Assessing Antibiotic Resistance to Understand How Wild and Captive Lemurs Stay Healthy

Sally Bornbusch

Sally Bornbusch, a Ph.D. student in Evolutionary Anthropology, spent last summer learning how to assess antibiotic resistance in bacterial microbiomes of non-human primates such as lemurs. This experience will inform her dissertation on the relationship between primate gut microbiomes and host health.

Mentored by Christine Drea, Bornbusch was among 18 Duke University students who received Graduate Student Training Enhancement Grants (GSTEG) in 2017-18 from the Office of the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies for training beyond their core disciplines. She shared an update:

Sally Bornbusch and a lemurDuring the summer of 2017 I worked with the Genomics & Microbiology Research Lab at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences to assess antibiotic resistance in non-human primate microbiomes. Specifically, I learned laboratory skills (e.g. qPCR) necessary to assess the presence of 86 known antibiotic resistance genes in the gut and armpit microbiomes of multiple lemur species.

I was also able to spend a portion of the summer collecting lemur microbiome samples both from lemurs at the Duke Lemur Center and, with the help of collaborators, from wild lemurs in Madagascar. With the aid of researchers traveling to remote areas of Madagascar, the GSTEG enabled me to send along supplies to collect unique samples from wild lemurs. And, with my newly acquired analysis skills, I will be able to characterize antibiotic resistance in these invaluable samples, a novel research project that greatly enhances my dissertation research.

By learning the skills to assess antibiotic resistance in the lemurs’ commensal microbial assemblages, I will be able to comprehensively evaluate the impact of antibiotic exposure on the health and ecology of captive and wild lemurs. Because lemurs are considered one of the most endangered groups of animals on the planet, understanding how antibiotics and the growing ‘resistance crisis’ influence lemur health is critical to creating successful conservation and captive care programs. Overall, this experience broadened my skillset in microbial analyses, advanced multiple parts of my research, and furthered our understanding of the factors that influence lemur health.

About GSTEG

This internal funding mechanism from the Office of the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies encourages doctoral and master’s students to step away from their core research and training to acquire skills, knowledge, or co-curricular experiences that will give them new perspectives on their research agendas. Graduate Student Training Enhancement Grants are intended to deepen preparation for academic positions and other career trajectories.

Ecology Doctoral Student Analyzes Whales’ Baleen to Reconstruct the Story of a Species

William Cioffi GSTEG

What can a fin whale’s feeding apparatus tell us about that animal? William Cioffi, a Ph.D. student in Ecology, took a summer course at the University of Utah on stable isotope ecology to support his dissertation on using baleen from fin whales to reconstruct individual life histories and assess changes in foraging ecology, reproduction, and stress.

He was among 18 Duke University students who received Graduate Student Training Enhancement Grants (GSTEG) in 2017-18 from the Office of the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies for training beyond their core disciplines. His faculty mentor is Andrew Read. He shared an update:

William CioffiThe GSTEG award provided me with support to attend a 10-day workshop on stable isotope ecology at the University of Utah this past summer. In addition to morning and evening lectures by top experts in the field, we spent afternoons collecting samples from around Salt Lake City and then processing and analyzing them in the laboratory.

We learned a great deal about the history and theory behind stable isotope ecology as well as many laboratory and analysis techniques that have already been useful to me in my work. Most exciting about this course was the opportunity to discuss ideas and challenges with other students and instructors who had all spent a great deal of time thinking about these issues. The participants included those studying vertebrates, geology, botany, and even forensic science. This course has been running for over 20 years and everyone benefited from the great experience of the instructors and former students, some of whom have even returned as instructors themselves.

In my own work, I use stable isotopes to investigate the historical ecology of baleen whales. Baleen whales are named for the keratin plates that comprise their feeding apparatus. These plates grow continuously throughout an animal’s life, slowly wearing away at the distal end. By repeatedly sampling for stable isotope analysis along the growth axis of an individual plate, a time series can be generated that provides information about foraging and migratory behavior that might have been occurring when that part of the plate was growing. These data provide a window into the past for populations that may no longer exist, but for which baleen plates have been archived in museums or other collections.

About GSTEG

This internal funding mechanism from the Office of the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies encourages doctoral and master’s students to step away from their core research and training to acquire skills, knowledge, or co-curricular experiences that will give them new perspectives on their research agendas. Graduate Student Training Enhancement Grants are intended to deepen preparation for academic positions and other career trajectories.

Images: 2017 IsoCamp class; William Cioffi photographing baleen in preparation for sampling at the New York State Museum

Summer Course Provides an Immersive Exploration of the Value of Art

Stephanie Manning, Graduate Student Training Enhancement Grants

Stephanie Manning is pursuing a master’s degree in Digital Art History in preparation for a career as a specialized art consultant or investment analyst. A summer course at Sotheby’s Institute of Art in London helped deepen her understanding of the art market industry, including the financial aspects involved in valuing and appraising art.

She was among 18 Duke University students who received Graduate Student Training Enhancement Grants (GSTEG) in 2017-18 from the Office of the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies for training beyond their core disciplines. Her faculty mentor is Sheila Dillon. She shared an update:

I had an excellent experience at Sotheby’s Institute of Art in London. My knowledge of the art market and the financial process of appraising art was greatly enhanced from this summer course. In addition to the lectures, I was able to participate in the Old Masterpiece auction, attend several gallery visits to speak with curators and artists, and view a private art auction.

My study of art history and art markets was greatly enhanced by spending my summer at Sotheby’s. I was able to broaden my art historical knowledge of the current art market as well as to learn the financial side of valuations. I met several new colleagues who work in the art industry, and I gained a valuable insight to the art world that I could bring back to Duke to enhance my studies.

I was most interested in learning the degree to which the financial value of art was connected to the cultural, intrinsic value. Appraising art is an art in itself; valuing art depends on both the viewers’ emotions and their knowledge of the value of similar art types. This experience has forever changed the way I view art. I have always considered the intrinsic value when viewing art, and now I push deeper into my thoughts on the financial value of the work to consider how much others would be willing to pay for it, and the value I place on the emotional response I gather from the work.

Through this experience, I was able to better understand the valuation and appraisal of art and the cultural heritage of Sotheby’s art auctions. Being able to personally interact with gallery curators and to visit some of the most prestigious and historic museums in London (such as the Victoria and Albert Museum) allowed me to experience how art professionals interact with the art they showcase and preserve, and how intertwined and complex the cultural and financial values are in the art of appraisal.

About GSTEG

This internal funding mechanism from the Office of the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies encourages doctoral and master’s students to step away from their core research and training to acquire skills, knowledge, or co-curricular experiences that will give them new perspectives on their research agendas. Graduate Student Training Enhancement Grants are intended to deepen preparation for academic positions and other career trajectories.

Image: Stephanie Manning in London

A Tale of Two Feces: Looking into What Comes Out of Lemurs in Madagascar

Lydia Greene

Lydia Greene is a student in the Ph.D. Program in Ecology. She took part in the Bass Connections project team Cookstoves and Air Pollution in Madagascar and received an International Dissertation Research Travel Award from the Graduate School. In the latest Duke Lemur Center-SAVA Conversation newsletter, she reflects on her unusual subject matter and describes her research in the SAVA region of northeast Madagascar.

Feces is not always the most palatable topic to discuss around the dinner table, but for lemur researchers, it’s often unavoidable. Take, for example, a recent mission to Marojejy National Park conducted by myself and DLC-SAVA project coordinator, Marina Blanco. We went to Marojejy together to collect feces for two different projects, and often found ourselves at the end of a long day, consuming vast quantities of rice and beans, discussing the various lemurs we had seen defecate that day. Ah, field work.

As a PhD student in Duke’s Ecology Program, I was on the hunt for fecal samples for my dissertation research on the gut microbiomes of various leaf and fruit-eating lemurs. My research centers around trying to understand the relationship between the multitude of bacteria that inhabit lemur guts and the feeding strategy, geographic location, and evolutionary history of the lemur—that is, are the bacteria in a lemur’s gut more reflective of what they eat, where they live, or who they are. It’s been a longtime goal of mine to sample the silky sifakas, white-fronted brown and red-bellied lemurs of Marojejy.

Marina’s project also centered around the poop of white-fronted brown and red-bellied lemurs, more easily referred to as the Eulemur. Eulemur are fruit eaters and play a major role in seed dispersal in Marojejy. The idea is that these lemurs swallow whole seeds, soften the seeds’ outer layer with intestinal juices, and pass them intact in their feces, where equipped with their own fertilizer, they germinate well. We often think of the ruffed lemurs as being the biggest seed dispersers in Madagascar: Their body size being bigger, they can theoretically poop out bigger seeds. But, there aren’t any ruffed lemurs in Marojejy, and so the task falls on the Eulemur. Marina’s objective was therefore to find Eulemur groups, wait for them to poop, identify the seeds in the poop, collect fruit from corresponding trees, and germinate the seeds.

We based our team at Camp 2, and our first day was spent getting ourselves there. Camp 2 is a good 6.1km from the park entrance and another 2.7km from where cars can drop you off. You also hike upwards about 800m. Fresh air, clean water, and the sounds of the forest surrounded us as Marina and I pitched our tent. Soon, stars emerged and mouse lemurs bounced around the trees behind us.

To help us both, we hired a crackerjack team of guides. First there is Dezykely, an experienced Marojejy guide who knows the lemurs, but also how to keep me from falling down (don’t worry mom, I’m fine). Then there is January, named for his birth month, who is an expert silky tracker. He once spent a year and a half in Marojejy and knows every inch of the park. And lastly we had Yokono, a fresher guide whose enthusiasm and excellent English made up for his youth. These guys seem to swim through the forest with ease on really difficult ‘trails’. I would generously describe my hiking style as somewhat less graceful.

Take for example, the day I went with Dezy and January to find some silky sifakas. We were off the tourist trail, travelling along the guide trails. I think trail is a strong word here, as mostly what I saw were opportunistic roots to grab onto, a few slippery rocks to shuffle along, several trees that looked good on paper, but were really hosts for leech infestations, and several holes masquerading as solid ground. I quickly learned the Malagasy word for ‘fall’ (lavo) and also the term for sliding on your butt to avoid falling (techniqué vody). This particular mission was successful and I scored samples from 3 adult silky sifakas living together, 2 females carrying infants and the group’s dominant male.

Over 10 days of alternate sunshine and monsoon, our team hiked up and down, front to back, and side to side looking for our lemurs and their poop. The lemurs of Marojejy are habituated to people, but carry no tracking devices. We rely completely on our guides to find them based on their instinct and experience. I ultimately collected samples from 9 silky sifakas, 9 red-bellied lemurs, and 14 white-fronted brown lemurs, and Marina identified 9 different types of intact seeds pooped out by her lemurs.

The most impressive part? The sheer size of some of the seeds. One seed, whose mother tree is known as fagnonahona, is literally the size of a quail’s egg, but more oblong. Marina saw a red-bellied lemur poop out three of them in a row. Giant yellow bullets raining down from the canopy. If she hadn’t seen it, I never would have believed it. Currently, some of these lemur “fe-seeds” are germinating in a small tree nursery at the DLC-SAVA office: We now have proof that red-bellied lemurs act as seed dispersers of this giant seed.

Overall, we had a fantastic time in Marojejy. I love the thrill of hiking for hours to finally find the animals and of waiting for hours to finally get samples. And then I love the calm of ending each exhausting day wrapped in a warm fleece, drinking tea with the team, and discussing lemur poop.

By Lydia Greene; originally published in the October 2017 newsletter from Duke Lemur Center-SAVA Conservation

Photos, clockwise from left: A happy lemur researcher (Lydia Greene) and her samples’ DLC-SAVA project coordinator Marina Blanco wondering how a lemur could have passed such a large seed intact!; A female white fronted brown lemur (Eulemur albifrons) about to make a fecal contribution; Seeds of various forest fruits eaten by Marojejy lemurs

With D-SIGN Grants, Graduate Students Build Networks and Advance Research Interests

D-SIGN Duke grantees

Five groups led by Duke graduate students received Duke Support for Interdisciplinary Graduate Networks (D-SIGN) grants for the 2016-17 academic year, becoming the first cohort of students to make use of this new program from the Office of the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies. D-SIGN’s purpose is to enable graduate students to build or extend their networks and to integrate collaborative, cross-school experiences into their programs, thereby increasing the number of individuals whose graduate training reflects Duke’s commitment to interdisciplinarity and knowledge in the service of society.

The D-SIGN grantees included students from the School of Nursing, Sanford School of Public Policy, Arts & Sciences and the Nicholas School of the Environment who advanced a range of research projects and educational experiences that reach beyond disciplinary lines. Here are brief summaries of the groups’ activities.

Global Alliance on Disability and Health Innovation (GANDHI) – Children and Adolescents Health Group

Brittney Sullivan (Ph.D. in Nursing ’17, School of Nursing) and Anna Martin (Master of Public Policy student, Sanford School of Public Policy), established a graduate network affiliated with the Bass Connections project Global Alliance on Disability and Health Innovation (GANDHI) but focused on young people rather than adults. Their faculty sponsor was Janet Prvu Bettger (Nursing).

They aimed to establish the evidence for improving systems of care for children and adolescents living with disability after an acute hospitalization. Using a socioecological approach to identify the key needs for children newly living with disability, network members set out to examine and compare the social supports, health and community services and policies in three countries.

The group held weekly meetings with guest speakers throughout the year, supplemented by four group dinners. Three members traveled to Uganda in April to conduct interviews and observe some of the organizations that the group identified.

Anna Martin and Nelia Ekeji ’19 presented “GIS Study of Posthospital Services Supporting Children with Surgical Need in Uganda” at a Duke event, Strategies to Strengthen Health Systems Globally.

The group has a manuscript in preparation, “Spatial Distribution of Rehabilitation Services for Children Following Surgery in Uganda: Using the Data to Plan Interventions.” Members are transcribing and coding interviews, and Sarah Barton (Th.D. student, Divinity School) will lead the group in 2017-18.

Global Energy Access Network (GLEAN)

Three graduate students teamed up with faculty sponsors Subhrendu Pattanayak (Sanford School of Public Policy) and Brian Murray (Nicholas School of the Environment) to bring together students across Duke who are working on global energy transitions, energy access and energy poverty.

Rob Fetter and Faraz Usmani (University Ph.D. Program in Environmental Policy students, Nicholas School and Sanford School) and Hannah Girardeau (Master of Environmental Management student, Nicholas School) established GLEAN to ignite a research and policy dialogue around an understudied global issue.

GLEAN has grown into a network of 50 graduate and undergraduate students, representing at least seven schools and departments across Duke. Members met once or twice each month to update the broader community about relevant activities taking place at their respective schools and departments.

Through the Energy Access Speaker Series, GLEAN organized seven talks by experts on energy, environment and development. Five of these events were co-organized with other Duke programs, which helped the members to forge new partnerships.

In June, the group published an edited volume of energy access case studies, Energy & Development. The six chapters are coauthored by graduate or undergraduate students and focus on five countries (India, Indonesia, Madagascar, Nicaragua, Peru). With support from the Duke University Energy Initiative—GLEAN’s institutional home—the group will promote the publication widely this fall.

Several members worked with three paid research associates to compile a detailed annotated bibliography of energy, environment and development data sources available publicly that will be useful in creating an Energy Access Index. The group received a follow-on D-SIGN grant to conduct an energy access and air quality survey, engage two keynote speakers, produce case studies on energy and development and coordinate an “Imagine Energy” photo contest and exhibition.

Rethinking Regulation – Graduate Student Working Group

Based in the Rethinking Regulation Program at the Kenan Institute for Ethics, this group provides a forum for student-led interdisciplinary discussion, research and analysis of issues related to regulatory governance. Mercy DeMenno (Ph.D. in Public Policy student, Sanford School) sought a D-SIGN grant to support research workshops, writing group meetings, analyses of contemporary regulatory policy issues and other collaborative activities.

The group has grown to involve 25 students from 13 disciplines/programs and nine schools/departments as well as an active alumni group. Faculty sponsors are Lori Bennear (Nicholas School) and Jonathan Wiener (Law).

The group convened 12 research workshops in which members received feedback on their conference papers, articles, dissertation proposals, chapters and research plans. Presentations covered a range of topics, including regulatory impact assessment, regulatory disclosure regimes for fracking, regulating household energy technology, private accreditation in education, water and sanitation service provision in the Middle East and tort reform.

In addition, the group convened two writing groups that met twice per month. One group focused on dissertation prospectus and grant proposal development while the other focused on dissertation articles, chapters and extensions.

A key initiative was the development of a student-led regulatory governance blog. The Rethinking Regulation Blog publishes short articles connecting scholarly work to contemporary regulatory policy issues, with an emphasis on interdisciplinary, collaborative and applied academic inquiry.

A STEM Researcher-Educator Network to Improve K-12 Science Literacy

Three doctoral students teamed up with faculty sponsors Kate Allman (Program in Education) and Brad Murray (Nicholas School) to create a network of STEM graduate students and Master of Arts in Teaching students who work together on lesson plans for local K-12 educators. Rebecca Lauzon (Ph.D. in Earth and Ocean Sciences student, Nicholas School), Eleanor Caves and Patrick Green (Ph.D. in Biology students, Arts & Sciences) utilized the structure of the Scientific Research and Education Network (SciREN), which develops relationships between researchers and educators to incorporate current research into K-12 classrooms.

They recruited two MAT students and 17 STEM researchers to develop K-12 lesson plans. The network produced 16 lesson plans, which were shared with 150 educators at SciREN’s annual networking event and added to SciREN’s portal.

“Polymers Matter” and “Modeling Cell Organelles” were selected for inclusion in SciREN’s lesson plan kit program. Educators were able to order these lessons and have all the necessary supplies mailed. These two lessons reached six schools and 400 students. “Exploring Marshes and Barrier Islands with a Scientific Model” and “Make It Rain: The Water Utility Management Game” were shared with an additional 50 educators at SciREN Coast, an educator-researcher networking event organized by the Duke and UNC marine labs.

The group organized two workshops for STEM researchers. Sixty people attended Demystifying STEM Outreach. Getting Down to Basics: Strategies for Communicating Complex Science was an interactive workshop for 25 students. From these events, the group produced a database of outreach/science communication opportunities.

Pre- and post-surveys revealed that after participating in the network, STEM graduate students felt more qualified to do outreach with K-12 students and educators and to create lesson plans. The MAT students felt they built a network of scientists and gained experience-planning lessons on complicated subjects.

Duke Conservation Society

With faculty sponsor Stuart Pimm (Nicholas School), Priya Ranganathan (Master of Environmental Management student, Nicholas School) sought a D-SIGN grant to expand the Duke Conservation Society beyond the Nicholas School to engage interdisciplinary approaches to conservation.

The group’s mission is to enhance students’ understanding of the various scientific, political, economic and managerial tools available to address conservation issues; facilitate collaborations among undergraduate, master’s and Ph.D. students on conservation projects and analyses; and provide opportunities for professional development such as networking with conservation professionals, seminars and guest speakers.

The Duke Conservation Society organized multiple symposia and events geared toward sharing international perspectives on conservation. Members worked with Conservation X Labs, a company that produces technology for wildlife conservation, and Duke Conservation Tech, a student organization affiliated with the Pratt School of Engineering, to produce Blueprint: People + Wildlife. This was a competition for teams of undergraduate and graduate students in the Triangle area to create blueprints for novel conservation technologies to assist in fighting the illegal wildlife trade. Approximately 50 students participated in teams.

The group also used the D-SIGN grant to for a dinner seminar to discuss a project on urban gardening that the Divinity School and the Nicholas School will undertake together. The dinner featured Saskia Cornes of the Duke Campus Farm and Norman Wirzba of the Divinity School. The speakers discussed the intersection of conservation, urban agriculture and Christianity, and students from both schools collaborated on designs for the proposed courtyard garden at the Divinity School.

Learn More

Read about the six groups that received D-SIGN grants for 2017-18 and what they plan to do. The next call for proposals will be released in early 2018. Any current Duke graduate student (including master’s, professional and Ph.D. students) may submit a proposal for interdisciplinary projects, trainings or experiences during the 2018-19 academic year.

Stretching beyond Their Disciplines, Graduate Students Gain New Perspectives

GSTEG

Last year 19 Duke graduate students received 2016-2017 Graduate Student Training Enhancement Grants (GSTEG) from the Office of the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies. The disciplinary homes of these students ranged from engineering, environment and biology to history, theology and medicine.

A key feature of Together Duke, the university’s new academic strategic plan, GSTEG allows graduate students to deepen preparation for academic positions and other career trajectories. Stretching beyond their core disciplinary training, these doctoral and master’s students acquired skills, knowledge and field experiences that widened their intellectual networks and enhanced their original research.

Explore the links to below to learn more about the recipients’ experiences with hands-on training, internships, workshops, courses and community engagement.

Hands-on Training

Nanotechnology at Los Alamos

Zhiqin Huang (Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering, Pratt School of Engineering) spent half a year at the Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. Exposure to the lab’s cutting-edge facilities and other resources amplified her dissertation research on novel nanostructures that can generate extremely low-energy and ultrafast plasmonic switches.

The main purpose of the visit was to learn optics-related experiment techniques. Based on the rich resources, I even built a new pump-probe system independently and did a group of experiments using newly fabricated samples and obtained primary results. Furthermore, I attended several forums related to nanooptics as well as invaluable seminars. Through discussions with some talented experts in the field of my research, I gained a much better understanding on both theory and experiments.

Coastal Wetlands

Fateme Yousefi Lalimi (Ph.D. in Environmental Science, Nicholas School of the Environment) visited Dr. Andrea D’Alpaos’s lab at the University of Padova and conducted fieldwork in the Venice Lagoon, in order to strengthen her dissertation on coastal wetlands.

I was able to extend a hydrodynamic model of coastal wetlands to larger scales with the use of robust numerical modeling techniques. Visiting and working in Venice marshes expanded my observational perspective beyond the study sites I was familiar with in North Carolina and Virginia. Besides the academic training and research aspect of this experience, I could extend my professional network and scientific collaborations with leading scientists in my field. I am currently working on a scientific paper that is the result of my trip.

A Closer Look at Stormwater

Mark River (Ph.D. in Environment, Nicholas School of the Environment) works in the Duke University Wetland Center. For his dissertation research on how phosphorus is transported by particles in stormwater, he tapped into the resources at Virginia Tech’s National Center for Earth and Environmental Nanotechnology Infrastructure (NanoEarth).

I traveled to Virginia Tech and learned hands-on transmission electron microscopy on two different instruments, which I had no exposure to previously. Using the data I obtained in the two full days at Virginia Tech, I am working towards a nice publication that I would not otherwise have the data for.

A Social Science Angle on Coral Restoration

What do managers of coral reefs need to know about coral restoration methods before they start new restoration projects? Elizabeth Shaver (Ph.D. in Marine Science and Conservation, Nicholas School of the Environment) set out to answer this question in partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and The Nature Conservancy.

In the process of creating and implementing the survey, I learned valuable skills in the social sciences that I otherwise would not have obtained in my graduate work, including training on the wording of surveys, the Institutional Review Board process and pre-testing, to name a few. And the NOAA workshop I attended was a small and selective group of practitioners and scientists that I was only able to attend because of my role in this project. This workshop provided countless networking opportunities that I have since used to develop a postdoctoral proposal on coral restoration.

Sticky Business of Underwater Adhesive

Zoie Diana (Master of Environmental Management, Nicholas School of the Environment) went to the Okeanos Research Laboratory at Clemson University to probe for chitin in the decorator worm (Diopatra cuprea) tube and underwater adhesive. This training furthered her understanding of conserved molecular mechanisms in invertebrate bioadhesive and structure and informed her thesis, “Learning to Glue Underwater: Inspiration from the Decorator Worm.”

Internships

Brazilian Governance

Travis Knoll (Ph.D. in History, Arts & Sciences) served as an intern at the U.S. Embassy in Brasilia. He focused on issues ranging from Brazil’s internal political scene to the key role the country’s foreign policy plays in the region and beyond.

My time in Brasilia helped me connect historical debates with public policy. Both writing policy reports on affirmative action and meeting important public figures has opened up the possibility for focusing less exclusively on the push for affirmative action in Rio de Janeiro state.

Sufi Spirituality and Social Justice

To strengthen his dissertation research on the Sufi spiritual movement and commitment to social justice, Daanish Faruqi (Ph.D. in History, Arts & Sciences) traveled to Jordan and Turkey to help Syrian refugee communities through relief foundations operated by Sufi networks.

I did considerable work with the Syrian refugee community under the auspices of SKT Welfare, a charitable organization founded and run by the Sufi spiritual movement that is the subject of my academic research. It made painstakingly clear the intimate connection between this group’s spirituality and commitment to worldly service. This experience will be crucial in helping better piece together the social and humanitarian dimensions of Islamic spirituality more broadly, and in understanding this movement that forms the basis of my dissertation in particular.

British Art and Poetry

Christopher Catanese (Ph.D. in English, Arts & Sciences) interned at the North Carolina Museum of Art to contribute to the exhibition “History and Mystery: British Old Masters, 1550-1850,” which provided experience within two departments of a major public arts organization and informed his research on 18th– and early 19th-century British poetry.

Workshops

Capitalism, Slavery and Freedom

Alisha Hines (Ph.D. in History and African & African American Studies, Arts & Sciences) attended the History of Capitalism Workshop at Cornell University. She learned about technical content areas such as statistics, accounting and economic theory in order to apply quantitative methods and techniques to her study of slavery and freedom in the middle Mississippi River Valley.

The workshop was quite useful to me because I use steamboat company records in my research and I now feel more confident reading ledgers and account books, and can ask new questions about the hiring practices, for example, of steamboat captains and how they might have assessed the risk of employing enslaved men and women in river work. In addition, I was able to learn more about mapping techniques I can use to chart patterns of mobility of black women in the Mississippi River Valley.

Modeling and Data Analysis for Biology

Eight months before defending her dissertation on the effects of genetic variation on signaling dynamics, Selcan Aydin (Ph.D. in Biology, Arts & Sciences) spent two weeks in the Computational Synthetic Biology Track of the Quantitative Biology (Qbio) Summer School at the University of California, San Diego. She built skills needed for the modeling and data analysis challenges of her research.

The group project was very helpful in gaining hands-on mathematical modeling experience where I had the chance to interact with computational biologists. This allowed me to improve my collaboration and scientific communication skills in addition to the scientific knowledge I have gained in computational and mathematical modeling.

