An Engineering Student’s Summer of Misinformation

Khari Johnson
Khari Johnson in Barcelona in 2019

Khari Johnson came to Duke to translate his love of science into engineering that can change the way medicine serves people. As a Ph.D. student in Biomedical Engineering preparing to write his dissertation proposal, he anticipated spending the summer of 2020 continuing his work on materials to be used in medical contexts. When the pandemic intervened, Johnson tapped into Duke’s pledge to provide summer employment opportunities for all Ph.D. students who needed them.

He secured a virtual internship with RTI International to assess how misinformation affects people’s receptivity to health initiatives. Guided by Brian Southwell, director of RTI’s Science in the Public Sphere program (and an adjunct faculty member at Duke), and Sarah Ray, communication scientist, Johnson worked with researchers who were interested in finding relationships between news coverage, social media patterns, online searches, and behavior related to medicine and well-being.

With collaborators in RTI’s Women’s Global Health Imperative, Johnson helped develop a survey of clinical researchers in various African countries regarding their perceptions of how medical misinformation is spread.

Thanks to a relationship between RTI’s Science in the Public Sphere program and the public television show NOVA, Johnson also contributed to a project to increase minority representation in STEM. “I got the privilege to work with NOVA Science Studio and assist with their efforts in hopefully starting a webinar/workshop series,” he said. He explained that the goal is “to get high schoolers from diverse backgrounds interested in science and STEM, building science literacy early on so we can improve their representation.”

Khari Johnson and Brian Southwell.
Khari Johnson and Brian Southwell during the 12th Annual RTI Internship Showcase

During the 12th Annual RTI Internship Showcase on August 7, attended by more than 150 people, Johnson said he hopes this work will help improve access to health improvements. “We can be doing a better job as far as expanding and diversifying the voices that are being presented [to reach a range of communities],” he said.

Looking back on the summer, Johnson highlighted the value of collaborative research. “For me, the biggest takeaway was that you can always find [people with] similar passions in the place you least expected it, and building on those collaborations can be very fruitful.”

Read his essay for NOVA, Finding My Voice.

Symposium on Misinformation and Mistrust

On October 2, 2020, Brian Southwell will chair a session of the Duke University symposium Misinformation and Mistrust: COVID-19 Conversations on Race and Gender Equity. Learn more and register for the online event.

Duke Summer Interns at RTI International

In addition to Khari Johnson, RTI hosted eight other Duke Ph.D. students. According to the internship showcase program:

  • Cole Campton (Computer Science) worked to understand project methodology, perform data management and analysis, and draft a written report for the International Education Division.
  • Tom Cinq-Mars (History) documented the use of off-grid energy products in Sub-Saharan Africa; worked with researchers to identify the impacts of off-grid energy on education, health, and agriculture outcomes; and served as head author of a journal article.
  • Travis Knoll (History) interned with the University Collaboration Office, where he was responsible for mapping stakeholders and writing narrative-driven summaries and case studies of collaborative projects.
  • Shawn Li (Environment) analyzed data, reviewed literature, and accomplished other activities for the Applied Public Health Research division.
  • Gabriel Madson (Political Science) was responsible for analyzing AddHealth data, determining patterns associated with non-consent to the use of wearable data, and writing a journal article based on the team’s findings.
  • Francisco Meneses (Public Policy) worked on conducting literature reviews about using technology to assess soft skills, performing research about how low-income countries provide educational continuity during COVID-19, and contributing to the research and development of policy briefs.
  • Mavzuna Turaeva (Economics and Public Policy) was responsible for conducting data analysis, coding, and researching for the International Education Division.
  • Tara Weese (Philosophy and Law) described trends in readability data for terms of service agreements, analyzed the content of these agreements, and drafted an article for publication with RTI Press about the findings.

Research Collaboration Strengthens Ph.D. Student’s Work on New Structural Design Technique

Clay Sanders.
Clay Sanders at the Louvre

Remember the pre-pandemic days when travel was possible? As he pursued dissertation research for a Ph.D. in Civil & Environmental Engineering, Clay Sanders went to Paris last year to study a new method of solving “topology optimization” problems in structural designs.

Working with the POEMS (Wave Propagation Mathematical Analysis, and Simulation) team at ENSTA Paris Tech, Sanders researched design optimizations that would determine the best structural design option prior to construction.

This opportunity provided Sanders with a significant component of his dissertation work and allowed him to explore other interests in art, architecture, and structural design. He was among 11 Duke students who received 2019-2020 Graduate Student Training Enhancement Grants (GSTEG) from the Office of the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies. His faculty mentor was Wilkins Aquino.

A summary of his GSTEG experience is excerpted below.


ENSTA-Paris.
On campus at ENSTA-Paris

I utilized my GSTEG for a research trip in June 2019 to ENSTA Paris Tech to investigate a new computational optimization technique to design structures. I worked with Professor Marc Bonnet, a researcher at ENSTA-Paris Tech, a small engineering university in Palaiseau, France, outside Paris. Professor Bonnet is a leader of the POEMS research group, which specializes in numerical methods to simulate wave propagation and solve physics-based optimization problems.

Topology optimization describes a class of structural design problems that seek to determine the optimal shape or form a structure so that they exhibit superior performance with respect to a performance metric. A common example would seek the optimal shape of a bridge, under a maximum weight constraint, to have maximum stiffness.

Our new approach, known as the “adaptive eigenspace basis method”, borrowed from computational techniques used to solve medium imaging problems for ultrasound or geological imaging applications. We showed that our new method could equivalently represent designs usually parameterized by thousands or millions of design variables with only a few dozen variables, enabling significant computational efficiency improvements.

Following the GSTEG trip, we refined the method and recently submitted a manuscript on the work to the International Journal of Numerical Methods in Engineering.

Beyond the research work conducted, I was able to explore Paris’s sites, and tastes, throughout my trip. ENSTA-Paris was only a short train ride outside of Paris, so I was able travel into the city each evening to explore the city. Other highlights of my trip included viewing Monet’s Water Lilies at the Musée de l’Orangerie, roaming the sculpture gardens at the Musée Rodin, sketching in the Luxembourg Palace gardens, visits to the Musée d’Orsay and the Louvre, and stops in as many Parisian pâtisseries as I could find.

Sketching.
Sketching in the Luxembourg Palace Gardens

Learn more about Graduate Student Training Enhancement Grants (GSTEG), see other 2019-2020 grantees and learn who received grants for Summer 2020.

A Community That Writes Together

Black faculty create an effective structure to boost productivity and support each other’s scholarship

Faculty members writing.
Members of the Writing and ReseArch Productivity (WRAP) Group for Underrepresented Faculty take part in a writing retreat. (From left: Sarah Gaither, Gustavo Silva, Sherilynn Black, Tyson Brown, Robert Turner, Jarvis McInnis, Sally Nuamah, Jean Beaman)

“Write!”

For Sarah Gaither, this command reminds her what she needs to make time to do. As an assistant professor of psychology & neuroscience at Duke, she balances a robust teaching and research load with administrative duties, meetings with collaborators and students, leadership of the Duke Identity & Diversity Lab and more. Advancing her own scholarship can get squeezed to the margins, but she can’t allow that to happen during this critical period in her career.

From manuscripts, grants and book chapters to opinion pieces and responses to editors, junior faculty need to write to build their tenure files and advance in rank.

Protected writing time is key. And for Black scholars like Gaither, a supportive community can be a big help in navigating this stage of faculty life.

Wrtite.
WRAP members create a reminder of their purpose at a weekend retreat.

A Group for Writing, Mentoring and Friendship

Musah.
“I have been sitting on a grant idea for months, and having this structured writing time finally gave me the opportunity to start drafting and editing the proposal.” –Samira Musah, Biomedical Engineering

Gaither joined the Writing and ReseArch Productivity (WRAP) Group for Underrepresented Faculty shortly after coming to Duke. Today she serves as co-leader along with Tyson Brown, associate professor of sociology, who founded the group in 2016.

Smith.
“Attending WRAP improved my writing and productivity. It is a wonderful space where I feel welcomed and validated.” –Martin Smith, Education

WRAP offers weekly writing sessions, weekend writing retreats and other programming. The aim is to build community among Black faculty, increase their publication rates and enhance their sense of inclusion on campus.

“With very few minority faculty in my department, WRAP has been essential in creating a support system for my faculty life transition,” Gaither says, “and the guided writing time has been critical during my first years on the tenure track.”

As universities pursue efforts to improve the racial climate on their campuses, Brown says that “faculty of color often do a disproportionate share of racial equity labor such as serving on diversity committees, helping to navigate racial incidents and recruiting and training students of color. While racial equity labor is essential, it can also be taxing and take away from time for research.”

Seed Funding for Faculty Initiatives 

Duke’s Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty Advancement has provided seed funding for WRAP since 2018. Faculty Advancement Seed Grants provide a financial head start for faculty-led initiatives aiming to foster a sense of community, build networks and promote a welcoming and respectful climate for all members of Duke’s academic units.

The seed grants program is part of the office’s multifaceted approach to faculty development and advancement, whose goals are to support hiring and retention, to provide resources and programs to help faculty succeed as scholars and mentors and to foster a welcoming and professional environment.

“When faculty mobilize around campus, that influences the whole ecosystem here,” says Sherilynn Black, associate vice provost for faculty advancement. “Everyone can benefit, including postdocs, students and staff.”

A member of the Duke community for the past two decades, Black earned her Ph.D. in neurobiology, followed by a postdoc position and an appointment as assistant professor of the practice of medical education.

“Being with the group is like exhaling,” says Black, who is an active participant in WRAP herself. “It’s implicitly understood what you’re going through.”
Cary.
“WRAP sessions help to transcend boundaries to create a highly productive workspace that fosters a real sense of community.” –Michael Cary, Nursing
Learn more about the Faculty Advancement Seed Grants Initiative and check out the Faculty Advancement and Success (FAS) Workshop Series, which provides learning opportunities, resources and networking for all faculty at Duke.
Faculty standing outside.
WRAP members build community at the Durham Hotel. (From left: Tyson Brown, Gustavo Silva, Sherilynn Black, Jarvis McInnis, Sarah Gaither, Jean Beaman, Sally Nuamah, Robert Turner, Paul Robbins)

Structured Writing with Accountability

Wilbourn.
“This group reminds me of the importance of writing and connects me to minority faculty for questions about being underrepresented at Duke.” –Makeba Wilbourn, Psychology & Neuroscience

WRAP members participate in a weekly two-hour writing session. “In the first 10 to 15 minutes, we talk about our goals for that session,” Gaither says. “We go around the table and hear from each person. Then we do 90 minutes of writing. We close by taking 15 minutes and asking each person to assess the success of that session” as well as how things are going with research, teaching and life in general.

