Research Residency with OECD Provides Hands-on Experience with Regulatory Policymaking

Mercy DeMenno

As a Ph.D. student in Public Policy exploring regulatory governance, Mercy DeMenno engaged interdisciplinary communities to further her understanding of the regulatory policymaking process.

She took part in a Bass Connections project team, Reviewing Retrospective Regulatory Review, and was a Graduate Scholar with the Kenan Institute for Ethics’ Rethinking Regulation Program, where she also founded and led a graduate student working group with a Duke Support for Interdisciplinary Graduate Networks (D-SIGN) grant.

As she neared the end of her doctoral education, DeMenno sought to gain hands-on experience working with policymakers and civil society organizations on strategies to promote effective regulatory governance. She was among 18 Duke students who received Graduate Student Training Enhancement Grants (GSTEG) in 2017-2018 from the Office of the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies for training beyond their core disciplines. Her faculty mentor was Frederick Mayer.

A summary of her GSTEG experience is excerpted below.

I undertook a wonderful experiential learning and collaborative research experience in 2017, which enabled me to contribute to the theory and practice of effective regulatory governance. With the support of the Graduate Student Training Enhancement Grant, I completed a 3-month research residency at the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) headquarters in Paris, France.

The OECD is an intergovernmental organization that seeks to promote policies that improve economic and social wellbeing. The OECD realizes this mission by providing policy research and analysis as well as a forum for intergovernmental collaboration on a range of policy issues. Within the OECD, I worked with the Directorate for Public Governance in the Regulatory Policy Division. The Regulatory Policy Division provides research and analysis to policymakers and regulators from the 39 OECD member and accession countries (and beyond) as well as representatives from over 50 international organizations.

The Regulatory Policy Division’s portfolio covers a range of regulatory governance issues, and the Division has developed key competencies in several areas germane to my dissertation research—including stakeholder participation in rulemaking, regulatory impact assessment, and international regulatory co-operation—making it an ideal place to work at the intersection of the theory and practice of effective regulatory governance as a doctoral student.

During my research residency at the OECD, I extended my dissertation research through collaborative research projects and conversations with policymakers about the translational implications of my dissertation research for both domestic and international rulemaking. I also conducted novel empirical research on international regulatory co-operation and presented results to policymakers and country delegates of the OECD Regulatory Policy Committee. Finally, I helped design and orchestrate an advisory panel of academics to work with leaders of international organizations on developing and implementing best practices for international rulemaking.

The Graduate Student Training Enhancement Grant experience contributed to my envisaged academic and professional trajectory by improving my research, leadership, and communication skills; enhancing the quality and impact of my dissertation; and embedding me in a network of critical importance to my post-degree job search.

The experience will also result in several publications. For example, my research on international regulatory co-operation will be featured in the OECD’s 2018 Regulatory Policy Outlook and in a forthcoming OECD working paper.

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.

  • Read other GSTEG updates from 2017-18 grantees.
  • See who received GSTEG grants for 2018-19.

 

Photo: Mercy DeMenno in front of OECD member countries’ flags, December 2017

Machine Learning Techniques Help Philosopher Build an App for Logic Education

Lok Chan

Philosophy doctoral student Lok Chan is writing a dissertation on learning and testing through the lenses of philosophy and statistics. To develop the skills he needed to produce a web-based application for logic education, he sought training in machine learning.

Mentored by Kevin Hoover, Chan was among 18 Duke University students who received Graduate Student Training Enhancement Grants (GSTEG) in 2017-2018 from the Office of the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies for training beyond their core disciplines. He provided an update on his GSTEG experience.

I received the Graduate Training Enhancement Grant to enroll in Udacity’s Machine Learning Nanodegree Program over the summer of 2017.  What I learned has had a tremendous impact on both my interest as a researcher and as an educator.

This program provides practice-oriented training in various machine learning techniques, such as supervised learning, reinforcement learning, and convolutional neural networks. This practical experience allows me to learn about scientific reasoning in ways not possible through my traditional philosophical training.

Using these techniques, I have made substantial improvement to the logic education application I have previously developed. Initially, my application could only generate logic problems in a purely random manner. With machine learning techniques, however, I have devised a model in which a student’s response could be used as a basis for generating a problem that addresses her particular strengths and weaknesses.

Chan's logic app

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.

  • Read other GSTEG updates from the 2017-18 grantees.
  • See who received GSTEG grants for 2018-19.

A Deep Dive into Blubber Samples Yields a Novel Method to Study Whales

Jillian Wisse

Ecology doctoral student Jillian Wisse studies a species of pilot whale that dives especially deep. To learn more about how they relate to their environment, she sought specialized training at the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Hollings Marine Laboratory in Charleston, South Carolina.

