.

Nicole standing outside.

Schramm-Sapyta’s early laboratory research focused on addiction’s effects on a part of the brain called the nucleus accumbens, a bundle of nerve cells also known as the brain’s pleasure center. Satisfying experiences—whether in the form of an addictive drug, monetary reward, sexual encounter, or satisfying meal—trigger the release of a type of “feel good” neurotransmitter called dopamine in this pleasure center. But addictive drugs—substances like alcohol, nicotine and opiates—pack an extra-powerful punch, and the brain is flooded and then overwhelmed by large amounts of dopamine. Over time, the brain will counteract this flooding by down-regulating, or removing, the dopamine receptors.

“When someone repeatedly takes an addictive drug, they lose dopamine receptors, and eventually become anhedonic, or unable to feel pleasure,” said Schramm-Sapyta. “The person is no longer able to feel joy from normal life. So, getting a good grade, seeing an old friend, or having a delicious meal doesn’t feel good. And the only way to feel ‘normal’ again is to get high on the drug. When someone progresses to this stage of addiction, they’re not even enjoying the drug anymore. They’re just taking it to feel normal again.”

Other brain regions add to the process. The brain’s “prioritizer,” the prefrontal cortex, decides that getting more of the drug is a top priority, and the amygdala ramps up negative emotions when it doesn’t get it. Along with the nucleus accumbens, these regions work together to change a person’s response to a drug from simply “liking” it to “wanting” it to “needing” it.

The process of moving from enjoyment to needing the drug can take anywhere from a few months to a few years depending on the person’s susceptibility to addiction, according to Schramm-Sapyta. People who already have underlying mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression, or ADHD, are most vulnerable. Women’s brains also tend to become addicted more quickly than men, though more research is needed to better understand this difference.

“We think of addiction as being a biopsychosocial condition,” she said. “When clinicians treat the biological aspect of the condition—usually with medication—they must also remember to look at the psychosocial aspects of a person’s life that led to the addiction in order to truly guide that person towards recovery.”

Addiction in the Lab

Growing up in North Carolina, Schramm-Sapyta began studying chemical engineering as an undergraduate at NC State University but switched her major to biochemistry, following the advice of a family friend, a pharmacologist at Wake Forest University. She did not regret it.

She went on to earn a PhD in pharmacology at Vanderbilt University, and then accepted a postdoctoral associate position in the lab of Danny Winder, PhD, the Director of the Vanderbilt Center for Addiction Research.

There, she conducted experiments to determine which region of the brain was activated when mice learned how to push a lever and self-administer cocaine. She also began to study addiction and adolescence.

“In the Winder lab, we noticed that it was much easier to observe electrophysiological changes in the nucleus accumbens of adolescent mouse brains than adult mouse brains, which led us to think that might be a mechanism by which adolescents are more vulnerable to addiction than adults,” Schramm-Sapyta said.

After looking deeper, the team came to realize that not all adolescents are more vulnerable to addiction. By studying behavior in mice and rats, the researchers realized that on average, adolescents find drugs of abuse more rewarding and less aversive than adults, but that only some adolescents are more likely to self-administer, or voluntarily take drugs of abuse. The more vulnerable adolescents were more novelty-seeking, less susceptible to the aversive effects of the drugs, and had differences in anxiety levels. For cocaine, less-anxious animals tended to take more, but for alcohol, evidence suggests that more anxious individuals take more.

“Nicole was the first postdoc that I hired in my lab, and I could not have been more fortunate to recruit her,” Winder said. “In those early days of a new lab, having great people around you is key, and Nicole’s enthusiasm, professionalism and intellect all contributed to the foundation of a positive working environment going forward. She did a lot of exciting research in the lab during that time that still influences us today.”

In 2002, Schramm-Sapyta was recruited to Duke University for a postdoctoral research fellowship in the lab of Cynthia Kuhn, PhD, professor of pharmacology and cancer biology, where she continued to study addiction in adolescence.

Another view of Nicole standing outside.

She introduced a concept to the lab known as a “conditioned taste aversion” in which she showed that rats, who normally favor sugar water over regular water, grew to not choose the sugar water over time when it was paired with an injection of an addictive drug.

“They learned to associate the icky feeling brought on by the injection of the drug with the sweet taste,” said Schramm-Sapyta. What’s more, younger rats were less sensitive to the aversive effects of the drug than the older rats. This model has been repeated in a number of animal and human models since then, with all showing that adolescents are less sensitive to the bad feelings of drug or alcohol abuse than adults.