Harris.
“WRAP has been one of the highlights of my first year at Duke.” –Deonte Harris, International Comparative Studies

If faculty are not on campus, they can join the group virtually.

Each week an average of seven members show up and a total of 22 faculty and postdocs have participated. They represent 14 disciplines and units across campus.

“It’s like a triple accountability system,” Gaither says. “You’ve got the time blocked, and people mark their calendars. And when we’re writing with similar people, we want to see how things are going; if someone doesn’t show, I’ll call them and ask where they were. There’s also a shared Google sheet. Everyone logs the hours and minutes they spend every week on writing.”

In addition to the weekly sessions, two weekend-long writing retreats are offered during the year to increase the group’s writing time. Each person aims to create a publication-ready article by engaging in structured writing sessions.

Bridging Gaps

Silva.
“WRAP is an incredible initiative that allowed me to protect my writing time in a very supportive environment.” –Gustavo Silva, Biology

As the group evolves, Brown and Gaither are adding some new components. They see a need for making connections between faculty ranks and plan to encourage Black associate professors and visiting faculty to join. Senior faculty members and campus leaders will also bridge the gap by serving as guest speakers.

A one-day writing retreat in Durham will supplement the weekend retreats and accommodate faculty for whom overnight travel is a challenge.

WRAP members help each other by reviewing drafts and discussing strategies for navigating job situations. A listserv with 30 members supplements in-person conversations.

Increased Productivity, Confidence and Inclusion

Addo.
“I was warmly welcomed into this community of brilliant scholars that had created a space for research productivity, accountability and fellowship.” – Fenaba Addo, Sanford School of Public Policy

“Co-leading and participating in WRAP programmatic activities has greatly enhanced my productivity, and led to opportunities and connections with faculty in other units across the university,” Brown says. “I’ve found that meeting weekly to write alongside others has been useful for providing accountability and protected time for writing. Participating in the group has also fostered a sense of community and provided opportunities for us to discuss our scholarship, teaching and unique experiences.”

Other members report improved daily writing habits, greater self-confidence both academically and personally, increases in research productivity and enhanced feelings of inclusion and community.

At last count, Brown and Gaither identified a substantial output among members over the past two years: collectively they submitted 28 papers, 17 grant proposals and 14 conference abstracts, and they have two books in preparation.

Perhaps most importantly, they are doing this work together as a community. “The group has been so supportive,” says Gaither. “It has made my Duke experience better!”

Faculty on beach.
WRAP members take a break during a writing retreat at the beach. (From left: Fenaba Addo, Paul Robbins, Samira Musah, Omer Ali, Sherilynn Black, Gustavo Silva, Sarah Gaither)

By Sarah Dwyer; originally posted on Duke Today

Ten Groups of Faculty Receive Intellectual Community Planning Grants for 2020

Campus in winter.

The Provost’s Office has awarded Intellectual Community Planning Grants to ten groups for the 2020 calendar year.

A key goal of Together Duke is to invest in faculty as scholars and leaders of the university’s intellectual communities. To foster collaboration around new and emerging areas of interest, Intellectual Community Planning Grants (ICPG) ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 are available to groups of faculty. Recipients can use the funds to support the exploration of new collaborations, covering the cost of meeting venues, food, external speakers or other meeting costs, and research to identify potential collaborators at Duke and elsewhere.

The 2020 grants include faculty from all of Duke’s schools as well as the University of North Carolina, NC State University, and NC Central University.

Bridging Social Determinants of Health with Clinical Extensions of Care for Vulnerable Populations

Bridging team members.

This group will establish a partnership between Duke’s Clinical Translational Science Institute and the Social Science Research Institute in order to develop a portfolio of scholarly activity that tackles the interplay of social determinants of health, clinical health outcomes, and the advancement of health equity. Members will develop a compilation of resources to facilitate interdisciplinary and collaborative research and take advantage of short-term synergies that allow for additional coauthored publications. They will also develop research proposals to design and test one or more interventions.

Developing a Neuroethics and Theological Studies Network

Developing Neuroethics team members.

What can theological studies contribute to neuroethics, and vice versa? How can the engagement of theological studies with neuroethics best be facilitated? How can further interdisciplinary collaboration at Duke shape such dialogue? This group seeks to foster and expand the work of an emerging international cohort of scholars working at the intersection of theological studies and neuroethics.

Duke SciReg Center: Science in Regulation, Law, and Public Policy

Duke SciReg ICPG members.

Bringing together Duke faculty and students from STEM disciplines, law, and policy, this group will seek to facilitate the provision of timely comments from Duke experts to state and federal agencies on pending regulations that implicate scientific and technical issues. Following a series of conversations and planning events, members hope to establish a center at Duke that would create a unique model for interdisciplinary education in science, law, and policy through actual participation in the regulatory process.

Entity Resolution with Applications to Public Policy and Business

Entity Resolutions ICPG members.

This collaboration will enable the formation of a multidisciplinary lab of social scientists, public policy analysts, business scholars, mathematicians and statisticians who seek to understand the practical issues related to entity resolution (ER)—the processes of removing duplicates from large databases and engaging in accurate record linkage across databases. There will be regular meetings of the member research groups to explore applications of ER tasks in public policy and business; one Ph.D. student will work on a project to implement members’ developed tools into software for public distribution and a working paper.

Housing and Health: A Multisector Community-driven Approach to Achieving Health Equity

Housing ICPG members.

Combining a community engagement process with interdisciplinary expertise, these faculty hope to address social, economic, and environmental influencers of health, with the eventual goal of transforming Durham into a healthier place for its most vulnerable residents. Members will participate in an interactive, facilitated pre-planning meeting and four design-thinking workshops with community partners, followed by a post-workshop debrief and a meeting to determine next steps and future directions.

Human Rights Futures

Human Rights ICPG members.

This community of human rights scholars plans will discuss a new temporal framing for human rights: one that remains aware of past grievances and the need for reparations, but that places such awareness in the service of a sustainable and desirable future. Involving graduate and undergraduate students, the group will explore a number of ideas for how this multiyear project might come to life. Following several working lunches, the group plans to launch a “speculative fiction book club,” host a guest speaker, and convene a day-long workshop.

  • Lead: James Chappel, History, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences
  • Kathi Weeks, Gender, Sexuality, & Feminist Studies, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences
  • Robin Kirk, Cultural Anthropology, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences
  • Adam Rosenblatt, International Comparative Studies, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences
  • Liliana Paredes, Romance Studies, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences
  • Marion Quirici, Thompson Writing Program, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences
  • Jen Ansley, Thompson Writing Program, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences
  • Emily Stewart, Duke Human Rights Center at the Franklin Humanities Institute

Light-based Methods in Neuroscience and Biology

Light-based ICPG members.

This group aims to cross-pollinate ideas among neuroscientists, engineers, and data scientists. Each meeting focus on related questions requiring interdisciplinary engagement (e.g., How can we use light-based methods, such as scanless holography, adaptive optics, computational optics approaches, and genetically encoded activity sensors and actuators such as bacterial opsins, to investigate neural function?) Members will share information about resources for addressing these questions and communicate across Duke to strengthen imaging infrastructure.

North Carolina Saltwater Intrusion and Sea Level Rise

NC Saltwater ICPG members.

Predicting the impacts of sea level rise and the accompanying saltwater intrusion on freshwater coastal wetlands is a complex challenge. While the formation of “ghost forests”—the rapid death of trees due to salt stress—is gaining attention, our understanding remains fragmented. This group will convene a one-day workshop to develop an overarching research framework, with the goals of then pooling resources, sharing data, and submitting joint grant proposals.

Opioid Detection Technologies and Their Application to Addressing Various Aspects of the Opioid Crisis

Opioid ICPG members.

How can novel detection technologies be brought to bear on the opioid crisis? Members of this group will explore that question by undertaking two parallel activity streams: monthly collaboration meetings to share information; and acquisition of initial compound signatures on two fundamental detection technologies (X-ray diffraction and mass spectrometry). These faculty will pursue increased cross-disciplinary understanding of the opioid crisis and its detection needs; a baseline signature library of relevant compounds to support future analysis and design; and one or more joint proposals on topics related to detection and the opioid crisis.

Transformative Learning: A Shared Intellectual Interest across the University

Transformative Learning ICPG members.

This group’s primary goal is to identify transformative learning moments among Duke students. Members will meet monthly to develop a shared knowledge of transformative learning practices and assessment. They will host a dinner with Dr. Stacey Johnson of Vanderbilt University, a renowned expert in transformative learning in language education, convene two campus-wide discussions, and invite a nationally recognized speaker to give a public talk. The group will create a shared toolkit of assessment tools for transformative learning and develop conference proposals and a publication to showcase this work.

  • Co-lead: Cori Crane, Germanic Studies, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences
  • Co-lead: Deb Reisinger, Romance Studies, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences
  • Co-lead: Joan Clifford, Romance Studies, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences
  • Jennifer Ahern-Dodson, Thompson Writing Program, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences
  • Alessandra Dinin, Office of Assessment, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences
  • Jennifer Hill, Office of Assessment, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences
  • David Malone, Program in Education, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences
  • Liliana Paredes, Romance Studies, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences
  • Melissa Simmermeyer, Romance Studies, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences

Read about the 2019 recipients of Intellectual Community Planning Grants and view the 2018 summary report.

See all initiatives in the Together Duke academic strategic plan, including the current RFP for Collaboratories for Research on Immigration or on Science, Technology & Ethics (deadline: January 24, 2020; to learn more, attend an information session on Thursday, January 9, from 3:00 to 4:00 in the Karl E. Zener Auditorium, 130 Sociology-Psychology).

Protecting the State’s Drinking Water: Research Team Maps North Carolina Infrastructure

A team of students from the Nicholas School of the Environment and Pratt School of Engineering has been working for more than a year to create a single digital map of the service boundaries of North Carolina’s drinking water systems. Developed as part of a interdisciplinary project known as Innovations in Infrastructure, the map will inform research into policies that can help the state better manage risks to local water supplies.

An interdisciplinary group from two universities is taking a data-driven approach to help protect North Carolina’s drinking water supply.

The Innovations in Infrastructure project is using the state’s drinking water systems as a lens to examine policies for better building and maintaining infrastructure necessary for delivery of basic public services. Funded by a multiyear Collaboratory grant from Duke University’s Office of the Provost, the project brings together Duke faculty and students with the Environmental Finance Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“There are a lot of platitudes about an infrastructure crisis in the United States and sweeping indictments that list 20 problems to explain why our infrastructure is failing,” said co-principal investigator Megan Mullin, associate professor of environmental politics at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment. “Our suspicion was that all of those 20 indictments hold, but they hold for different systems under different conditions. As long as we’re bundling everything together, we’re not going to be able to help improve infrastructure in particular places at particular points in time.”

The Collaboratory team has since narrowed its focus to policies affecting how drinking water is provided in North Carolina. As in much of the United States, it is “an expensive public service that’s supported locally and is extremely fragmented,” Mullin said. Some systems deliver water to just a few hundred paying customers. That is a small revenue base to support maintaining “capital-intensive infrastructure,” which can include building treatment plants, repairing or replacing aging pipes, or tapping new sources of water.

These water systems can face numerous challenges—increases or decreases in population, changing economic conditions, or impacts related to climate change, such as droughts or floods. How the local governments and utilities that operate these water systems see the risk from these challenges can differ from how the state or private sector sees them, said co-principal investigator Amy Pickle, director of the State Policy Program at Duke’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions.

Co-principal investigator Megan Mullin (right) reviews the mapping project with Carolyn Rossman (foreground) and Jannette Morris (top).

“The overarching question for me is: How well does North Carolina assess the risks that impact the sustainability of local water supply and then prepare for those risks with either funding, education, or other policy solutions?” Pickle said.

They needed a critical piece of information, however, to get the right level of detail for the research.

“We have to understand the areas these water systems are serving, and no one knows that,” Mullin said.

Like most states, North Carolina does not have a single digital map showing where every local water system is located. So the project team would have to build one.

To get started, the researchers turned to the North Carolina Division of Water Resources, which has become an invaluable partner in the project. In 2009, the General Assembly passed a law to help prepare for droughts that requires communities to submit water supply plans to the Division’s Bureau of Public Water Supply. As part of that reporting, the Bureau received PDF maps of service boundaries for each of the more than 500 community water systems in the state.

The trove of system maps came with varying degrees of quality. While some were generated with pinpoint accuracy by mapping software, many others were drawn by hand.

Walker Grimshaw (left) and Shawn Li refine the service boundaries for one local drinking water system in North Carolina. Students worked in pairs during the mapping process to learn from each other and provide added accountability.

For more than a year, a team of eight student assistants from the Nicholas School of the Environment and the Pratt School of Engineering has been incorporating those system maps into a single digital statewide map. The challenging work gave the students an opportunity to learn new skills from each other, an important part of the educational component of the project.

“The team structure is amazing on an interdisciplinary level,” said Katy Hansen, a PhD student in the University Program in Environmental Policy who serves as the research lead for the project. “Lots of people are operating on the edge of their learning curves.”

The student team has been directed by Hansen and lead project manager Rachel Gonsenhauser, a master of environmental management (MEM) student in the Nicholas School. Bringing different backgrounds and levels of mapping expertise, they spent months refining a process for digitizing the water system maps. With a procedure in place, they have worked in pairs to incorporate the system boundaries into the larger map, checking each other’s work and sharing ideas as they go.

Kartik Pathak, a master of engineering management student in the Pratt School, is among the students who benefited from the pairs approach. Pathak came to the project with an interest in the topic but little GIS experience. His knowledge has grown from working with his “mapping buddy.”

Among the key members of the team has been Walker Grimshaw, who is working toward both an MEM degree from Duke and a master’s in environmental sciences and engineering from UNC. Grimshaw brought both GIS experience and an understanding of why the map was so vital based on his time with the Environmental Finance Center at UNC.

“I would keep meeting people who wanted what our end product will be—a tool showing where the water utilities are serving people,” Grimshaw said.

Example of water system map digitization process
Example of water system map digitization process

State agencies and researchers are excited to have that information, Mullin said. Once the students’ work on the map is complete, the Division of Water Resources will be able to go back to individual water systems to reduce any measurement errors in their boundaries. And this summer a new set of students will build an online tool to make that process easier for local governments and utilities, through Duke’s Data+ program.

Among the next steps for the project is an informal workshop in the spring with Division of Water Resources staff to go over the map and data related to risks that water systems are facing. The project team will also discuss policy innovations that can improve the flow of water supply information, both from local governments to the state and between different parts of the state bureaucracy.