Wisse was among 18 Duke University students who received Graduate Student Training Enhancement Grants (GSTEG) in 2017-2018 from the Office of the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies for training beyond their core disciplines. Her faculty mentor was Douglas Nowacek.

She provided an update on her GSTEG experience.


My dissertation work explores the physiology of a deep-diving whale species. To understand how these animals relate to their environment, I am collecting small tissue samples to analyze for a suite of hormones, which can tell us about the reproductive state, sexual maturity, and stress of animals. With the Graduate Student Training Enhancement Grant, I developed a novel method for the analysis of these target molecules.

Jillian Wisse's focal species

To complete this work, I traveled to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), where I worked with a leading endocrine researcher to learn hormone extraction and tandem mass spectrometry. With her guidance, I developed a novel analysis method, which will allow scientists to conduct more efficient and comprehensive hormone analyses of these tissue samples, aiding efforts to understand the behavior and physiology of these difficult-to-access animals.

Through this opportunity, I gained experience with a technique at the forefront of my field, began a collaboration with an influential mentor, and developed the backbone of my dissertation work.

Hollings Marine Lab

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.

  • Read other GSTEG updates from the 2017-18 grantees.
  • See who received GSTEG grants for 2018-19.

 

Photos courtesy of Jillian Wisse: In the field; focal species; Hollings Marine Lab, where NIST is housed

Molecular Modeling Techniques Aid Exploration of Environmental Contamination

Kirsten Overdahl

As a Ph.D. student in Integrated Toxicology and Environmental Health, Kirsten Overdahl is exploring the occurrences and biological effects of emerging environmental contaminants in indoor environments. To further her dissertation research, she sought to purchase software to implement machine learning-based molecular modeling to predict chemical behaviors.

Overdahl was among 18 Duke University students who received Graduate Student Training Enhancement Grants (GSTEG) in 2017-2018 from the Office of the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies for training beyond their core disciplines. Her faculty mentor for the grant was P. Lee Ferguson; she is currently co-mentored by Dr. Ferguson and by Heather M. Stapleton.

She provided an update on her GSTEG experience, excerpted below.

I spent Fall 2017 in the Molecular Modeling Lab in the Eshelman School of Pharmacy at UNC-Chapel Hill three times per week, training on the modeling techniques that we have since begun to implement in our laboratory. This training was not only empirically valuable, but also financially valuable as well: we became aware of many freely available, public-domain modeling programs, and as a result, we were able to narrow our choice of a license that did require purchasing.

We spent Spring 2018 exploring how we could successfully implement public-domain programs; while we can do many things with these programs, we elected to purchase Schrodinger’s Materials Science Suite. This program will allow us to generate all possible 3-dimensional conformers of the 2-dimensional molecular structures we are able to identify in our search for emerging environmental contaminants. By generating 3-dimensional conformers, we aim to make great strides in our abilities to predict how emerging environmental contaminants may interact with receptors in the body.

We are currently preparing to purchase our Materials Science license. We expect to complete our purchase by the end of this summer, and we look forward to exploring new environmental contamination research moving from chemical identification to behavioral predictions.

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.

  • Read other GSTEG updates from the 2017-18 grantees.
  • See who received GSTEG grants for 2018-19.

Training in Radiation Emergency Medicine Prepares Student for Role in Patient Care

Bria Moore

Bria Moore, a Ph.D. student in Medical Physics, enriched her training by attending a course on radiation emergency medicine at Oak Ridge Associated Universities. Learning about the practical aspects of handling contaminated patients in a hospital setting will improve her ability to communicate effectively with medical professionals in emergency situations.

Moore 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 Terry Yoshizumi. She shared this update:

Bria Moore and classmates at Oak RidgeI attended a Radiation Emergency Medicine course at Oak Ridge’s Radiation Emergency Assistance Center/Training Site. This experience was invaluable. I got the chance to participate in a detailed radiation emergency simulation.

The opportunity to work hand in hand with experienced emergency medicine physicians, nurse practitioners and general physicians in an emergency room set-up was amazing. As one of only two physicists in the room, I enjoyed the chance to determine my niche in patient care for radiological events.

Beyond the hands-on experience, I got the chance to learn of historical radiation events and response strategies. I also got a chance to hear some physician concerns in treating radioactive patients. In the classroom, I had the chance to refer to another expert in this arena for advice on useful analogies and ways to effectively communicate.

I left Oak Ridge with a new confidence in my abilities to meld well in an emergency room, and a broad network of friends and colleagues in a variety of medical fields that I hope will be valuable resources later in my career.

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.

  • Read other GSTEG updates from this year’s grantees.
  • See who received grants for 2018-19.

From Durham to Moshi, New Skills Strengthen Research on Hypertension and Emergency Care

Sophie Galson and colleagues

As a master’s student at the Duke Global Health Institute, Dr. Sophie Galson has been collaborating on a research project on hypertension in the emergency department of Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center in Moshi, Tanzania. To build her language skills and strengthen her contribution to this ongoing work, she enrolled in a residential immersive Swahili course at The Training Centre for Development Cooperation in Eastern and Southern Africa (TCDC).

Galson 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 Catherine Staton. Now back at Duke, she shared an update:

Sophie Galson and colleaguesAs a current Global Health Emergency Medicine Fellow, I recently returned to the U.S. after completing seven months of fieldwork in Moshi, Tanzania, where I was studying non-communicable diseases in the Emergency Department under the mentorship of Dr. Catherine Staton and Dr. John Stanifer.

In addition to working clinically in the Duke Emergency Department, I published “Epidemiology of hypertension in Northern Tanzania: A community-based mixed-methods study” in BMJ OPEN earlier this year. I also just defended my master’s thesis at the Duke Global Health Institute on the burden of hypertension in the emergency department and linkage to care in Moshi, Tanzania.

Sophie GalsonIn April, I presented my thesis work at the European Cardiology Congress (Europrevent) conference in Ljubljana, Slovenia, and was awarded best oral poster presentation. In the next year I plan to write three to four additional manuscripts based on my thesis project. I also currently mentor one Tanzanian master’s student (Catherine Agustine) on research methods. A basic knowledge of Swahili was crucial to my success in integrating into the research collaboration in Tanzania and analyzing my qualitative results.

I have greatly enjoyed learning the KiSwahili language and Tanzanian culture throughout my time in Tanzania, and the weekly tutoring sessions have helped greatly to accelerate this process. The MS TCDC course was a perfect capstone experience and I was able to start at an intermediate level due to the tutoring. This grant has also had effects beyond myself. Our team has been motivated by my experience to slowly start to incorporate more Swahili into our weekly meetings.

I am thrilled to be staying at Duke and will be starting this July as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Surgery, Division of Emergency Medicine!

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.

  • Read other GSTEG updates from this year’s grantees.
  • See who received grants for 2018-19.

Biologist Builds Skills in Coding to Study Deep-sea Marine Animals

Kate Thomas

Kate Thomas, a Ph.D. student in Biology, 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 Sönke Johnsen. She shared an update:

GSTEG funding allowed me to spend two months working on an interdisciplinary project that was outside the scope of my dissertation research. I wanted to improve my skills in coding and computational modeling, so I proposed to undertake a coding-intensive research project to work with a detailed record of over 30 years of deep-sea observations at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI).

I was mentored by Steve Haddock (coauthor of the book Practical Computing for Biologists) and Anela Choy at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in working with huge datasets using computational tools. I spent two months in residence at MBARI using physical oceanographic data collected at sea to model light levels in the deep ocean and test how these correlate to patterns of animal distributions.

Images courtesy of Kate Thomas

This project expanded the scope of my scientific training and how I think about my future research goals. In addition, it has turned into an ongoing collaboration across three institutions and a long-term effort to understand the variability of midwater light fields and their effects on deep-sea communities.

Thomas graduated this semester and will start a postdoc in August at the Natural History Museum in London.

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.

Graduate Student Sees Clear Benefits of Observational Oceanography Training in Bermuda

Ryan Peabody

For Ryan Peabody, a master’s student in Earth and Ocean Sciences, a hands-on course at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences provided a vital supplement to his graduate training at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment.

He sought to learn more about modern observational oceanography, in order to support his research on the linkage between large-scale ocean circulation and ocean productivity.

Peabody was among 18 Duke University students who received Graduate Student Training Enhancement Grants (GSTEG) for 2017-18 from the Office of the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies. His faculty mentor is Susan Lozier. Recently he shared an update:

I used my GSTEG to travel to Bermuda and take a two-and-a-half-week course on observational oceanography at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (BIOS). At BIOS, I had the opportunity to learn about the capabilities of modern ocean observing platforms and to gain practical experience working with them in the field. It was a great chance to meet other oceanographers and oceanography students, and learn more about the field methods being developed in the field.

My work at Duke is primarily grounded in analysis of existing data, and I greatly enjoyed sampling in the North Atlantic subtropical gyre, a region that I had never been to but plays a key role in my work.

Ryan Peabody and fellow students conduct sampling aboard the RV Atlantic Explorer off the coast of Bermuda

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.

  • Read other GSTEG updates.
  • See who received grants for 2018-19.

Photo: Ryan Peabody and fellow BIOS trainees conduct sampling aboard the RV Atlantic Explorer off the coast of Bermuda