After Schramm-Sapyta left Kuhn’s lab in 2008 to sign on as a faculty member in the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences (DIBS) and in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Kuhn continued to use the conditioned test aversion experiment and applied it to current projects studying conditioned nausea.

“She was a terrific addition to the lab,” Kuhn said. “I have been so proud to see her develop these talents, and, in the process, contribute so much to DIBS and to Duke.”

Addiction in Durham

For Schramm-Sapyta, the early lab work fueled a passion to help people in her community suffering from addiction. After moving into a teaching faculty position, she began to look for ways to partner with the Durham community and involve her students in local research projects.

In 2016, she started working with a Duke Bass Connections Brain & Society team to learn more about the opiate epidemic in Durham. In Bass Connections, students and faculty tackle real-world problems as a team through research, creativity, and collaboration with external partners.

To learn more about the local law-enforcement perspective on drug use, Schramm-Sapyta’s Bass Connections team met with members of the Durham Police Department’s Crisis Intervention Team (CIT). CIT members are police officers and other first responders who have received extensive special training to respond to citizens in crisis, often due to underlying behavioral health issues such as addiction or mental illness. More than 950 first responders in Durham have been CIT-trained since 2007.

When Schramm-Sapyta and her students first met with the CIT officers, a one-hour meeting stretched to more than two hours of open, honest discussion. The students asked hard questions and the officers responded with experience, policy information and honesty. The Bass Connections students were very impressed, and sought to spread the word through their project, “Stemming the Opiate Epidemic Through Education and Outreach.” They organized two CIT presentations on campus and three Mental Health First Aid training sessions, the latter completed by more than 100 members of the Duke community.

Schramm-Sapyta and students were encouraged to return and brainstorm with CIT members about ways Duke could support the program. They learned the CIT had lots of data on 9-1-1 calls but no one to analyze it and make it useful to CIT. Schramm-Sapyta connected with Paul Bendich, associate professor of math and Data+ leader at Duke, and that launched the first Data+/CIT project, “Mental Health Interventions by Durham Police.”

Data+, run by the Rhodes Information Initiative at Duke, is a 10-week summer research experience for undergraduates interested in exploring new data-driven approaches to complex challenges.

The Data+ team’s first project was to analyze 9-1-1 calls between 2011 and 2016 to determine if there were any patterns related to CIT-tagged calls—and they found them. Behavioral health-related calls typically peak on Wednesdays between 8 a.m. and noon, (“Hump Day is real,” said Schramm-Sapyta), but are sparse on Sunday mornings between 4 and 8 a.m.—information CIT could then use to deploy resources.

Students also looked at the number of CIT calls in different areas of the city. Schramm-Sapyta said, “We found that the poorest areas of our city are the greatest users of CIT services.” That’s good news in that it suggests citizens are familiar with CIT and its services, and the services are going where they are most needed, she pointed out. “It also suggests the need for greater mental health services in these areas, so that crises can be averted.”

In 2017, a second Data+ project looked at whether CIT was helping reduce recidivism, i.e., how often convicted criminals are returning to jail after they have been released. Those identified as having a behavioral health issue are much more likely to return to jail, Schramm-Sapyta noted. This time, data were provided by the Durham County Sheriff’s Office and the Durham County Detention Facility.

“Before CIT existed, recidivism was on the rise in Durham,” Schramm-Sapyta said. “As CIT was first established, and the program began to grow, recidivism leveled off.” In the most recent five years, as CIT and Durham have grown rapidly, and other mental health services at the jail and in the community have increased, recidivism has dropped sharply, she noted.

“This is a fantastic example of the potential for really deep, enduring partnerships between Duke and local institutions and law enforcement in the city and county of Durham,” said Ed Balleisen, PhD, Duke’s Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies, who oversees both DIBS and Bass Connections. “These projects ask significant research questions that can inform decision-making and deploy the creativity of Duke’s faculty and students in partnership with local institutions to carry out that research,” he said. “They present their findings with an eye toward allowing decision-makers to see their world more clearly and have a better sense of what’s working and what isn’t.”

Laylon Williams, the Durham CIT Coordinator for First Responders, said working with Schramm-Sapyta and her students has been a boon for his team.

“Our CIT Leadership Team met her and we all absolutely fell in love with her and the kind of person she is,” said Williams. “Nicole has been actively attending our CIT Leadership Meetings every month and she has helped the CIT Team to analyze our data through the Data+ project and other City and County analysis. She was awarded with our Volunteer of the Year Award in 2018 because she helped us to see the effectiveness of our program through the data analysis. We are so thankful for her and all that she does for our Durham CIT Team and our Durham Community.”

CIT honorees.In 2020, Schramm-Sapyta expanded the project by adding another data set: health records of more than 17,000 people who have migrated through the Durham County Jail and were also seen at Duke Health between 2014-2018. The jail shared names with Duke Health’s Analytic Center of Excellence, which then matched the names to health records but removed identifying information such as names and addresses to keep the data set confidential.

This summer, a new cohort of students in the Data+ program will help Schramm-Sapyta crunch the data to determine connections between mental health diagnoses and returns to jail.

“We want to know if there is anything that Duke, the county, or the jail can do differently to help these people,” she said. “The idea is to see what’s working, what can be improved.”

By Lindsay Key; originally posted on the Duke School of Medicine’s Magnify Magazine. Kathy Neal, DIBS, and Sarah Dwyer, Bass Connections, contributed to this story.

All photography by Joshua Chorman. Chorman is a Video Producer/Director at the Duke School of Medicine, and manages the @dukemdprogram Instagram/Facebook page. 

Lindsay Key is the science writer for the Duke University School of Medicine, and editor of the online storytelling magazine Magnify.

Dive into Big Data and Collaborative Research through a Data+ Summer Project

Group of Data+ students.

Deadline: February 27, 2020

Interested in exploring new data-driven approaches to interdisciplinary challenges? Student applications are now open for this summer’s Data+ research program. The application deadline is February 27, but applications will be evaluated on a rolling basis, so students should apply as soon as possible.

Data+ logo.Data+ is a ten-week summer research experience for undergraduates and master’s students. Students join small teams and learn how to marshal, analyze and visualize data, while gaining broad exposure to the field of data science. In 2020 the program will run from May 26 through July 31.

Data+ is offered through the Rhodes Information Initiative at Duke and is part of the Bass Connections Information, Society & Culture theme.

Explore the 2020 Data+ Projects

How Data+ Works

Participants receive a $5,000 stipend for this full-time research experience, out of which they must arrange their own housing and travel. Participants may not accept employment or take classes during the program; this requirement is strictly enforced and nonnegotiable. The program is open to students at all levels and from all majors. Past students have come from a variety of backgrounds, majors and levels of experience with coding. Through collaboration, all students learn to use data analysis to solve problems across disciplines.

Each team is made up of two to three undergraduates (and occasionally one master’s student) and one to two doctoral student mentors, in addition to a client or sponsor. Teams work alongside each other in a communal environment, learning from each other.

How to Apply

Students can apply for project teams using the Data+ Application Portal. Students may apply to up to three project teams, ranked in order of preference, and must submit the following items to complete their application:

  • Cover letter
  • Curriculum vitae
  • Transcript (unofficial copy is fine)
  • One paragraph (per project chosen) about how you can contribute to the project
  • Two references (no actual letters, just names and email addresses)
  • Anything else required in the project description.

Stop by the Data+ Info Fair on January 17 from 3:00 to 4:00 in Gross Hall’s Energy Hub Atrium.

Kyle Bradbury on Improving Global Energy Access through Machine Learning and Collaboration

Kyle Bradbury and Bass Connections team members.
Kyle Bradbury (far left) and members of the 2018-19 Bass Connections project team Energy Data Analytics Lab: Energy Infrastructure Map of the World through Satellite Data (Photo: Energy Initiative)

Kyle Bradbury is managing director of the Energy Data Analytics Lab at the Duke University Energy Initiative. Recently, the Rhodes Information Initiative at Duke (iiD) asked him to explain what he works on and how he involves students through the Data+ and Bass Connections programs. Here are excerpts from their conversation:

Locating Energy Infrastructure Using Satellite Imagery

My research focuses on how we can make energy systems more affordable, accessible, reliable, and clean using machine learning and data analysis tools. The team that I work with, we’re working on questions around understanding where energy infrastructure is using satellite imagery. One of the challenges in this space is called geographic domain adaptation. If I have an algorithm that’s able to find solar panels in California and I train my algorithm there, how am I able to then use that to find solar panels in Africa, Asia, or Europe? Being able to transfer that can really increase the impact of the research that we’re doing, but it leads to a lot of challenging technical issues.

Energy Access

Another research area that I’ve been working on with other members of the team is looking at how we can use data to address some of the challenges in the energy access space. Right now there are close to a billion people around the world that don’t have access to electricity, but we don’t necessarily know which specific communities lack access, and we don’t always know where the grid infrastructure is that could potentially provide access to electricity.

Student Engagement

iiD has been a fantastic resource, especially with their program Data+. Data+ is a ten-week summer program for undergraduates to deeply engage in a data-focused research project. Over the last few years, we’ve engaged numerous undergraduates to help us with our research. They produced datasets and laid the foundation for dozens of research papers that have been able to answer some of these really challenging questions at the intersection of energy systems and machine learning.

This year, Bradbury is leading a Bass Connections project team, A Wider Lens on Energy: Adapting Deep Learning Techniques to Inform Energy Access Decisions, which builds on the work of last summer’s related Data+ project.

Video by the Rhodes Information Initiative at Duke (iiD)

Data+ Students Present Findings at Durham City Hall on Local Eviction Trends

Miezo.
Data+ Durham Evictions member Samantha Miezio presents her team’s findings to the Durham City Council and County Commission. (Photo: Ariel Dawn)

Over the summer of 2019, DataWorks NC sponsored a Duke Data+ project with the Rhodes Information Initiative to examine eviction data in Durham, and identify trends that could guide Durham City and County Government and other stakeholders in deciding which interventions would be most effective for Durham community members facing eviction from their homes.

Undergraduates Ellis Ackerman (Math, NCSU), Rodrigo Araujo (Computer Science, Duke), and Samantha Miezio (Public Policy, Duke) spent ten weeks with project manager Libby McClure building tools to help understand the scope, cause, and effects of evictions in Durham County. Using eviction data recorded by the Durham County Sheriff’s Department and demographic data from the American Community Survey, the team investigated relationships between rent and evictions, created cost-benefit models for eviction diversion efforts, and built interactive visualizations of eviction trends.

On October 8, Miezio and McClure presented their findings at a joint meeting of the Durham City Council and County Commission. Among the team’s findings are that the month of January has more evictions than any other month in the last seven years. Minorities and others at a disadvantage experience a significantly higher rate of evictions than whites do, and that rent increases are followed by an increase in eviction rates about two months later. Over the past 15 years, there has been an average of over 29 evictions filings per day in Durham, resulting in a housing crisis that also strains other support networks in the city.

Graphs.

Eviction has multiple negative consequences that affect the entire community, including increased mental health issues, loss of employment, and displacement of children from their schools. It becomes harder to find another place to rent, since the eviction is on record. Evictions cause strain and added expense for other social services such as homeless shelters, hospital emergency rooms, food banks, and other support networks working with limited resources.

The team is now focusing on possible interventions that would help reduce evictions and divert those at risk to other programs that can help. They are investigating the potential benefits and limitations of policies like Universal Right to Counsel in Durham, which was recently adopted in New York City and Philadelphia.

“Tenants are not guaranteed legal representation in civil court as they are in criminal court,” says Miezio. “If someone is being evicted because they can’t afford rent, it’s probable that they can’t afford a lawyer to represent them. Ninety-five percent of tenants who show up in court don’t have lawyers. Many times, the evictions filed against them are unjust or unlawful. A common theme I heard this summer from meeting with lawyers from Legal Aid is that some tenants get evicted after requesting maintenance in the home if it has serious safety and health concerns. A lawyer could defend the tenant by arguing the defense of retaliatory eviction or even affirmative habitability claims. Lawyers can also help the tenant get more time to relocate in lieu of having an eviction judgment placed on the tenant’s record. Universal right to counsel has the potential to promote a basic human right of legal representation in court and provide a more fair legal process for tenants.”

Pie chart.

The audience was impressed with the work the Data+ team did this summer, although the results have led to more questions that will need to be answered before moving forward on potential policy changes. The team is working with City and County officials to refine their parameters and drill down into the causes behind evictions.

“I’m always grateful to have good data to help guide my policy choices, but of course we have limited resources at the city to gather and analyze data for the many issues we try to address. Having a partnership with Duke’s Data+ program helps give us the information we need to understand what’s happening in our community better and make better decision as policymakers,” said Mayor Pro Tempore and At Large Council Member Jillian Johnson.

In September, the City of Durham, Duke University, the North Carolina Community Development Initiative, Self-Help, and SunTrust jointly announced the launch of the Durham Affordable Housing Loan Fund (DAHLF), which seeks to aid affordable housing developers in addressing the critical shortage of affordable multifamily and single-family housing in the Bull City. Developers for low- to middle-income housing often can’t compete with the larger development firms that have been changing the landscape of downtown Durham. These loans will help to level the playing field, and hopefully allow some residents to stay in place.

By Ariel Dawn; originally posted on the Rhodes iiD website

Migration’s Many Forms: Finding Creative Ways to Examine the Movement of Populations

Migration Lab faculty and student photos.
Directors, teaching and graduate assistants, and fellows of the Representing Migration Humanities Lab (top row: Charlotte Sussman, Tsitsi Jaji, Domenika Baran, Jarvis McInnis, Corina Stan; second row: Sasha Panaram, Karen Little, Sonia Nayak, Catherine Lee, Isabella Arbelaez; third row: Jessica Covill, Kelsey Desir, Nicole Higgins, Jared Junkin, Dana Johnson; bottom row: Andrew Kim, Trisha Remetir, Hannah Borenstein, Grant Glass, Anna Tybinko)

A few years ago, two associate professors in Duke’s English Department started a reading group to explore their shared interest in human mobility and its cultural expressions. Building on their discussions, Charlotte Sussman and Tsitsi Jaji teamed up with fellow faculty members Dominika Baran, Jarvis McInnis, and Corina Stan to direct the Representing Migration Humanities Lab.

The lab received support from Humanities Unbounded, a five-year initiative funded by an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant.

“We were lucky to have some great graduate students as part of the group convening the lab,” Sussman says. “They made me really enjoy working collaboratively.”

Sussman is the author of Consuming Anxieties: Consumer Protest, Gender, and British Slavery, 1713–1833 and Eighteenth-Century English Literature. Based on her positive experience with the lab, she says she “started looking for different kinds of pedagogies and also opportunities for graduate students.”

Fifteen students have served as Representing Migration fellows, teaching assistants, or graduate lab assistants. Others have taken part in courses and research with faculty.

One of the lab’s projects explored Migration Memorials. Around the same time, over at the Duke Marine Lab, Cindy Van Dover’s lab was studying the impact of seabed mining. “It occurred to them that [mining] grants from the International Seabed Authority were close to the path of the Middle Passage,” Sussman says. Van Dover’s lab became interested in proposing a memorial to victims of the trans-Atlantic voyages that brought enslaved Africans to the New World.

Phillip Turner, a Ph.D. student in Marine Science and Conservation, convened a meeting with a wide range of experts, including Sussman. “They knew about the geography but were curious how the Middle Passage was recorded or memorialized,” she says.

Phillip Turner (second from left) with Aline Jaeckel, Diva Amon, and Jessica Perelman at the 25th Session of the International Seabed Authority in Kingston, Jamaica.
Phillip Turner (second from left) with Aline Jaeckel, Diva Amon, and Jessica Perelman at the 25th Session of the International Seabed Authority in Kingston, Jamaica

Turner organized a coauthored article on ways to commemorate the enslaved people who came to rest on the Atlantic seabed. In 2018, he received a Graduate Student Training Enhancement Grant to attend a meeting of the International Seabed Authority, where he networked and discussed the Middle Passage project. “The project was positively received,” he reported, “and it will hopefully be discussed in more detail at subsequent ISA sessions once the manuscript has been published.”

Kaylee Alexander.
Kaylee Alexander

Sussman had an idea to explore the Middle Passage from a new angle and involve more students through a Data+ summer research project. To help prepare the project, doctoral student Kaylee Alexander (Art, Art History & Visual Studies) worked with Duke Libraries’ Data and Visualization Services as a Humanities Unbounded Graduate Assistant.

“One of the original goals of the project was to use data representing nearly 36,000 transatlantic slave voyages to see if it would be possible to map a reasonable location for a deep-sea memorial to the transatlantic slave trade,” Alexander reflected. “The promises of these data were great; we just had to figure out how to use them.”

Sussman’s Data+ team set out to locate where and why enslaved Africans died during the sea voyage and analyze patterns of these mortality rates.

Chudi Zong, Ethan Czerniecki, Daisy Zhan, Charlotte Sussman, and Emma Davenport at the Data+ poster session.
Chudi Zong, Ethan Czerniecki, Daisy Zhan, Charlotte Sussman, and Emma Davenport at the Data+ poster session

“It’s been really interesting to fill in the gaps of the Middle Passage and search for patterns,” said Chudi Zhong, a master’s student in Statistical Science. “There is a lot of missing data, and we’ve used current technology to fill gaps. For example, using the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, we can find records on how many enslaved people died. The Climatological Database for the World’s Oceans has other kinds of data for ships. We merged the two databases and found 35 matching voyages. Then we used our own model to make predictions.”

Dutch Slaving Voyages (1751-1795): The height of each bar corresponds to the average number of deaths per 150km2 grid. The color of the bar corresponds to the number of ship locations recorded in each grid. [From the Data+ team’s executive summary].
Dutch Slaving Voyages (1751-1795): The height of each bar corresponds to the average number of deaths per 150km2 grid. The color of the bar corresponds to the number of ship locations recorded in each grid. [From the Data+ team’s executive summary]
As an undergraduate majoring in Philosophy and Global Cultural Studies, Ethan Czerniecki said the Data+ project “gave me a different way of approaching these topics outside the humanities that proved to be expansive,” he said. “I wouldn’t have thought to treat these individuals as data points, but [the data science approach] opens up new areas like data visualization. Combining a humanities project with data science is really interesting, and the methodologies interact well.”

Prediction of 2,164 trans-Atlantic voyage paths that ended in the northern hemisphere based on the LSTM model; inset map:  prediction of 36 trans-Atlantic voyage paths based on the LSTM model, all of which have reasonably smooth lines. [From the Data+ team’s executive summary].
Prediction of 2,164 trans-Atlantic voyage paths that ended in the northern hemisphere based on the LSTM model; inset map:  prediction of 36 trans-Atlantic voyage paths based on the LSTM model, all of which have reasonably smooth lines. [From the Data+ team’s executive summary]
English Ph.D. student Emma Davenport served as project manager for the Data+ team. “This was my first experience in a real mentorship role,” she said. “It’s different than being part of a team doing the research. Being a mentor calls for a different set of skills and a different orientation.” Davenport is going on the job market this year. “Job committees want to see that you have a set of skills for guiding undergraduate research,” she said, “and both academic and nonacademic jobs are looking for candidates with a well-rounded skillset. I couldn’t have gotten this experience from traditional teaching and research.”

This fall, a Bass Connections project team is continuing the work of the Representing Migration lab and the Data+ project. Doctoral students in English and Romance Studies and undergraduates representing at least six majors are collaborating with faculty and librarians. Some students are creating a map showing where the deaths occurred in the Atlantic; their original data will support a proposal for the Middle Passage memorial.

Also in this academic year, six graduate and undergraduate students will serve as Representing Migration Humanities Fellows.

“I think these opportunities are really great,” says Sussman. “Duke is not a heavy teaching school, at least for English, relative to other Ph.D. programs, but I think what Duke can offer grad students is more unique. This kind of work is useful to them professionally, whether they go into academia or not.”

In addition to the opportunities she has found to engage students in research on migration, Sussman has tapped into other Duke programs as well.

Undergraduates Clifford Haley, Eli Kline, and Bailey Bogle present “Pirating Texts” at the 2019 Story+ Research Symposium. Photo: Jennifer R. Zhou.
Undergraduates Clifford Haley, Eli Kline, and Bailey Bogle present “Pirating Texts” at the 2019 Story+ Research Symposium. Photo: Jennifer R. Zhou

Grant Glass used a Data Expeditions grant to create a data visualization module for Sussman’s course, Queens of Antiquity. A doctoral student at UNC Chapel Hill, Glass also served as project manager on Sussman’s 2018 Data+ project, Pirating Texts, and as graduate mentor on the 2019 Story+ summer research project of the same name.

Most recently, English Ph.D. student Kimberley Dimitriadis received an Archival Expeditions grant to create a module for Sussman’s medical humanities course, Doctors’ Stories.

“Using this [kind of approach] in your classroom setting involves letting go of authority, and sometimes that works better than others,” says Sussman. “You have to be willing to let go.”

Learn more at a free lunchtime event on December 4 at the John Hope Franklin Center for Interdisciplinary and International Studies, featuring Charlotte Sussman and colleagues.

Current Opportunities and Deadlines