By Jeremy Ashton; originally posted on Duke Today


Request for Proposals: Collaboratories for Research on Immigration or on Science, Technology & Ethics

Deadline: January 24, 2020

Through funds from Together Duke, the Provost established a program to support groups of faculty whose engaged research targets selected societal challenges in alignment with Duke’s strategic priorities. After the first two cycles, the Provost’s Office has selected two new themes for the 2020 grant competition: Immigration; and Science, Technology & Ethics.

Project funding ranges from $40,000 to $200,000 annually. Proposals may request funds for one, two, or three years; the project budget should match the horizon of the proposal.

Please see the RFP for eligibility, selection criteria, review process, proposal requirements, timeline and contact information.

Start or Advance an Innovative Project through the Energy Research Seed Fund

Energy Research Seed Fund.

Deadline: February 14, 2020

Since 2014, the Duke University Energy Initiative’s Energy Research Seed Fund has kickstarted new interdisciplinary research teams to launch innovative projects—sparking collaboration among scholars from the basic sciences, engineering, social sciences, humanities, and other disciplines. The fund helps Duke researchers obtain important preliminary results they can use to secure external funding or otherwise expand future scholarly collaboration.

Thanks to generous support from the Office of the Provost, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences, and the Pratt School of Engineering, we are pleased to invite proposals from Duke faculty to any of the following grant categories:

  • Stage-One Grants will provide up to $45,000 for Duke faculty embarking on new interdisciplinary projects. At least two members of the proposed research team must represent different disciplines, schools, or departments. The performance period for Stage-One Grants is 12 months.
  • Stage-Two Grants will provide up to $35,000 to carry projects currently supported by the Energy Research Seed Fund into their next research phase. Applications for Stage- Two grants should indicate successful completion of work conducted under the current grant and outline how additional funding will help make the team’s research more compelling to external funders.
  • Proposal Development Grants will provide up to $25,000 for past Energy Research Seed Fund grantees to develop proposals for external funding. Applicants for these grants should provide a one-page proposal indicating how the funds will be used (acceptable uses include travel to meet with potential sponsors, support for Ph.D. student assistants, etc.), and how those uses will improve the likelihood of external funding.

Proposals are due Friday, February 14, 2020 (see submission details below).

The Seed Fund program is open to proposals on energy-inspired research topics from researchers across a full spectrum of disciplines. This year, we particularly welcome proposals in the following areas:

  • Energy humanities
  • Energy data analytics and big data, especially projects that build on results from previous/existing Data+ teams or that are well-positioned to develop data that can be analyzed in a future Data+ project
  • Energy materials, advanced alternative fuels, and renewables
  • Energy markets, regulatory tools, and standards
  • Grid reliability and resilience
  • Energy access and inequality

Requirements

Eligible Applicants

The Principal Investigator must be a regular-rank faculty member at Duke University, but other investigators on the proposing team can be Duke faculty, staff, or students. Likewise, the proposed team may include external collaborators, but funding may only be used to cover the logistics (travel, etc.) of the collaboration.

Budgets

The budget for an Energy Research Seed Fund research team (or working group) can include supplies, salary support for research assistants, students, and technicians, and other justifiable research expenses. Faculty salary, tuition remission, and indirect costs are not allowable expenses. Travel expenses are allowable only if essential to conducting the proposed research activities and cannot include travel to scientific conferences. All proposal budgets must be submitted using this template provided or they will not be considered.

Application Content (Stage-One Grants and Stage-Two Grants)

Cover Page. Must include the following information:

  • Proposal title
  • Name, title, departmental affiliation, address, e-mail address, and telephone number of all proposed investigators
  • Designation of a Principal Investigator or Co-Principal Investigators

Abstract (250 words maximum)

Research plan (3 page maximum – single spaced, 12 point font, 1” margins all the way around) Must include the following information:

  • Statement of research objectives and their significance
  • Work already completed related to the proposal, and any relevant preliminary results (Stage-Two Grant proposals should indicate how the project’s second year will build on results of research supported by the prior Stage-One Grant)
  • Description of the research team (working group) and research setting
  • Proposed methods and plans for data analysis
  • Potential for sustained collaboration beyond the project term (Stage-Two Grant proposals should discuss the likelihood of external funding)

Appendix materials (1 page maximum each– single spaced, 12 point font, 1” margins all the way around) Must include the following information:

  • Research schedule and milestones
  • Collaborative nature of the project
  • Relevance to mission of the Duke University Energy Initiative (energy.duke.edu/about)
  • Budget and justification (1 page maximum)
  • Curriculum vitae OR NSF/NIH biosketch including current grant support limited to 4 pages for each investigator
Application Content (Proposal Development Grants)

A one-page proposal describing the project and indicating how the funds will be used to increase the likelihood of external funding.

Submission Format and Deadline

Please combine all required elements into a single PDF document and submit via email—with ERSF Submission in the subject line—by 5:00 p.m. on Friday, February 14, 2019 to: Will Niver, Duke University Energy Initiative via email at will.niver@duke.edu.

Review Criteria and Selection Process

Proposals will be reviewed by an ad hoc review committee consisting of faculty with a broad range of expertise in energy-related fields. The reviewing committee’s goal is to identify the proposals that best meet the objectives of the Energy Initiative’s Energy Research Seed Fund: interdisciplinary collaborative research projects that will address crucial questions related to energy. The review process will consider: (1) the significance and potential impact of the research program; (2) the degree of innovation; (3) the scope of the interdisciplinary collaboration and relevance for the goals of the proposed research; (4) feasibility of the research project: (5) likelihood of development into a sustained collaboration; and (6) (for Stage-Two and Proposal Development Grants) likelihood of obtaining external funding. Final selections will be made by the Energy Initiative Director in consultation with the faculty review committee and other stakeholders, with the goal of applying the fund (approximately $200,000 for this round of awards) toward a diverse group of projects with a strong likelihood of success.

Awards will be announced in April 2020.

Reporting Requirements

Recipients will be expected to report on the project’s status and any related outputs (journal articles, conference presentations, external grants, etc.) at the end of the performance period.

Inquiries

Please direct questions to Will Niver, Research Analyst, Duke University Energy Initiative via email at will.niver@duke.edu.

See further information: energy.duke.edu/research/resources/seed-fund

Integrating Purpose, Character, and Ethics into Undergraduate Engineering Education

Pratt School of Engineering.

As the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University continues to evolve its undergraduate curriculum, the school is working to integrate crucial but often overlooked pieces of a holistic engineering education. With a new grant from The Kern Family Foundation’s Entrepreneurial Engineering Program, Duke Engineering will work with Duke colleagues and external professionals to create a framework for focusing on character values throughout the undergraduate experience.

“Today’s engineering students want to see how engineering impacts people’s lives and makes the world a better place,” said George Truskey, senior associate dean of the Pratt School of Engineering and the R. Eugene and Susie E. Goodson Professor of Biomedical Engineering. “At the same time, we’ve witnessed serious ethical lapses by major corporations in recent years. We feel that it is very important to infuse character values throughout our programs and to encourage students to think about what ethical issues new technologies may pose before they even come out.”

The grant, titled “Purposefully Duke: Reimagining Engineering Education for Purpose, Character and Ethics,” draws Duke Engineering together with the Duke Divinity School and Duke’s Kenan Institute for Ethics. The grant will also bring in experts from outside the university to create a working group of faculty and staff to develop an approach for discussing character-based ethics in a manner that is easily integrated into the current student experience.

“The Purposefully Duke initiative is designed to build a ‘muscle for reflection’ amongst our students and help them frame success in a way that leads to a life of purpose, meaning and ethics⁠—a fulfilling life where professional success is not the end goal of college, but one ingredient in a larger journey of personal growth.  We are grateful to the Kern Foundation, and to our Duke colleagues in the Divinity School, the Kenan Institute for Ethics and the Provost’s office, for their support in this important embrace of a higher responsibility that all of us share in higher education.”

Ravi Bellamkonda
Vinik Dean of Engineering

The end goal is to create a proposal that develops and implements curricular, co-curricular and mentoring programs that explore and reinforce issues of character, purpose and ethics in engineering. Once completed, the leaders plan to submit a larger proposal to implement the new findings and ideas by Fall 2020.

The Kern Family Foundation was established in 1998 to empower the rising generation of Americans to build flourishing lives anchored in strong character, inspired by quality education, driven by an entrepreneurial mindset, and guided by the desire to create value for others. Earlier this year, Duke Engineering joined the Kern Entrepreneurial Engineering Network (KEEN), which is a national partnership of engineering faculty focused on developing and promoting innovation in engineering education for the good of society. While the Kern Foundation wants to keep the focus of KEEN on fostering an entrepreneurial mindset in students, the budding program dovetails nicely into their broader goal of adding meaning and purpose to students’ educations and careers.

While planning is still in the early stages, Truskey says he envisions tapping into Duke Engineering’s extensive alumni network and other professionals in the field to recount their experiences and how they dealt with challenging situations. That way students can see that ethical dilemmas are real issues dealt with by real professionals on a regular basis, not just things that come up in the news from time to time.

“We need to find ways to engage students that allow them to see the complexity of the problems that can come up,” said Truskey. “If you give a student a case study of a serious ethical flaw, they’re going to immediately figure out what the right thing to do is. The challenge is to put them into a situation where there are gray areas so that they can see all the pressures and tensions that conflict with each other. Then it becomes more realistic and more challenging for them to think the problem through.”

“This grant addresses issues of central importance to engineering, higher education, and broader issues in people’s lives and the world of reinvigorating our vocations with character, purpose and ethical commitment,” said Gregory Jones, dean of the Duke Divinity School.

“We’re excited to collaborate with Pratt and the Divinity School on this important work of reimagining engineering education to make questions of purpose and meaning core learning outcomes,” added Suzanne Shanahan, director of the Kenan Institute for Ethics.

Originally posted on the Pratt School of Engineering website

Duke Incubation Fund Awards Support Seven Promising Innovations

Congratulations to the 2019-20 Duke Incubation Fund Awardees.

The winners of the Fall 2019 Duke Incubation Fund awards have been announced, representing promising innovation happening across the University. Seven projects will receive funds totaling $129,000.

The Incubation Fund, run by Duke’s Innovation & Entrepreneurship Initiative (I&E), supports early-stage ideas from Duke’s innovation ecosystem with the potential to go to market. Whereas many resources exist at Duke to support research and commercialization, the Incubation Fund is among the only opportunities for innovations still in the ideation stage. The Fund is made possible by a gift from I&E advisory board member Jeffrey Citron and his wife, Suzanne.

One goal of the Fund is to foster innovation in all corners of Duke. While previous awards have supported faculty, staff, and students representing schools and departments ranging from the Nicholas School, to the School of Nursing, all the way to the Dance Program, this year’s awardees represent the Department of Pathology, the Duke Human Vaccine Institute, the Department of Radiology, the Department of Chemistry, and the Department of Biomedical Engineering.

Incubation Fund Awardees for 2019-2020

Soman Abraham | Pathology Faculty

Mast cells are responsible for a wide range of inflammatory disorders, from mild skin rash to life-threatening anaphylactic shock. This team is exploring a novel mast cell inhibitor molecule to treat non-clonal mast cell activation syndrome (nc-MCAS), for which there are currently no FDA-approved treatments. In addition to potentially preventing nc-MCAS-related anaphylaxis and symptoms, this molecule could lead to the development of therapeutics to treat other mast cell-mediated diseases.

Mattia Bonsignori | Duke Human Vaccine Institute Faculty

Using an antibody type from a Zika-infected pregnant woman who bore a healthy infant—an antibody type that doesn’t cross the placenta or cross-react with the Dengue virus like other antibodies capable of neutralizing the Zika virus—this team seeks to generate critical data needed for preclinical studies that would pave the way for clinical vaccine trials.

Charles Kim | Interventional Radiology Faculty and Division Chief

Ultrasound probes were designed for diagnostic use and are thus limited when it comes to their use in needle guidance; this project seeks to develop a dedicated interventional ultrasound probe that utilizes a novel approach to image acquisition and processing, thereby optimizing needle guidance.

Maciej Mazurowski | Radiology Faculty

Using software based on an algorithm developed and tested by Duke scientists and clinicians, this team will work to create a clinical-use software prototype to evaluate knee radiographs in order to grade the severity of knee osteoarthritis. 

Samira Musah | Biomedical Engineering Faculty

Through the design and engineering of a novel microfluidic device that mimics the tissue structure and filtration system of a human kidney, Fixoria Biomimetics seeks to develop a vascularized 3D in vitro kidney model that can be used to discover novel therapeutics for human kidney disease.

Jesus del Carmen Valdiviezo Mora | Chemistry Graduate Student

Evolutionary Microfluidics looks to use AI algorithms to design, manufacture, and patent microfluidic devices that act as efficient analyzers and microreactors of biological samples, eventually commercializing these devices within the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries to reduce the time needed for research and development.

Zohair Zia | Biomedical Engineering Undergraduate Student

Neptune Access makes modifications to an IV port so it can be used to obtain blood samples, reducing the need for numerous blood draws through repeated venipuncture, especially for those patients who may require multiple attempts for each successful blood sample.

Tapping into Resources and Guidance

Many of these projects have already benefited from the support of innovation- and entrepreneurship-related resources across Duke. Zohair Zia’s work on an adapted IV port won the Duke Institute for Health Innovation’s annual Innovation Jam supporting pragmatic health innovations with the potential for immediate application or possible commercialization. Soman Abraham’s new venture focused on mast cell inhibitor therapy is receiving coaching and business strategy support from a mentor-in-residence and an MBA student through the New Ventures Program run by the Office of Licensing & Ventures.

These resources, as well as the early-stage support provided by the Incubation Fund, can prove decisive in whether progress continues on a project. Charles Kim, who received an award for an interventional ultrasound probe, said, “This will provide funding for the materials and expertise needed for the crucial step of formal prototype development, without which further progress would not be possible.”

Tracking Success

Now that the Fund, which was established in 2017, is entering its fourth funding cycle, “We’re starting to be able to track the success of previous awardees, which is exciting,” says Dr. Sharlini Sankaran, Director of Translational Programs at Duke I&E.

Duke spin-out inSomaBio has gone on to receive funding from the Duke Angel Network, whereas others are in various stages of obtaining follow-on funding from investor groups or local and federal entrepreneurial funding programs.

Michael Kliën, an Associate Professor of the Practice of Dance, received an Incubation Fund award last year for his work on the Hydrean, a unique physical meditation device that encourages embodiment and teaches a systematic practice of mindfulness. The Hydrean was featured at this year’s Invented at Duke celebration—and undergraduate students in the I&E Certificate, intrigued by Kliën’s product, decided to do a business development project for their capstone class focused on getting the Hydrean adopted into mainstream media.

“The Incubation Fund fills a critical funding need for early-stage projects that need a lift to get off the ground, whether that be prototype building, early-stage market research, or obtaining critical equipment and supplies,” said Sankaran. “In keeping with Duke I&E’s mission of being a catalyst and an enabler for innovation at Duke, we’re happy to provide support to these promising projects so they can ultimately benefit society at large.”

Originally posted on the Duke Innovation & Entrepreneurship website