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 These data provide a window into the past for populations that may no longer exist, but for which baleen plates have been archived in museums or other collections.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

Delving into Behavior Change to Help Improve Health Outcomes in Adults with Diabetes

As a Ph.D. candidate in Nursing, Allison Lewinski took part in a week-long course in London to inform her work on social interaction among individuals with type-2 diabetes who are interacting in a computer-mediated environment.

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 was Allison Vorderstrasse.

Dr. Lewinski completed her Ph.D. and began a postdoctoral fellowship at the Durham Veterans Affairs Medical Center. She shared an update on her experience:

I attended the course, “Behaviour Change Principles and Practice,” at the University College London Centre for Behaviour Change with funds I received from GSTEG. This five-day intensive course focused on the principles of behavior change and how these principles can be applied in behavioral research interventions from the individual level through the community/health systems level.

During this course, I obtained knowledge on the various aspects one must consider when developing and implementing an intervention aimed at changing behaviors. The first day focused on an overview of behaviors and how behavior change is an iterative process that occurs at different levels. Lectures on the second day focused on changing behavior by changing one’s capability, opportunity, and motivation. On the third day we focused on how to identify a behavior to target, how to assess behavior change, how to describe intervention content, and what behavior change techniques to use in order to change the targeted behavior. The fourth day focused on how to deliver interventions and address challenges to implementing interventions in various systems. The final day focused on developing an evaluation strategy for behavioral interventions.

In my view, one of the most valuable parts of the course was the small group sessions in the afternoons. The small groups consisted of a faculty member who was an expert in behavioral change interventions and three other students. In these small groups we reviewed the course content, discussed challenges inherent in designing and implementing interventions, and received guidance on how we should apply the course content to our own work. This truly was an interdisciplinary experience as the faculty leaders and other students had different research and content backgrounds and came from various countries around the world.

This week-long intensive course expanded my knowledge about all the components to consider when designing behavior change interventions! I obtained insight into what behaviors to select and target in an intervention and what factors to consider when developing an intervention. Additionally, I interacted with individuals from a variety of backgrounds who were also interested in developing interventions focused on changing behaviors. The funds from GSTEG enabled me to take an international course, which expanded my research network; I was able to interact with other researchers who provided me with new perspectives on my own research. Overall, this course better prepared me for the postdoctoral position I recently started in health services research at the Durham Center for Health Services Research in Primary Care at the Durham Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

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: Allison Lewinski in London

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

Graduate Students Can Enhance Their Core Training through GSTEG Grants

GSTEG

Deadline: February 16, 2018

Opportunity

The goal of this grant competition is to expand the opportunities for graduate students to “step away” from their core research and training, so as to acquire additional skills, knowledge, or experiences outside/beyond their discipline that are not available at Duke and that will enhance their capacity to carry out original research. We believe such experiences will lead to better preparation/training, whether for academic positions or other career trajectories. Supported activities include: an internship related to field of research; cognate training workshop; or field work opportunity that includes specific training.) NOTE: Grant funds may not be used for attendance at conferences, nor for internships by master’s students.

Proposals require endorsement from the student’s primary faculty mentor, as well as a clear explanation of how the experience will contribute to broadening the student’s training and how it may potentially impact their dissertation research or capstone project. Successful past applications have made a compelling case for how the proposed experience would amplify the student’s intellectual agenda, beyond the standard offerings within their program.

The proposed experience may last for up to one full semester. Funds awarded will be capped at $5,000. For reference, see previous awardees and proposed experiences.

Eligibility

All current graduate students (post-undergraduate, including master’s, professional, and Ph.D. students) in any program at Duke University may propose graduate training enhancement activities. All internships, work, and services proposed must be performed outside of Duke (i.e., may not be work for Duke). Note: previous awardees may not apply.

Proposals

Proposals will be accepted from January 8 through February 16, 2018 at 5:00 p.m.

Proposal Requirements

The Provost’s Office uses MyResearchProposal online application software to submit applications.

You will be asked to upload the following documents:

  • An updated curriculum vitae (no more than 2 pages).
  • A brief narrative that articulates the proposed activities, how the experience will contribute to broadening research training, and how it fits with overall academic, research, and professional plans, and that also explains why the experience is not available at Duke (no more than 3 pages).
  • A budget plan (up to $5,000), and timeline for use of the funds.
  • A letter or e-mail from your primary faculty mentor, sent separately to Carolyn Mackman, in support of the proposed activities.
  • A listing of all other concurrent proposals for funding to support the proposed activities (we will ask awardees to update us when any additional funding for the proposed activities is awarded/received).
Instructions
  • A step-by-step user’s guide for applying via the MyResearchProposal software is available; please review this document.
  • Enter Access Code PROVOST then select the 2018 Graduate Student Training Enhancement Grants (GSTEG) opportunity and follow the instructions.
  • For any questions concerning MyResearchProposal passwords or system issues, please contact Anita Grissom or Kara McKelvey at myresearchproposal@duke.edu.
Timeline
RFP released 01/08/2018
RFP deadline for submission 02/16/2018
Project winner(s) notified 03/19/2018
Funds made available* 04/01/2018

*Funds must be expended between 4/1/18 and 6/30/19.

Contact

For any questions regarding your proposal, please contact Laura Howes or Carolyn Mackman.

Review and Selection

Proposals will be reviewed by an ad hoc committee convened by the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies, to include representation from faculty, deans, institute directors, and graduate students, representing all divisions of knowledge. Decisions will be announced by mid-March 2018 and funds will be awarded as appropriate to the timing of the activities. Awardees will be expected to provide updates on their activities during the year and an eventual reflection on the impact of those activities on dissertation work.

Learn More

Global Health Student Builds Skills to Contribute to Hypertension Research in Tanzania

Sophie Galson, KCMC

When you’re doing research in another country, it helps to speak the local language. Dr. Sophie Galson, a master’s student at the Duke Global Health Institute, has been collaborating on a research project on hypertension in the emergency department of Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center in Moshi, Tanzania.

To support her contribution to this ongoing work, she received a Graduate Student Training Enhancement Grant (GSTEG) from the Office of the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies to take a residential immersive Swahili course at The Training Centre for Development Cooperation in Eastern and Southern Africa. Her faculty mentor is Catherine Staton, assistant professor of surgery and assistant research professor of global health.

Galson, Staton, and their colleagues Francis Karia, Kajiru Kilonzo, Joseph Lunyera, Uptal Patel, Julian Hertz, and John Stanifer recently published “Epidemiology of hypertension in Northern Tanzania: A community-based mixed-methods study” in the journal BMJ Open. Stanifer, a nephrologist and clinical researcher at Duke, was Galson’s main mentor for this paper. Because the burden of disease is substantial in that part of the country, and optimal hypertension control is rare, the authors conclude that transdisciplinary strategies sensitive to local practices should be explored in order to facilitate early diagnosis and sustained delivery of care.

Through GSTEG, Duke doctoral and master’s students can stretch beyond their core disciplinary training to acquire skills, knowledge, or experiences that will enhance the approach to their original research. To learn more, view the other 2017-2018 grantees and see the 2016-2017 GSTEG summary report. The next call for proposals will be in early 2018.

Photos courtesy of Sophie Galson and Duke Global Health Institute

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.

Learn More

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.

Workshops Lead to Unexpected Opportunities for Doctoral Student

Brenna Forester

Last fall Brenna 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 to inform her dissertation research in the emerging field of landscape genomics.

She was among 19 Duke students who received Graduate Student Training Enhancement Grants (GSTEG) in 2016-17 for training beyond their core disciplines. Her faculty mentor was Dean Urban. She shared some reflections on her experience:

With funding from GSTEG I first attended a workshop on quantitative genetics at NIMBioS, where 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.

I then attended a second NIMBioS workshop on Next Generation Genetic Monitoring. This was an excellent opportunity for me to work closely with many of the leaders in the fields of conservation genetics and molecular ecology. The group I worked with is about to submit a manuscript to a special issue of the peer-reviewed journal Evolutionary Applications. The manuscript provides practical advice and a guide to help conservation managers work effectively with genomics experts on genomic assessment and monitoring programs for species of conservation concern. I am a co-first author on that paper.

Finally, I traveled to a third workshop, ConsGen-2 [on conservation genomics], in Montana. This was a pivotal workshop for me. I received one-on-one assistance from experts in my field on my dissertation data, feedback that was instrumental in improving my dissertation. I met a recent Ph.D. graduate, whose Ph.D. advisor is now my current postdoctoral advisor (Chris Funk). It is unlikely I would have known about the position in his lab without having met his former student at ConsGen-2. Finally, I have just been asked to return this fall to be an instructor at the 2017 ConsGen!

Overall, the funds from GSTEG were put to very good use in terms of expanding the scope of my graduate training while helping me build a network of research collaborators.

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:

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: