Deadline: June 11, 2021 (letters of intent); August 20, 2021 (full application)
The Duke Institute for Brain Sciences (DIBS) supports two seed-grant funding programs. These high-risk/high-return funding mechanisms provide funding for research that is exploratory and therefore not yet ready for external funding.
Research Incubator Awards
Incubator Awards, up to $100,000, are for teams of faculty representing at least two departments or areas of research. See more information.
Research Germinator Awards
Germinator Awards, up to $25,000, are for graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, residents or faculty. See more information.
Important Dates for Both Award Mechanisms
Letters of intent: Due by 5:00 p.m., Friday, June 11, 2021
Full application: Due by 5:00 p.m., Friday, August 20, 2021
Duke researchers Nicole Calakos and Henry Yin are both interested in how the brain converts goal-directed, voluntary actions such as buttoning your shirt into involuntary habits you don’t have to think about. But they work in different departments in separate schools at Duke (Neurology, School of Medicine, and Psychology & Neuroscience, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences, respectively), which can make collaboration a challenge.
In 2010, they received a $100,000 Research Incubator Award from the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences (DIBS), allowing them to work together on their interdisciplinary ideas and see where they might lead. Research Incubator Awards, given annually, are designed to facilitate cross-campus collaboration. Today, their labs are part of a major four-lab effort – including the Michael Tadross lab in Biomedical Engineering, Pratt School of Engineering, and the Nicolas Brunel lab in Neurobiology, School of Medicine – to study brain plasticity in habit formation, with federal funding from the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies® (BRAIN) Initiative. The initial DIBS funding helped lay the foundation for winning a competitive $5.1 million BRAIN Initiative grant.
Generating 7:1 Return on Investment
For every dollar spent on the Research Incubator Awards, seven dollars are returned to Duke through external funding and grants such as the BRAIN Initiative, other National Institutes of Health agencies, and the National Science Foundation. The program is supported financially by the university and the School of Medicine, and through philanthropic gifts from the DIBS External Advisory Board.
“These high-risk, high-reward projects encourage new interdisciplinary collaborations and allow researchers at Duke to take risks and pursue cutting-edge science,” said DIBS Director Geraldine Dawson, PhD, who also leads the Duke Center on Autism and Brain Development.
“DIBS invests in early-stage research projects to promote testing of new ideas, increase the likelihood of obtaining external research funding, and help train the next generation of research scientists.” The BRAIN Initiative seeks to revolutionize our understanding of the human brain by taking advantage of the latest technological advances. It is supported by federal agencies, technology firms, academic institutions, scientists, and other contributors to the neuroscience field. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) also supports the BRAIN Initiative through a number of programs.
Providing Unique Opportunities to Collaborate
Calakos and Yin are both members of the growing DIBS Faculty Network, composed of nearly 200 faculty members in dozens of departments across Duke. Calakos described how she and Yin began their Incubator collaboration: “Henry joined the faculty at Duke just a couple of years after I did,” she said. “Our labs shared an interest in understanding the relationship between plasticity (adaptability) in basal ganglia circuitry and how it shapes behavior, so it was natural that we were looking for opportunities to work together. Our 2010 DIBS Incubator Award was the first opportunity for our labs to do this.”
The Calakos Lab had just created a mouse model for a movement disorder thought to arise from abnormal basal ganglia activity. The Yin Lab “had the expertise to study learning behaviors that rely on basal ganglia plasticity, so together we set out to understand how a human genetic variant associated with movement disorder influenced motor learning and habit formation,” Calakos added. Other DIBS Faculty Network Members have had similar success attracting grants from the BRAIN Initiative based on collaborative work that grew out of their Incubator awards.
For example, Marc Sommer (Biomedical Engineering, Pratt School of Engineering) has long focused on optimizing parameters for Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), which uses magnetic fields as a non-invasive way to affect neurons for treating disorders such as depression. Beginning with an Incubator Award, Sommer worked with Tobias Egner (Psychology & Neuroscience), Warren Grill (Biomedical Engineering), and Michael Platt (formerly of Neurobiology) to understand and enhance the use of TMS in animals performing cognitive tasks.
Sommer’s BRAIN Initiative grant, “Impact of Timing, Targeting, and Brain State on rTMS of Human and Non-human Primates,” builds on his team’s Incubator Award research through a novel collaboration with Roberto Cabeza (Psychology & Neuroscience), Simon Davis (Neurology), and Greg Appelbaum and Angel Peterchev (both in Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences). The new study “will yield a multi-scale data set that links results from non-human primates to humans through experiments that should generalize well to the study of other cerebral cortical circuits,” Sommer said. “The results will help to advance rTMS from a method that relies on trial-and-error testing toward one that is founded on clear biological principles.”
Supporting the Next Generation of Neuroscientists
Peterchev was also awarded a BRAIN Initiative grant supported by DARPA: MOANA: Magnetic, Optical, and Acoustic Neural Access Device, for High-bandwidth, Non-surgical Brain Computer Interfaces,” a project that grew out of another DIBS Incubator Award involving colleagues from across the university and the medical center. It’s not just faculty who are involved in the projects. Peterchev noted that Stefan Goetz (Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences), the primary investigator on the DARPA grant, was a postdoctoral associate funded by the Incubator Award. “This is another example of how this seed funding program contributes to the important work of educating and training the next generation of neuroscience talent,” Dawson said.
Dawson expects to see more BRAIN Initiative grants go to DIBS Faculty Network Members, especially those leading Incubator Awards “This is a natural match,” she said. “Seed funding is crucial to ensure that Duke neuroscientists are part of the talented group of researchers who are funded through the BRAIN Initiative and leading the way in unraveling the complexities of the brain.”
Through December 2019, Duke faculty have received 19 BRAIN Initiative grants. Five of those grants received their start through the DIBS Research Incubator Awards. For more information, please see the Initiative’s Funded Awards website, https://braininitiative.nih.gov/funding/funded-awards.
Letters of intent for DIBS Research Incubator and Germinator Awards are due May 1, 5 p.m., EDT. More information, click HERE.
Four interdisciplinary research teams will conduct innovative neuroscience research with support from 2019 Research Germinator Awards from the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences (DIBS). The teams are focused on:
Reducing post-operative cognitive decline for people with dementia
Understanding biofeedback at the neural level, through advanced imaging and computational analysis
Exploring the cognitive and neural mechanisms that update knowledge and beliefs
Developing more accurate and cost-effective technology to guide Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, a treatment method used with a wide range of brain disorders
“I am excited to see the breadth of topics and technologies that are represented in 2019 Germinator applications,” said DIBS Director Geraldine Dawson. “We also appreciated the wide representation across Duke University.” The 14 researchers on this year’s Germinator teams represent seven departments from three schools: Arts & Sciences, Medicine, and Pratt School of Engineering.
This is the second year for DIBS Research Germinator Awards, which are designed to support requests for training, pilot data, non-faculty salary, and/or equipment that would jump start new research and, if successful, lead to external funding. Graduate students, postdoctoral associates, and faculty are eligible to submit proposals for up to $25,000. Lead investigators of the 2019 awards represent the full range of eligibility, including a postdoctoral fellow, two graduate students, and faculty members.
2019 Germinator Award Recipients & Project Synopses
Germinator Award Project Synopses
Ravikanth Velagapudi, PhD, Anesthesiology, School of Medicine; and William Huffman, PhD, and David Bradway, PhD, both of Biomedical Engineering, Pratt School of Engineering
Targeting Autophagy with Non-Invasive Vagal Nerve Stimulation to Treat Delirium Superimposed on Dementia
People living with dementia often need common surgical interventions such as knee replacement or hip-fracture repair. These patients are at risk for experiencing further cognitive decline after surgery. This research project will address this serious public health concern by providing fundamental knowledge to help reduce the burden of neurologic complications after common surgical procedures and improve the quality of life for these high-risk patients. The aims will implement a new non-invasive approach (stimulation of the vagus nerve) to regulate critical cellular processes involved in many neurological disorders, yet unexplored in the context of perioperative surgical recovery.
Rachael Wright, Psychology & Neuroscience (P&N), Trinity College of Arts & Sciences, and DIBS Cognitive Neuroscience Admitting Program (CNAP); Alison Adcock, MD, PhD, Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, School of Medicine; Kevin LaBar, PhD, P&N, and John Pearson, PhD, Biostatistics & Bioinformatics, School of Medicine
The Spatiotemporal Dynamics of Self-Regulation Learning in Real-time fMRI Neurofeedback
Neurofeedback is a promising method for examining the relationship between brain function and behavior. In neurofeedback, individuals are shown a graphical representation of a specific brain signal and learn to control that brain signal through practice. Scientists can then measure whether regulation of the targeted brain signal impacts thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Clinicians have also applied neurofeedback to help remedy symptoms of psychiatric or neurological disorders, yet scientists still lack an understanding of the neural mechanisms by which the process occurs. To answer this important question, it is critical to investigate how different regions throughout the brain interact during training to help individuals learn to control a specific brain signal. In this project, we develop a new approach to understand how brain states change during neurofeedback learning using advanced brain imaging technology and computational analysis tools. Ultimately, this project will improve our understanding of how neurofeedback works and promote advances in its design and application.
Alyssa Sinclair, CNAP, DIBS, and Arts & Sciences; Alison Adcock, MD, PhD, Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, School of Medicine; and Gregory Samanez-Larkin, PhD and Elizabeth Marsh, PhD, both Psychology & Neuroscience in Arts & Sciences
Learning From Error: Cognitive, Motivational, and Neural Mechanisms
Learning from error is a fundamental part of real-world cognition. Students must learn from mistakes to gain knowledge. We all draw on past experience to predict the future, but our predictions are not always accurate. In such situations, we must dynamically update our knowledge and strategies. It is clear that learning from error is important for success, but humans can be resistant to change. When new information challenges our beliefs, we often find it difficult to reconcile with our existing knowledge. What are the conditions that make us receptive to feedback, allowing us to learn from error? This group will investigate ways to encourage and support learning from error. They will consider the motivational and emotional factors that shape how we respond to feedback, predicting that learning about how memories integrate with experience will make participants more receptive to feedback. They aim to uncover the cognitive and neural mechanisms of knowledge and belief updating, bearing implications for both educational practices and the pervasive spread of misinformation in the media.
Angel V. Peterchev, PhD, Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, School of Medicine; Guillermo Sapiro, PhD, Electrical & Computer Engineering, Pratt School of Engineering; Dennis A. Turner, MD, Neurosurgery, School of Medicine; Stefan M. Goetz, PhD, Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, School of Medicine
Accurate, Affordable, and Easy-to-Use Navigation for Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) uses magnetic fields sent from a “wand” placed on the head to safely improve brain function without drugs or surgery. TMS is approved for treatment of brain disorders such as depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and migraine. It also holds promise for studying and treating other psychiatric and neurological illnesses. TMS interventions rely on precise targeting of areas of the brain that may not be functioning well. However, existing TMS devices have limited utility because they require the user to wear expensive and uncomfortable equipment, in order to accurately target the proper brain regions. This group will develop a cheaper, simpler, and more comfortable tool to position the stimulator over the correct brain target. Drawing on recent developments in computer vision and smart cameras, the group will develop technology could enable better brain research and clinical treatments.
Four groups led by Duke University faculty have been awarded Collaboratory grants for research into pressing local and global challenges.
“From investigations in our own backyard into evaluating water safety and lessening the impact of evictions on child development, to research aimed at increasing solar energy efficiency and minimizing the spread of infectious diseases on a global scale, these proposals speak to our dedication to improving the human condition,” said Provost Sally Kornbluth. “Supporting faculty research is an essential way to advance the fundamental learning and discovery at which we excel, and those investments provide ripple effects that benefit teaching and service.”
The grant period is one year with a possibility of renewal.
Drinking Water Contamination in North Carolina: Water Use, Human Health, and Going Beyond GenX
Changes in water availability, increases in pollution, and policy regulations are resulting in substantial challenges for water protection, and consumers bear the social and economic burden when drinking water sources are contaminated. One of the most relevant threats to public drinking water in the U.S. is a class of chemicals called poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs). These chemicals made local headlines in 2017 when news stations reported contamination of drinking water wells with “GenX” in New Hanover and Brunswick counties.
In 2018, the state legislature appropriated several million dollars for testing all surface waters across the state. Despite the broad documentation of PFAS contamination, no funding was included to evaluate health impacts on affected communities or to identify sources.
This collaboratory will build a water model to help identify potential point source(s) of PFAS contamination, and underlying variables influencing the water levels, in the Piedmont region. In addition, the researchers will examine the relationship between water levels and biological PFAS levels, and conduct geospatial analyses to determine if poorer health outcomes at birth are associated with areas of higher PFAS contamination. The group will also investigate effects of PFAS on birth outcomes using an animal model, and integrate environmental and human health knowledge into management and policy recommendations regarding water use policies.
Minimizing the Influence of Air Pollution on Solar Energy Production
Particulate matter, including air pollution and dust, has dramatic impacts on both climate and human health. It also reduces solar energy production by about 15% on a global average and as much as 40% in some regions. This current loss in efficiency is estimated to account for the loss of power output valued in the tens of billions of dollars annually, dramatically affecting cost effectiveness and renewable energy access. The problem is not well understood and few studies are available that quantify the impacts, although it will become increasingly important with solar power production expected to increase globally by nearly four-fold over the next 20 years.
This collaboratory will assess the regional impacts of air pollution on solar energy production, determine cost-effective strategies to minimize the influence of particulate matter on solar energy production, and develop and test novel surfaces and coatings that hold great promise in minimizing the influence of deposited particulate matter on solar energy production.
Evaluating and Mitigating the Impact of Evictions and Other Housing Insecurity Issues over Health and Child Development in North Carolina
Additional Team Members: Jillian Hurst, School of Medicine; Sarah Dickerson, postdoctoral associate, Sanford School of Public Policy; graduate and professional students
In the U.S., 10-15% of households experience housing insecurity. For families with young children, this number is much higher. Lack of secure housing is associated with a host of health consequences including psychological distress and exacerbating chronic conditions. For children, housing instability is associated with increased problem behaviors, respiratory conditions, infectious diseases, and decreased access to healthcare. In Durham, 16% of children aged 0-8 live in a household where housing costs exceed 50% of the household income—leaving few resources for other needs such as food, clothing, and transportation.
This collaboratory brings together a multidisciplinary team to study how housing insecurity affects children’s health and education and what policy solutions may be implemented to mitigate the associated harms. To inform evidence-based policies and help communities promote population-level health, this study will assess patterns of population movement in Durham County and the relationship of these patterns with housing insecurity, examine the effects of housing insecurity and evictions on the education of children across North Carolina and in Durham County specifically, and investigate the effects of housing insecurity and evictions on children’s healthcare utilization and health status in Durham County.
Identifying Infectious Disease Transmission Pathways for Improved Population Health and Pandemic Preparedness
Principal Investigators: Charles L. Nunn, Evolutionary Anthropology, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences; Randall Kramer, Nicholas School of the Environment; James Moody, Sociology, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences; Linfa Wang, Duke-NUS Medical School
Additional Team Members: Alma Solis, Ph.D. student in Evolutionary Anthropology; other graduate students
The title of a recent high-profile Commentary in Nature proclaimed, “Pandemics: Spend on surveillance, not prediction.” If resources and time were unlimited, scientists would exhaustively sample wild animals, domesticated animals, and humans, and they would fully investigate the ecological contexts in which transmission occurs; all of these foci are crucial for predicting disease emergence. Given the reality of limited resources, new approaches are needed to deepen understanding of disease transmission pathways from animals to humans.
This collaboratory will use new surveillance tools and apply analytical frameworks from network epidemiology to disentangle the drivers of disease transmission at the human-animal ecological interface. The group’s research takes place in rural Madagascar. Members will collect and analyze blood samples and expand socioeconomic data collection; this research will provide crucial pilot data to increase the competitiveness of external grant submissions, while also providing opportunities for students involved in the research to publish early findings and present those findings at conferences. In addition to collecting data in the field and shipping samples to Singapore for analysis, funding will enable us to develop new analytical pipelines for network epidemiological analyses, including with graduate students on Duke’s campus.
About the Collaboratory Grants
Part of the Together Duke academic strategic plan, Collaboratory grants provide support for groups of faculty seeking to provide solutions to targeted problems in three areas:
Energy and water resources
Race, religion, and citizenship
Over time, these thematic areas will likely evolve. Project funding ranges from $20,000 to $200,000 annually. The offices of the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies and the Vice Provost for Academic Affairs oversee this seed grant program.
Launched in 2018, the one-of-a-kind fellows program is designed to produce scholars with expertise in both data science and energy application domains.
“Recent developments in machine learning and data science techniques have paved the way for better decisions about how we generate, transmit, and consume energy,” explains Brian Murray, director of the Duke University Energy Initiative. “The doctoral fellows program is designed to push past traditional disciplinary boundaries to prepare next-generation scholars to pursue the accessible, affordable, reliable, and clean energy systems our world needs.”
The second cohort of fellows include four doctoral students:
Alina is a second-year computer science Ph.D. student working in the Prediction Analysis Lab. Her project focuses on identifying buildings with poor insulation to better inform civic planning and policy.
Bohao Huang is a second-year Ph.D. student in electrical and computer engineering at the Pratt School of Engineering. Working in the Applied Machine Learning Lab, he is interested in leveraging advances in deep learning to develop algorithms that can automatically extract energy systems information from aerial imagery.
Jun is a Ph.D. student in earth and ocean sciences at the Nicholas School of the Environment. By studying energy systems in the context of trade, Jun hopes to better understand international energy security.
Tongshu Zheng is a Ph.D. student in civil and environmental engineering at Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering. Tongshu’s project considers leveraging data-driven techniques to develop a satellite-based remote sensing algorithm to accurately assess the loss in solar energy production due to particulate matter air pollution.
In addition to funding equivalent to one-half of a full fellowship for an academic year, fellows will receive conference travel support and data acquisition support up to $2,000, as well as priority access to virtual machines, storage, and other computational resources. Research conducted by the first two cohorts of fellows will be highlighted at a symposium at Duke University in spring 2020.
Students in the first cohort of fellows have affirmed the value of the program’s multidisciplinary approach, reporting that it has strengthened dissertation chapters, encouraged them to present their work publicly, provided computational resources, and driven their engagement with real-world energy problems.
The program is organized by the Duke’s Energy Data Analytics Lab, a collaboration among three of the university’s signature interdisciplinary units: Duke University Energy Initiative (which houses it), Rhodes Information Initiative, and Social Science Research Institute (SSRI).
Duke’s Energy Data Analytics PhD Student Fellows Program is funded by a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. (Note: Conclusions reached or positions taken by researchers or other grantees represent the views of the grantees themselves and not those of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation or its trustees, officers, or staff.)
The Franklin Humanities Institute is pleased to announce the recipients for the 2019-2020 Global Collaboration Seed Grants. We have been fortunate to receive generous matching support from the Office of Global Affairs’ Andrew W. Mellon Endowment for Global Studies. These grants are designed to support inquiry into research areas that cannot be adequately addressed without cross-national or cross-regional scholarly dialogue, or without exchanges across languages and philosophical or methodological traditions. The 13 funded projects include several artistic collaborations along with works in international scholarly research.
Black Mountain: An Image-based, Interdisciplinary, Collaborative Performance Project
Duke Faculty: Torry Bend (Theater Studies) International Collaborators: Riverbed Theater Company, Taiwan: Criag Quintero (Artistic Director; Grinnell College; Humanities Unbounded Visiting Faculty Fellow), Chung Li-Mei, Su Hui-yu, Wang Tzu-ting, and Chiang Ji-Yang
Worlding Future Arts: Dance and Black Arts Movements
Duke Faculty: Thomas F. DeFrantz (African & African American Studies; Dance; Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies) International Collaborator: Luciane Ramos Silva, Independent Researcher and Artist
Rethinking Secularism and Modernity: International Network for Interreligious Dialogue and Education
Duke Faculty: Malachi Hacohen (History) International Collaborators: Hilda Nissimi (Bar-Ilan university, Israel), Todd H. Weir (University of Groningen, Netherlands)
The China Question of Cultural and Media Studies
Duke Faculty: Kang Liu (Asian & Middle Eastern Studies), John Aldrich (Political Science) International Collaborators: Wang Nin (Shanghai Jiao Tong University), Zeng Jun (Shanghai University), Shan Bo (Wuhan University), Li Song (Wuhan University)
#FMF | #BLM: Race Precarity and the Transgenerational Costs of Racism
Duke Faculty: Anne-Maria Makhulu (Cultural Anthropology; African & African American Studies) International Collaborator: Hylton White (University of the Witswatersrand, South Africa)
People of the City: New Directions in Migration and African Urbanism
Duke Faculty: Catherine (Kathryn) Mathers (International Comparative Studies; Cultural Anthropology), Samuel Fury Childs Daly (African & African American Studies; International and Comparative Studies) International Collaborators: Loren Landau (University of the Witswatersrand, South Africa), Caroline Wanjiku Kihato (University of Johannesburg, South Africa), Jimoh Oluwasegun (Federal University, Birnin Kebbi, Nigeria)
Global Engagements: Asian, African American, and Asian American Internationalisms and Solidarities, 1918-2018: Exhibit and Research Workshops for Pedagogical Initiatives in Global Humanities
Duke Faculty: Suchetz Mazumdar (History) International Collaborator: Selina Lai-Henderson (Duke Kunshan University)
Collaboration between Painter Beverly McIver and Dancer Eiko Otake – Part of Eiko’s Duet Project
Duke Faculty: Beverly McIver (Art, Art History & Visual Studies) International Collaborator: Eiko Otake (Dancer/Interdisciplinary Artist)
The Making of Modern Cairo: Urban Topography and Digital Humanities in the Middle East
Duke Faculty: Adam Mestyan (History), Sara Galletti (Art, Art History & Visual Studies) International Collaborators: Mercedes Volait (CNRS – Centre national de la recherche scientifique, INHA – Institut national d’histoire de l’art, France)
The Value of Love: Global Perspectives on the Economy of Care
Duke Faculty: Jocelyn Olcott (History, Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies) International Collaborator: Marija Barti (University of Amsterdam, Netherlands)
Documentary Interpretations of Transnational Contact Zones in Bavaria, Germany
Duke Faculty: Christopher Sims (Center for Documentary Studies) International Collaborators: Birgit Bauridl (University of Regensburg, Germany), Max Ernst Stockburger (Documentary Photographer; University for Applied Sciences, Bielefeld, Germany)
War and Memory in Peru
Duke Faculty: Orin Starn (Cultural Anthropology), Holly Ackerman (Duke Libraries) International Collaborators: Olinda Quispe Chávez (San Cristóbal University, Ayacucho, Peru), Ponciano Del Pinto (Catholic University, Lima, Peru)
Perpetrator Studies Working Group
Duke Faculty: Rebecca Stein (Cultural Anthropology) International Collaborators: Hilla Dayan, Noa Roei, Erella Grassiani (University of Amsterdam)
Research projects that will explore connections between energy and health, improve the performance of renewable energy sources such as solar and thermoelectricity, and expand energy access through innovative and clean methods will receive funding in 2019 from the Duke University Energy Initiative’s Energy Research Seed Fund.
The program will award six grants to projects involving 21 faculty members from five Duke schools, investing a total of $215,186 in promising new energy research.
In this—the sixth annual round of funding—the Energy Initiative awarded four seed grants for new interdisciplinary projects and two stage-two grants to support the next phase of promising projects that received prior seed funding from the Energy Initiative.
The first five rounds of funding from the Energy Research Seed Fund totaled $1,243,305. As of fall 2018, those rounds had generated more than three times their value in follow-on awards for Duke research.
“Cross-disciplinary collaboration at Duke has yielded potent opportunities for faculty to tackle significant energy challenges in innovative ways,” observed Energy Initiative director Brian Murray. “It’s so rewarding to support these efforts as they achieve the initial results that propel meaningful progress.”
The 2019 round of awards is co-funded by the Energy Initiative, the Office of the Provost, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences, and the Pratt School of Engineering.
Building an Experimentally Validated, Atomic-Level Model of Electrochemical Processes
As Subhrendu Pattanayak and a group of researchers from Duke University navigate narrow catwalks high into the Annapurna mountain range in the Himalayas, they begin to understand first-hand the difficulties of establishing any set infrastructure in such difficult terrain.
Gone are the paved roads of Pokhara, the Nepali city where they had begun their day, or even the narrow dirt roads that had carried them deep into the mountainside.
Ahead, the whir of engines in symphony with the rushing water of a nearby stream mark an end to their journey: a tiny structure containing within it a single turbine, waist high and six feet wide. Here lay the source of electricity for an entire community.
Eighty percent of the geography of Nepal is composed of mountain ranges like Annapurna, making the big power grids that we take for granted in the developed world an impossibility in much of Nepal. For most mountain communities, living off-grid is the only option.
But rather than fight against their geography, many of these communities have discovered a way to use the mountains to their advantage, harnessing the power of the fast-flowing mountain streams for power using a system called a micro-hydro minigrid.
For many communities, these systems not only provide power for basic necessities like lighting and cooking, but also are drivers of local economies.
In other villages however, these systems are far less effective. Many don’t produce enough electricity for the community, or sometimes none at all.
It is for this reason that the team of Duke researchers find themselves in the Himalayas: to find out why some work and some don’t, and to see if this small but beautiful alternative energy source may be a viable solution for providing electricity to off-grid communities not only in Nepal but around the world.
For their work in Nepal, Robin and Subhrendu are collaborating with the Alternative Energy Promotion Centre, which is a part of the Government of Nepal in its Ministry of Energy, Water Resources, and Irrigation.
Originally posted on the Ways & Means website. Ways & Means is a podcast produced by Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy.