Doctoral Students Honored for Excellence in Mentoring

Duke graduate students Eleanor Caves (Biology), Joyell Arscott (Nursing) and Zachary Carico (Immunology) are this year’s student recipients of the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Mentoring.

Caves (pictured above) is part of a graduate student group that received a Duke Support for Interdisciplinary Graduate Networks (D-SIGN) grant for the 2016-2017 academic year. Her successful proposal, submitted with Rebecca Lauzon, Ph.D. student in Earth and Ocean Sciences, and Patrick Green, Ph.D. student in Biology, called for a new network of STEM graduate students and Master of Arts in Teaching students to create lesson plans based on current research and distribute them to local K-12 educators. The network utilizes the structure of a graduate student-run STEM outreach group called the Scientific Research and Education Network (SciREN), which develops relationships between researchers and educators to incorporate current research into K-12 classrooms. All lesson plans created for SciREN are freely available to educators through an online repository. The group’s faculty sponsors are Kate Allman and Brad Murray.

Doctoral Student Leads Study of Nursing Home Residents in China

Yuting Song

Yuting Song is a Ph.D. student at the School of Nursing. Last year she was a member of the Bass Connections project team Community Care of Frail Elders in Cross-cultural Settings. To extend her research beyond the project team, she applied for and received a Bass Connections Follow-on Student Research Grant mentored by Kirsten Corazzini, Bei Wu and Ellie McConnell. Back on campus after a summer in China, she shared an update.

I conducted my fieldwork from July to September in two nursing homes in China. With the support of the Bass Connections Follow-on Student Research grant, I was able to recruit 21 residents at different functional levels and explored their care needs related to physical function.

I gained more knowledge about care needs of residents who live in Chinese nursing homes, in addition to those of community-based frail elders. In combination with this Bass Connections project, the knowledge of older adults’ needs both in community settings and nursing homes will inform curriculum development for the healthcare workforce across different care settings.

Also, I was able to trial the Chinese version of the Social Convoy Questionnaire with two residents. By doing so, I got a better understanding of residents’ social networks and learned more about the feasibility of using this tool among the population of Chinese nursing home residents. The knowledge is valuable for designing future studies to explore social networks within Chinese nursing homes.

Older adults

I did not take any photos of the facilities, to maintain confidentiality of participants and the research sites; these two pictures are of older adults in communities, which is the focus population of the Bass Connections project.

Learn More

Graduate Student Groups Receive New D-SIGN Grants for Interdisciplinary Activities

D-SIGN recipients

Duke Support for Interdisciplinary Graduate Networks (D-SIGN) grants have been awarded to five graduate student groups for the 2016-2017 academic year.

In March an RFP invited all current graduate students (including master’s, professional and Ph.D. students) in any program at Duke to propose interdisciplinary groups and activities. Through this new internal funding mechanism, graduate students have the opportunity to propose research projects and educational experiences that reach beyond disciplinary lines. These grants help graduate students to build or extend their networks and to integrate collaborative, cross-school endeavors into their programs.

Over the last 15 years, Duke has committed itself to furthering interdisciplinary education and research and fostering knowledge in the service of society. With maturing interdisciplinary organizations and communities on campus, Duke is well-positioned to expand the interdisciplinary experiences available to graduate students.

Duke Conservation Society

  • Submitted by Priya Ranganathan, Master of Environmental Management student, Nicholas School of the Environment
  • Faculty sponsor: Stuart Pimm

The Duke Conservation Society will expand its network beyond the Nicholas School of the Environment 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.

Global Alliance on Disability and Health Innovation – Children and Adolescents Project

  • Submitted by Brittney Sullivan, Ph.D. in Nursing student, School of Nursing; and Anna Martin, Master of Public Policy student, Sanford School of Public Policy
  • Faculty sponsor: Janet Prvu Bettger

The Bass Connections project team Global Alliance on Disability and Health Innovation (GANDHI) was designed with a focus on adults. A new interdisciplinary graduate network affiliated with GANDHI will aim to establish the evidence for improving systems of care and support specifically 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 will examine and compare the social supports, health and community services and policies in three countries. Members hope this project will inform future interdisciplinary research to strengthen health systems for children and adolescents transitioning home from the hospital.

Global Energy Access Network

  • Submitted by Rob Fetter and Faraz Usmani, University Ph.D. Program in Environmental Policy students, Nicholas School of the Environment and Sanford School of Public Policy; and Hannah Girardeau, Master of Environmental Management student, Nicholas School of the Environment
  • Faculty sponsors: Subhrendu Pattanayak and Brian Murray

The Global Energy Access Network (GLEAN) will bring together students working on global energy transitions, energy access and energy poverty. It will create a forum to explore shared interests, learn from experienced researchers and practitioners and construct new statistical indicators around the theme of energy access in emerging economies. The group aims to ignite a research and policy dialogue around an understudied global issue, and to help position Duke as a central contributor to that dialogue within a global network.

Rethinking Regulation – Graduate Student Working Group

  • Submitted by Mercy DeMenno, Ph.D. in Public Policy student, Sanford School of Public Policy
  • Faculty sponsors: Lori Bennear and Jonathan Wiener

The Rethinking Regulation – Graduate Student Working Group provides a forum for student-led interdisciplinary discussion, research and analysis of issues related to regulatory governance. Based in the Rethinking Regulation program at the Kenan Institute for Ethics, the group comprises twenty doctoral and professional students from nine disciplines and eight schools/departments. Members have a wide range of academic and professional experiences, and are united by a common interest in regulatory governance and a shared commitment to interdisciplinary collaborative inquiry in the service of society. Funding will support research workshops, writing group meetings, analyses of contemporary regulatory policy issues and other collaborative activities.

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

  • Submitted by Rebecca Lauzon, Ph.D. in Earth and Ocean Sciences student, Nicholas School of the Environment; and Eleanor Caves and Patrick Green, Ph.D. in Biology students, Graduate School
  • Faculty sponsors: Kate Allman and Brad Murray

A new network of STEM graduate students (from the Graduate School, Pratt School of Engineering and/or the Nicholas School of the Environment) and Master of Arts in Teaching students will create lesson plans based on current research and distribute them to local K-12 educators. The network will utilize the structure of a graduate student-run STEM outreach group called the Scientific Research and Education Network (SciREN), which develops relationships between researchers and educators to incorporate current research into K-12 classrooms. All lesson plans created for SciREN are freely available to educators through an online repository.

Proposals were reviewed by an ad hoc committee convened by the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies with representation from faculty, deans, institute directors and graduate students. By June 30, 2017, recipients will report on their group’s activities, use of funds and progress toward anticipated outcomes.

Clockwise from upper left: Priya Ranganathan, Brittney Sullivan, Anna Martin, Rob Fetter, Faraz Usmani, Hannah Girardeau, Mercy DeMenno, Rebecca Lauzon, Eleanor Caves, Patrick Green

Six Students Receive Grants to Extend Their Bass Connections Research


With grant funding from Bass Connections, three undergraduates and three graduate students will pursue faculty-mentored research projects this summer and next year.

These projects, which build on work begun in 2015-2016 through Bass Connections teams, explore a range of topics including Alzheimer’s disease, U.S. government regulations, intellectual property, migrant health, Arctic drilling and the care needs of senior citizens in China.

Kirsten Bonawitz ’17, a neuroscience major, will work on elucidating the role of genetics in the development of late-onset Alzheimer’s disease. As a member of the Bass Connections project team Brain-immune Interactions in Neurodegenerative Disease, she collected neurons from normal and mild-cognitive impairment human brain samples, extracted RNA for the purpose of gene expression analysis and initiated the collection of neurons from mild and severe Alzheimer’s samples. “This project plays and will continue to play an important role in my academic and professional career,” Bonawitz said. “I plan to develop it into a senior thesis.” Her mentor is Ornit Chiba-Falek.

Mercy DeMenno is a Ph.D. student at the Sanford School of Public Policy. Her Bass Connections project team, Reviewing Retrospective Regulatory Review, examined the emergence and consequences of ex post assessment of regulations at the local, national and international levels. Taking this work further with the mentorship of Lori Bennear, DeMenno will analyze the role of public participation in U.S. agencies’ retrospective review processes. This research will serve as a pilot study for her dissertation on how bureaucratic institutional design can foster effective stakeholder participation, and in turn, better regulatory policy.

Kushal Kadakia ’19 will focus on developing novel incentive structures for pharmaceutical innovation. In his Bass Connections project team Innovation & Technology Policy Lab, he worked with the Global Health Innovation Alliances group to map the drug development partnerships formed in response to the Ebola and Zika outbreaks. Building on this research, Kadakia plans to create case studies and share findings about ways to develop incentives that can increase the rate of pharmaceutical innovation while decreasing the cost of medicine. His mentor is Julia Barnes-Weise.

Kristen Larson ’17 is a biology and global health major. Her research will focus on migration and illness narratives of mainland Hondurans who have moved to squatter communities (colonias) on the island of Roatán, fleeing mainland gang violence and seeking jobs in the tourism industry. “There has been no research conducted to formally describe the migration and illness experiences of the population living in las colonias,” said Larson, who is mentored by Dennis Clements. Her research, which she plans to use toward an honors thesis, will be conducted in coordination with her Bass Connections project team, Interculturally Competent Analysis of the Uptake of Routine Vaccination.

Megan Nasgovitz, who is pursuing a Master of Environmental Management in the Nicholas School of the Environment, will assess the economic, environmental and political implications of Shell’s decision to suspend drilling in Alaska. “This year in Bass Connections I have been fortunate enough to work with exceptional students and faculty across the Duke community as we dig into the topic of the History and Future of Ocean Energy,” she said. She plans to travel to Alaska to conduct interviews and administer a survey in small indigenous towns, and present findings at the Polar Law Symposium in October. She is mentored by Douglas Nowacek and Lori Bennear.

Yuting Song is a Ph.D. student in the School of Nursing. Mentored by Kirsten Corazzini, Bei Wu and Ellie McConnell, she will extend the target population of her Bass Connections project team, Community Care of Frail Elders in Cross-cultural Settings, to include frail elders in residential care facilities in China. Her research aims are to describe the care needs of Chinese older adults who live in residential care facilities and experience cognitive and/or physical decline, and to explore the feasibility of using the Chinese version of the Social Convoy Questionnaire to measure the residents’ social networks within the care facilities.

These grants are part of ongoing efforts to provide support to students who build on their Bass Connections experiences through capstone research projects. Learn how to get involved with Bass Connections.

Clockwise from upper left: Mercy DeMenno, Kushal Kadakia, Kristen Larson, Yuting Song, Megan Nasgovitz, Kirsten Bonawitz.

A Joint Conversation with Chancellor Washington, Dean Broome and Provost Kornbluth


As part of a comprehensive strategic planning process that involved diverse groups of faculty, staff, students, alumni, and donors from across the university and medical enterprise, the name Duke Medicine is changing to Duke Health, Chancellor A. Eugene Washington, MD, MSc, announced in January. “The decision to update our name stems from widespread deliberations involving many groups within Duke, and signals the health system’s renewed focus on health improvement,” said Chancellor Washington. “Duke Health signals our intention to explore more comprehensive approaches to health that extend beyond medical care and into other areas of population health improvement. Duke Health also represents a more inclusive and synergistic approach to maximizing contributions to health improvement from the diverse array of disciplines and schools that comprise Duke University, as well as our external partners.”

When you think about aligning resources and creating synergies, what do you see as the major challenges for each area over the next three to five years?

Provost Kornbluth: I think the most important thing is to keep increasing faculty excellence. This means putting infrastructure and tools in the hands of the faculty to help them get the best out of their work, and offering the kind of mentoring and professional development that will enable them to be their best.

Chancellor Washington: Institutionally we’re quite vertical. Whether we’re in a nursing school or whether we’re in Trinity College, we’re vertical. So what we’re talking about in terms of drawing on the assets of Duke is actually being more horizontal. One of the significant challenges is getting our faculty, as collaborative and collegial as we are, working in groups in a more horizontal way. To overcome these barriers we need to show examples of where we’re already succeeding, and other areas that are ripe for some early victories.

As you bring these various perspectives together to create energy around this interdisciplinary work, how do you ensure that you’re getting the right people around the table?

Provost Kornbluth: We all took a very broad catchment area and opportunity for faculty involvement. On the campus side, we did this through many, many open faculty dinners. Anybody could give input— faculty, students, and staff—and that continues.

Chancellor Washington: In Duke Health, we similarly started with focus groups and then we eventually established working groups in each of the core mission areas: education, research, community health improvement, global health, and clinical care. But we didn’t feel that was enough. Based on input and the work of those small groups we developed a survey that went out to all 32,000 people in Duke Health. The response rate was encouraging. Over 10,000 individuals responded, and over 2,000 wrote written comments. I agree with Sally, the process from our perspective was as important as the outcome, because we tapped into the voices all across the organization—that’s where our talent, our greatest asset is.

Did you feel like you got a mandate, a clear directive?

Dean Broome: In education, I was amazed at how quickly people came to the priorities and what was important. There were fascinating discussions that I think influenced all of us in that room. We got a lot of diverse perspectives, but in some magical way it all came together around interdisciplinary education and professional development.

Chancellor Washington: Each of these groups developed a mission statement. And I can tell you they labored over every word. In fact, the education group labored over whether we are about education or learning. It was a rich discussion. I actually went to the dictionary to make the distinction. There was a true distinction, and it’s reflected in the overarching vision statement and the goals.

Read the full article on the Duke University School of Nursing website.