Big Data and a Bird Migration Route

Danica Schaffer-Smith (Ph.D. in Environment, Nicholas School of the Environment) participated in a week-long workshop on environmental data analytics in Boulder, Colorado, offered by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON). The technical knowledge she gained will inform her dissertation on spatiotemporal variability of inland waterbodies along the Pacific flyway. More than a billion birds use this flyway every year as a north-south migration route.

Participating in the workshop assisted me in developing new modeling and computing skills, including an emphasis on big data and integrating diverse datasets in a unified analysis framework. The tutorials on Bayesian data analysis and spatiotemporal data analysis have proven to be directly applicable for my own work and I am currently using these methods in two chapters of my dissertation.

Environmental Genomics

Tess Leuthner (Ph.D. in Environment, Nicholas School of the Environment, Integrated Toxicology and Environmental Health Program), attended the Environmental Genomics training program at the Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory.

I gained the knowledge to create, manage and analyze genomics datasets, but I also met new colleagues and collaborators. I continue to communicate and collaborate with scientists and peers that I met during this course.

Evolutionary Quantitative Genetics

Brenna R. Forester (Ph.D. in Environment, Nicholas School of the Environment) participated in two workshops hosted by the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS) in Knoxville and a workshop on conservation genomics in Montana, to inform her dissertation research in the emerging field of landscape genomics.

I learned skills that have allowed me to be a more effective collaborator, and have better prepared me for the postdoctoral position I have just started at Colorado State University.

Courses

Printmaking and Suffering

Stephanie Gehring Ladd (Ph.D. in Religion, Arts & Sciences) took a printmaking course at UNC Chapel Hill to gain insight into the process of intaglio printmaking. This experience enhanced her observational powers in writing about prints and informed her dissertation on attention to suffering in the work of Simone Weil and Käthe Kollwitz.

Professor Brian Garner was fantastic to work with. He let me custom-tailor a course within his Introduction to Intaglio, so that I was able to focus on the intaglio printmaking techniques most used by the artist I am studying, Käthe Kollwitz. I learned an enormous amount about how her work was done.

Singapore’s Urbanization

Nathan Bullock (Ph.D. in Art, Art History and Visual Studies, Arts & Sciences) spent a semester taking courses at the Yale School of Architecture to inform the application of architectural theory to his dissertation on contemporary Singapore.

Seeing how students learn about architecture in a professional program was eye-opening in comparison to the approach taken by humanists in an art history department. I was most struck by how deep the divide really was between theory and practice. This experience will certainly change how I interact with and write about the architects I study in my dissertation research.

Marketing and Philosophy

Adela Deanova (Ph.D. in Philosophy, Arts & Sciences) completed a series of online courses in digital marketing in order to contribute to Project Vox, a digital initiative that recovers the lost voices of female philosophers in the early modern era.

The experience proved to be very valuable for me, not only because I learned about leading-edge business marketing practices in theory, but also because it allowed me to apply the theoretical insights to three practical projects: the Capstone Project for the Digital Marketing certification; the user experience strategy for Project Vox; and the Story+ project for RTI International.

Christian Engagement with Architecture

Joelle A. Hathaway (Th.D., Divinity School) took a photography course at Durham Tech and conducted fieldwork in England. Her aim was to compile a portfolio of high-resolution images of religious art and architecture and conduct interviews about contemporary art in Anglican cathedrals, which will inform her dissertation about Christian practices of engagement with architecture and built environments.

I presented a paper at the Southeastern Commission for the Study of Religion based on the interviews and research I did at Salisbury Cathedral. I have two other paper proposals submitted for other academic conferences, also on cathedrals from my trip. I could spend the next decade researching and unraveling the different threads I uncovered through this experience!

Community Engagement

Empowering Young People to Become Healthy Adults

Banafsheh Sharif-Askary (M.D., School of Medicine) established the Health, Advocacy and Readiness for Teens (HART) program with partners Bull City Fit and Healthy Lifestyles. The program equips young people with tools and resources to help them lead healthier lives and learn behaviors that will continue into adulthood.

The Graduate Student Training Enhancement Grant was a crucial component of starting HART and ensuring that we had the necessary resources to serve our teens. Personally, HART has challenged us to be more flexible, thoughtful and accountable and we believe that these qualities will better equip us to be high-quality patient-oriented clinicians.

Art and Community Self-help

Jung E. Choi (Ph.D. in Art, Art History and Visual Studies, Arts & Sciences) traveled to Singapore to nurture community self-help in deprived urban neighborhoods and to inform her dissertation on the intersection of art, technology and space. Since then, Choi received her Ph.D. and completed the Graduate Certificate in Information Science + Studies.

I organized 12 different meet-ups among artists, community members and visitors and had opportunities to discuss various ways to enhance the understanding of the neighborhood and find better ways to engage with the environment involving art. Through this project, as a curator/scholar, I was able to understand the practical issues of curation that involve ongoing conversations among community members as well as the integrated approach to art and life.

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See which students received Graduate Student Training Enhancement Grants for 2017-2018 and what they plan to do.

In late 2017 or early 2018 an RFP will invite all current Duke graduate students (including master’s, professional and Ph.D. students) to propose graduate training enhancement activities lasting up to one semester, for use during the 2018-2019 academic year.

Volunteer Work with Syrian Refugees Deepens Understanding of Sufi Spirituality

Daanish Faruqi

To strengthen his dissertation research on the Sufi spiritual movement, History doctoral student Daanish Faruqi traveled to Jordan and Turkey to help Syrian refugee communities through relief foundations operated by Sufi networks.

He was among 19 Duke students who received Graduate Student Training Enhancement Grants (GSTEG) in 2016-17 for training beyond their core disciplines. His faculty mentor was Engseng Ho. Recently he shared some reflections on his experience:

Both in Jordan (June and July 2016) and in shorter trips to Turkey (July 2016, and again in December 2016), I did considerable work with the Syrian refugee community under the auspices of SKT Welfare, a charitable organization founded and run by the Sufi spiritual movement that is the subject of my academic research.

During my summer in Amman I worked in SKT’s office as a volunteer teacher, tutoring Syrian refugee students in English and offering administrative support to SKT leadership. The key outcome of this experience was the centrality of the spiritual dimensions of Islam in service of social justice, as an animating dictum behind the organization’s charitable arm. This came full circle in my trips to Turkey, where I participated directly in food aid deployments in Reyhanli, near the Syrian/Turkish border.

What we offered was merely a drop in the bucket of the full needs of these communities, but offering even nominal aid—and realizing the remarkable sophistication of SKT leaders and volunteers that culminated in putting together their aid apparatus, and in vetting and surveying entire communities to establish aid delivery quotas—proved deeply edifying. Again, it made painstakingly clear the intimate connection between this group’s spirituality and commitment to worldly service.

All of this will be central as I pursue my dissertation research. This experience will be crucial in helping better piece together the social and humanitarian dimensions of Islamic spirituality more broadly, and in understanding this movement that forms the basis of my dissertation in particular.

This internal funding mechanism from the Office of the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies encourages graduate students to step away from their core research and training to acquire skills, knowledge or co-curricular experiences that will give them new perspectives on their research agendas. Graduate Student Training Enhancement Grants are intended to deepen preparation for academic positions and other career trajectories.

See who received these grants for 2017-18, and read about other 2016-17 recipients’ experiences:

Doctoral Student’s Project Unites Art and Community Engagement in South Korea

Jung E. Choi

Last year, Art History doctoral student Jung E. Choi received a grant to develop a local art festival, “Like Project 2016,” at the SlowSlowQuickQuick alternative space in Seoul, South Korea. Her aim was to nurture community self-help in deprived urban neighborhoods and to inform her dissertation on the intersection of art, technology and space.

She was among 19 Duke students who received Graduate Student Training Enhancement Grants in 2016-17 for training beyond their core disciplines. Her faculty mentor was Mark Hansen.

Since then, Choi received her Ph.D. and completed the Graduate Certificate in Information Science + Studies. She is currently a research scholar in the Department of Art, Art History and Visual Studies. She shared a brief overview of her grant experience:

The project intended to nurture community self-help in deprived urban neighborhoods by integrating art and community engagement in a flexible tool for achieving a welcoming atmosphere and changing the perception of place among inhabitants and visitors. I organized 12 different meet-ups among artists, community members and visitors and had opportunities to discuss various ways to enhance the understanding of the neighborhood and find better ways to engage with the environment involving art.

Through this project, as a curator/scholar, I was able to understand the practical issues of curation that involve ongoing conversations among community members as well as the integrated approach to art and life.

This internal funding mechanism from the Office of the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies encourages graduate students to step away from their core research and training to acquire skills, knowledge or co-curricular experiences that will give them new perspectives on their research agendas. Graduate Student Training Enhancement Grants are intended to deepen preparation for academic positions and other career trajectories.

See who received these grants for 2017-18, and read about other 2016-17 recipients’ experiences: