Changing Their Summer Plans, Duke Ph.D. Students Find New Options for Virtual Employment

Provost’s Office coordinates a wide range of summer funding opportunities, including fellowships with RTI International

View of campus.
Aerial of Duke University showing Abele Quad

Travis Knoll expected to be in Brazil this summer. A Ph.D. student in History, he planned to visit film and Catholic Church archives to further his work on the relationship between Catholic thought, modern Black movements and education policy. But COVID-19 intervened.

Recognizing that many students’ plans for teaching, research trips and in-person internships were overturned, Provost Sally Kornbluth and Executive Vice Provost Jennifer Francis pledged that Duke would provide employment opportunities for Ph.D. students who needed them this summer.

Behind the scenes, many of their colleagues scrambled to identify virtual opportunities for students to receive funding while advancing their career development. Their outreach resulted in full coverage for all Ph.D. students in need.

A Robust Slate of Opportunities

Ed Balleisen, Duke’s Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies, spearheaded this effort. He contacted units across campus to identify remote projects that would further Duke’s academic strategic plan, Together Duke, while providing significant professional development for doctoral students. Along with Maria Wisdom, Director of Interdisciplinary Advising and Engagement, he also sounded out several external organizations about developing similar projects.

In just three weeks, Balleisen and Wisdom came up with more than 100 funding opportunities. These summer positions – experiential fellowships with eight external organizations and research assistantships with more than 20 Duke units – supplemented teaching opportunities across Duke and research fellowships from The Graduate School.

“We were thrilled to see the creativity that Duke units and our external partners brought to this undertaking,” said Balleisen.

Other Ph.D. funding from the Provost’s Office came from Reimagining Doctoral Education (RiDE) Implementation and Graduate Student Training Enhancement Grants (GSTEG).

In addition to funding support, free online short courses through the Duke Graduate Summer Academy provided professional development opportunities. Topics ranged from software development and entrepreneurial strategy to science policy and teaching with archives. Student demand was so high that all courses filled up within 15 minutes, prompting Duke to launch a second session that was also heavily subscribed.

Partnership Spotlight: RTI International

Jacqueline Olich When Duke needed to identify hosts for remote internships at short notice, Balleisen reached out to Jacqueline Olich, Vice President for University Collaborations at RTI International. Based in Research Triangle Park, RTI is one of the world’s largest independent research organizations.

Jackie Olich.
Jacqueline Olich

Olich, who has a Ph.D. in history, leads the University Collaboration Office and oversees the RTI University Scholars Program and the RTI Internship Program.

Balleisen explained that Duke would provide the funding if RTI scholars would commit their time as supervisors.

Olich quickly identified researchers who were willing to come up with project descriptions in a hurry. “I targeted colleagues who already had a tie to Duke,” she said, “such as alumni, or through Duke-RTI Scholars, or individuals who had previously received our mentor award for working with interns, as well as colleagues who had experience in academic settings.”

Her own office is working with a Duke intern this summer. “If we’re going to do this, we should model it,” she said. “That’s what RTI is about.” She hired Travis Knoll, whose research trip to Brazil had been canceled.

“COVID-19 forced me to put [the trip] on hold,” Knoll said. “Another door opened when RTI invited me to interview dozens of its researchers, staff and executives for a project mapping RTI’s vast organizational structure, which spans global development, education, health research and applied sciences. With this information, I am synthesizing a history of RTI’s past and future collaborations and most important to my own research, learning how RTI is working to improve racial equity internally and through its partnerships.”

Duke students at RTI this summer.
First row: Travis Knoll, Cole Campton, Tom Cinq-Mars, Khari Johnson, Shawn Li; second row: Gabriel Madson, Francisco Meneses, Mavzuna Turaeva, Tara Weese

Other Duke Ph.D. interns at RTI this summer are Cole Campton (Computer Science), Tom Cinq-Mars (History), Khari Johnson (Biomedical Engineering), Shawn Li (Environment), Gabriel Madson (Political Science), Francisco Meneses (Public Policy), Mavzuna Turaeva (Economics), and Tara Weese (Philosophy and Law).

On June 8, more than 90 people took part in RTI’s summer internships kickoff meeting, including the entire executive leadership team. Amy Vargas-Tonsi, Project Operations Manager for University Collaborations, said the interns will participate in panel discussions at an end-of-summer virtual event. The 12th Annual RTI Internship Showcase is on August 7 from 9:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

Olich said her colleagues’ positive engagement with doctoral students “is a testament to RTI’s commitment to training the next generation of researchers [who are] improving the human condition and advancing science. I’m honored that Duke recognizes our importance as a partner in giving students this experience.”

By Sarah Dwyer; originally posted on Duke Today

New Grants Will Advance Collaborative Research by 11 Groups of Duke Faculty

Together Duke grantees

Six groups of Duke faculty have been awarded multiyear Research Collaboratory grants, and five groups have received one-year pilot research grants in the humanities and social sciences, Provost Sally Kornbluth announced.

Part of the Together Duke academic strategic plan, these new grant opportunities provide flexible, immediate resources to strengthen Duke’s intellectual communities and help faculty groups move forward on both fundamental inquiry and solutions for real-world problems.

“These proposals showcase the ingenuity and creativity of our faculty, especially when working together,” said Kornbluth. “These grant opportunities were among the earliest and clearest priorities of the academic strategic plan. 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 Offices of the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies and the Vice Provost for Academic Affairs oversee these seed grant programs.

Research Collaboratories

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; and population health. By drawing on its disciplinary depth, interdisciplinary strengths, and commitment to engagement, Duke has the capacity to make crucial research contributions in these vital arenas. Project funding ranges from $20,000 to $200,000 annually, with any related administrative work undertaken by an existing department, school, or interdisciplinary unit. Over time, thematic areas of focus will likely evolve.

Energy and Water Resources

Decisions, Risks, and Governance of Geoengineering

Mark Borsuk, Jonathan Wiener, Billy Pizer, and Drew Shindell, with Tyler Felgenhauer, Khara Grieger, and Varun Mallampalli

Unless greenhouse gas emissions are drastically reduced in the near future, society will be faced with severe climate change. Large-scale geoengineering, or climate engineering, has emerged as a potential approach that does not depend on emissions reduction. Two options are solar radiation management and carbon dioxide removal. Yet the cost and effectiveness of all geoengineering technologies remain highly uncertain. The various options may also pose risks of their own, including unintended climate effects, ozone layer depletion, changes in precipitation, and adverse effects on ecosystems and agriculture. It is even possible that turning to geoengineering may undermine efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This collaboratory will investigate the risks and opportunities associated with geoengineering as a climate change response strategy. It will also explore the policy issues that would need to be addressed if geoengineering were implemented.

Innovations in Infrastructure

Megan Mullin and Amy Pickle, with Martin Doyle, Jeff Hughes (UNC), Mark Borsuk, Robert Conrad, Katy Hansen, Christopher Timmins, Ryke Longest, Emma Rasiel, and Lori Bennear

Infrastructure —our interconnected roads and bridges, sewers and water pipes, power lines and broadband networks—undergird communities and provide a foundation for economic growth. Although Americans widely agree that improving infrastructure should be a top government priority, the condition of the nation’s infrastructure is in decline. The model of infrastructure provision that has dominated for a century—local government responsibility, funded by quantity-based fees and financed with municipal bonds—seems outdated. We struggle to produce a robust network of facilities and services that equitably reaches all our residents and demonstrates resilience to the effects of climate change. This collaboratory will examine and promote innovative models of infrastructure provision and governance, using urban water as an entry point for investigating the conditions under which old infrastructure governance models have failed and identifying opportunities for new models to improve the safety, reliability, and affordability of water services. Researchers will partner with communities to apply a governance-finance-engineering approach to place-based problems.

Race, Religion, and Citizenship

The Duke Polarization Lab

Christopher A. Bail, with Katherine Heller, Sunshine Hillygus, James Moody, Guillermo Sapiro, and Alexander Volfovsky

Issues related to race, religion, and citizenship sharply divide Americans. There is mounting concern that social media deepen these divisions by creating “echo chambers” that prevent exposure to people with different opinions. This collaboratory will develop app-based technology designed to disrupt echo chambers in order to reduce partisan conflict about race, religion, and citizenship. The project builds on a field experiment on Twitter that exposed a large sample of Americans to those with opposing political views in order to test whether such exposure shapes views about policy issues such as racial inequality and immigration reform. Researchers will identify how social media networks might connect people amenable to compromise, and produce a tool that all Americans can use to adjust the ideological bias in their networks and reduce polarization. The results will address theoretical and methodological questions that cut across multiple fields, provide a unique opportunity for Duke students to receive training in computational social science, and help community organizations to publicize the tool broadly with the goal of fostering greater ethnic and religious cohesion.

Understanding the Transforming U.S. South: Perspectives on Race, Culture, Politics, and Society

Kerry L. Haynie, John Aldrich, Linda Burton, Adriane Lentz-Smith, Mark Anthony Neal, and Donald Taylor

This collaboratory will conduct and commission original research on how transformations in racial and class demographics, economic development, and the legal landscape have reshaped the American South in politics, culture, health, education, wealth, and family and community structures. Over the past half century, the South, always a distinctive and critical crucible of national trends, has undergone dramatic change. No longer a “cultural and economic backwater,” the region is now home to the nation’s largest bank and three of the largest airlines. Research parks in Raleigh-Durham, Huntsville, and Austin define the cutting edge of new technologies. In this transforming South it’s now commonplace to see African Americans and women in elected offices, and as leaders in education and business. Despite all these changes, it has been more than 50 years since the last series of seminal academic studies sought to assess the state of the South. This collaboratory will fill this vacuum by reexamining findings and conclusions from earlier research and by generating new knowledge, and perhaps new understandings, of the American South.

Population Health

The Duke University Precision Health and Wellness Initiative

Geoff Ginsburg and Susanne Haga, with Gary Bennett, Larry Moneta, Sue Wasiolek, John Vaughn, Thomas Szigethy, Ryan Shaw, Ricardo Henao, Jessica Avery, Matthew Engelhard, Christina Nix, Kate Frankey, and Zachary A. Stowell

Aligned with the goals of Healthy Duke, this collaboratory will launch a hybrid population health/research and educational initiative to promote health awareness and engagement, establish healthy behaviors, and enable student-centered research and learning opportunities. The goal is to develop and pilot a campus initiative to promote healthy living through student engagement with wearables and novel learning opportunities and activities. Following a year-long planning phase, researchers will conduct two pilot projects initially focused on sleep behaviors. The first pilot will assess the feasibility and acceptance of using a wearable with a companion app to record sleep habits; incoming first-year students from a single residence hall will be invited to participate. Among the preliminary outcome measures will be perceived value of the wearable, number of sick days, psychological well-being, and academic performance. In the second pilot, researchers will evaluate a range of educational interventions comparing sleep behaviors over the year in students provided with several different educational interventions to improve sleep habits. The pair of pilot studies will provide the infrastructure for a scalable, campus-wide precision health program that can be introduced to entire future incoming classes.

A Road Map for Affordable Healthcare in the 21st Century

Nimmi Ramanujam, with Mark McClellan, Megan Huchko, Michael B. Waitzkin, Christina Silcox, Marlee Krieger, and Katelyn Bryant-Comstock

Health disparities in the U.S. will likely continue to widen and the costs of care will continue to increase unless key innovations are leveraged to improve access to efficient screening, diagnosis, and treatment of disease. For example, cervical cancer prevention is based on well-established interventions including HPV vaccination and screening followed by treatment of preinvasive disease. In the U.S., cervical cancer incidence and mortality have decreased by 70% over the last 60 years; however, women living in medically underserved regions experience a disproportionately high burden of cervical cancer, partially due to increasing attrition rates at each stage of the screen-diagnose-treat process. This collaboratory will create a roadmap to leverage transformative technologies into a scalable delivery model that can reduce burgeoning cancer disparities, with a focus on cervical cancer. Researchers will identify challenges and strategies to shift procedures from specialists to primary care providers and/or reduce clinical visits; conduct a cost-benefit analysis of this approach; and establish the acceptance of this approach by both providers and patients, including a sustainable business model, using the Pocket Colposcope as an example.

Provost Pilot Research Grants in the Humanities and Social Sciences

These grants support innovative faculty research in the humanities and social sciences—across and between all disciplines—that has successfully completed an initial phase of inquiry or preparation and has the potential to have broad and sustained impact. Funding ranges from $5,000 to $50,000 per project for one fiscal year.

Developing Social Determinants of Health Data Resources about Durham County Residents for Duke University and Duke Health Researchers

James Moody, with Alexandra Cooper, Matthew Dupre, Laura Richman, Joseph Lucas, and Mara Sedlins

Linking health records with data on social determinants of health—such as socioeconomic status, education, physical and social environment, and employment—can improve predictions of health risks and provide personalized care. Building on a 2018 Data+ project, researchers will implement a pilot focused on Cabarrus County, N.C., home to Duke’s MURDOCK Study. The longer-term goal is to develop data resources on social determinants of health for use across a wide range of contexts, including linkage to research data as well as health record data.

The Global Novel: Form and Method

Nancy Armstrong, with miriam cooke, Roberto Dainotto, Shai Ginsburg, Erdag Göknar, Aimée Kwon, Anne-Gaëlle Saliot, Leonard Tennenhouse, Anne Garréta, and Aarthi Vadde

For almost three centuries, novels featuring individuals who leave their homes and struggle for a place in a changing world kept the myth of modernization alive, renewing its promise of a future state of economic plenitude. The novels written for today’s global book market overturn this narrative in order to tell a story in which economic progress disrupts the daily life of entire communities, forces them from home and nation, and keeps them on the move. Researchers will produce a collection of articles to identify the form and scope preliminary to explaining the cultural implications of the global imagination.

Healthcare Provider Networks and Opioid Prescriptions

Lisa Keister, with Thomas Buchheit, Joseph Lucas, and James Moody

Opioid addiction, misuse, and overdose have increased dramatically in the U.S. An important characteristic of this national health crisis is that many addictions and deaths can be traced to legal and justifiable prescriptions written by healthcare providers. This project explores how provider networks, a powerful but understudied influence, shape prescribing behavior. Researchers aim to use a unique Duke University Medical System dataset to study network relations and prescriptions; collect data on networks external to DUMS and explore how they interact with Duke networks to influence prescriptions; and study how the association between networks and opioid prescriptions responds to policy changes.

Mapping Global Energy Infrastructure to Support Effective Policymaking, Investment, and Grid Management

Jordan Malof, with Kyle Bradbury, Marc Jeuland, Steven Sexton, and Bryan Bollinger

High-quality data on the locations and characteristics of energy infrastructure greatly facilitate effective energy policymaking, management, and modeling. However, these data are frequently scarce, incomplete, or unreliable. This project will develop a platform that leverages recent breakthroughs in deep learning to scan global-scale remote sensing data in order to extract such information at unprecedentedly high geospatial resolutions, and to make those data resources publicly accessible. Researchers will demonstrate the efficacy of this approach to explore several novel research questions in the social sciences, in collaboration with Duke researchers and external partners.

Understanding Policy at Scale: A Process Evaluation of India’s New Maternal Health Program in Madhya Pradesh

Manoj Mohanan, Grant Miller (Stanford U.), Alessandro Tarozzi (UPF and Barcelona GSE), Harsha Thirumurthy (U. Pennsylvania), and Usha Ramakrishnan (Emory U.), with Mac McCorkle

To improve health and nutrition outcomes among pregnant women, lactating mothers, and children under five, the Government of India launched the Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana in 2017 to provide a conditional cash transfer to first-time pregnant women and new mothers. While conditional cash transfers are a common policy tool, we lack a clear understanding of how they impact health and nutrition outcomes. This project will conduct monitoring and evaluation of this program in the state of Madhya Pradesh.

Learn More

Originally posted on Duke Today

Provost Offers New Opportunities for Duke Faculty Scholar-leaders through Together Duke

Together Duke

Deadlines: October 20, 2017 (ICPG) and December 15, 2017 (PPRG and Collaboratories)

In efforts to invest in the Duke faculty as scholars and leaders of the university’s intellectual communities, and to provide new resources to support the faculty and their work, the Provost is pleased to offer the following three sequenced grant opportunities for faculty and student support as part of Together Duke.

Intellectual Community Planning Grants

Seed funding to support a group of faculty to begin or test a new collaboration around a shared intellectual interest. Project funds ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 will be awarded for use during the 2018 calendar year. This is the third year of this grant opportunity; recipients from the grant cycles in both the first and second years represent a broad range of groups and new projects.
Deadline: October 20

Provost’s Pilot Research Grants (new)

Pilot funding to support innovative faculty research in the humanities and social sciences—across and between all disciplines—that has successfully completed an initial phase of inquiry or preparation and with the potential to have broad and sustained impact. Project funding will range from $5,000 to $50,000 per project for a fiscal year.
Deadline: December 15

Collaboratories (new)

Duke has the intellectual resources and organizational nimbleness to convene technical, legal, scientific, ethical, cultural and historical explorations of these issues. By drawing on disciplinary depth, interdisciplinary strengths and commitment to engagement, we have the capacity to make crucial research contributions in these vital areas and to serve as an important node for convening stakeholders. Collaboratory grants will provide support for groups of faculty working on more established projects that seek to provide tangible solutions to targeted problems in 3 areas: energy and water resources; race, religion and citizenship; and population health. Project funding ranges from $20,000 to $200,000 annually.
Deadline: December 15

To view the full RFPs for all three grants, and for instructions to apply, please visit the Together Duke website.