Student Stories

This Fall semester, Anya Gupta (2024) used a URS Conference Grant to attend and present at the Geologic Society of America's Annual Conference. At the conference, Anya presented her senior thesis project, mentored by Alan Boudreau, which loos at the petrogenesis of an ore bearing zone on the Stillwater Complex, Montana. "This conference was wonderful, because I got to connect with industry professionals, professors at other universities, and other students studying the geologic sciences," Anya reflected to URS. "It was… read more about URS Conference Stories: Anya Gupta »

This previous summer, Huiyin Zhou (2024) was awarded a URS Deans' Summer Research Fellowship award to investigate the strategies of political translation in diasporic Chinese feminist communities under the guidance and mentorship of Dr. Ralph Litzinger. In her hopes to understand transnational Chinese queer feminism, Huiyin organized and participated in at least 11 community-based events through CAO Collective. These events took place across the country, from Durham, New York, Los Angeles and Irvine, Beijing, and several… read more about Deans' Summer Research Fellowship Stories: Huiyin Zhou »

In the Summer of 2023, Julia Davis (2024) was awarded a URS Deans' Summer Research Fellowship award to explore parental engagement in families under the mentorship of Dr. Kenneth Dodge. Throughout the summer, Julia lead an evaluation of a pilot prenatal navigation program for 300 moms in eastern North Carolina using a survey of her own design. Julia also analyzed initial data from the pilot program. When asked how the DSRF experience shaped her view of her research, Julia emphasized the relationships she built upon: "… read more about Deans' Summer Research Fellowship Stories: Julia Davis »

This Fall semester, Elaijah Lapay (2024) utilized a URS Conference Grant to attend and present at the North American Vexillological Association 57 (NAVA) annual meeting. At NAVA, Elaijah presented on the House Course that he instructs on vexillology and the study of nationalism and flags at the conference, and framing the concept of a "Vexillology 101" to future learners in the field. When asked how the conference experience shaped his research goals, Elaijah noted the strengthening of his professional relationships: "I… read more about URS Conference Stories: Elaijah Lapay »

In the Summer of 2023, Sage Cooley (2025) was able to use a URS Conference Grant to attend and present at the International Writing Across the Curriculum (IWAC) conference at Clemson University. At IWAC, Sage presented the results of a pilot study to increase genre integration and reduce activity system competition in a multi-section engineering first-year design class (EGR 101). Their work showed how navigating inter-activity system communications intentionally and metacognitively increases the versatility of students’… read more about URS Conference Stories: Sage Cooley »

Last spring, Lucy Zhang '23 (Biomedical Engineering), Paul Kim '23 (Neuroscience), Yasuhiko Komatsu '23 (Biomedical Engineering), Yiru Li '23 (Biomedical Engineering), and Angela Addae '24 (Neurobiology), received a Student Team Grant Award to explore and develop therapeutic treatments to address disease progression and cognitive decline in Alzheimer's patients. The project, "Alzheimer's No More: Targeting neuroinflammation-related neurodegeneration", focused on developing strategies to deliver siRNA into brain-resident… read more about Alzheimer's No More: Targeting neuroinflammation-related neurodegeneration »

In Spring of 2022, Brooke Bier '23 (Psychology) and Taylor Parker '24 (Chemistry) received a Student Team Grant Award to investigate how patients choose their doctors. Bier and Parker teamed up with mentors Dr. Cheryl Lin and Dr. Pikuei Tiu to explore how different patient variables, such as socioeconomic status and health literacy, play a role in healthcare decisions. Their project, "Information, Perceptions, and Public Health" dove deeper into patient choice and health decision-making research. By Brooke Bier… read more about Information, Perceptions, and Public Health »

In Spring of 2022, Fatima Massare Somers '23 (Program II Major) received a Student Team Grant Award to examine how art can help promote self-efficacy for patients in healthcare settings. Her project, "Art, Fear, & Healing in Medicine: Exploring Health Literacy & Empowerment through Visual Narratives", investigated how art can generate conversations about patients' fears and perceptions of healthcare. With the support of mentor Wesley Hogan, Director of Center of Documentary Studies, Fatima and her team… read more about Art, Fear, and Healthcare: Exploring Healthcare Literacy through the Visual Arts »

Uncontrolled hypertension can lead to dire outcomes, including chronic kidney disease and end stage renal disease. Lu et al. found that by knocking out A20 from mice, blood pressure was significantly elevated. Due to this, we predict that A20 is a critical player in regulating immune-mediated renal hypertension — and that upregulating A20 expression could protect against hypertension. We tested two known activators of A20, delta tocotrienol (DT) and gibberellic acid (GA3). We treated HK2 cells with both activators and found… read more about Elucidating the Antihypertensive Pathway of A20 »

Sandro Botticelli and Filippino Lippi's The Adoration of the Kings is a well-known case of collaboration between artists in the fifteenth-century Florentine workshops. Previously, arguments for the division of labor in the production of the painting mainly relied on traditional experts in fine art, whose opinions were largely subjective and often led to an insufficient account of the artwork's creation. The National Gallery at London has recently combined connoisseurship with imaging techniques--including MA-XRF scanning,… read more about Analyzing a Collaborative Work of Art from Fifteenth-Century Florence »

This summer, I pursued a project on queer Muslim environmentalisms in the United States, which I hope to develop into an honors thesis with the International Comparative Studies program at Duke. My main questions for this project are as follows: (1) How do Muslim and queer environmentalisms connect? (2) How can the intersection of queer and Muslim perspectives shift Anglo-Western dominated environmental discourse? (3) How is this reflected in the lives and expressions of queer Muslims within the United States? I developed… read more about Queer Muslim Environmentalisms in the United States »

Minibrain (also known as cerebral organoids) recapitulates many features of the human brain and have been extensively used for studying brain development and modeling brain diseases, but current protocols for generating minibrains are time consuming and labor intensive, restraining the throughput of minibrain generation. In this study, we established a novel high throughput minibrain generation platform by integrating a microfluidics system into the process of organoid generation. The microfluidic machine allowed the… read more about Studying Drug Responses using Minibrain »

I spent the majority of my summer reading through books from Perkins and Bostock’s collection regarding public health and cholera in Victorian Britain. My thesis covers the public health response to the 1832 cholera epidemic in Sunderland, England. This was the first town in the United Kingdom to endure a cholera outbreak, and the lack of knowledge and experience led to large movements of resistance and denial. I chose this topic because I thought this was an interesting case of pandemic denial that would help inform… read more about Public Health and Cholera in Victorian Britain »

Immunotherapies utilize genetic engineering and the immune system to better combat diseases such as cancer. Clustered Regularly Interspersed Short Palindromic Repeats-deactivated Cas9 (CRISPR/dCas9) technology has revitalized interest in immunotherapy as its highly specific genetic targeting capabilities have expanded the realm of epigenetic modification in T cells.  This summer, I built upon my previous work in the Gersbach laboratory to demonstrate that dCas9 technology can be used to modify the epigenetic profile of T… read more about Demonstrating epigenetic control with dCas9 in T cells to improve immune resistance at cancer relevant sites »

This summer, I worked independently on a copper binding study. The purpose of the study is to better understand the sites of copper-protein binding in the E. Coli proteome. This project is part of a larger collaborative effort of the Fitzgerald and Franz Research Groups to understand the molecular dynamics of copper in biological systems. To address this question, I used Histidine H/D Exchange-Mass Spectrometry. This is an analytical chemistry method which adds a mass label to exposed histidine residues. The rate of this… read more about Copper Binding in E. Coli »

With help from the Dean’s Summer Research Fellowship, I was able to spend the summer working at the Duke Lemur Center (DLC) studying ruffed lemurs (Varecia spp.). I have worked at the DLC as a technician assistant and docent since 2018, but my academic interests in animal behavior and ecology motivated me to pursue research at this facility. My project focused on lemur behavior-- specifically, how we can use environmental enrichment to encourage the lemurs to use the natural behaviors they would use in the wild, while still… read more about Suspensory Postures and Feeding in Varecia Lemurs »

Download Sheyner Poster (pdf - 1.92 MB) Over the summer, I spent my time in the Matsunami Lab in the Molecular Genetics and Microbiology Department at Duke University School of Medicine. The lab investigates how animals perceive and differentiate the thousands of odorants that they are exposed to every day. This analysis is primarily conducted using molecular genetics, cell biology, imaging, and behavioral approaches in mouse models. My project during the summer… read more about Smelling Fats: Addressing how the olfactory system perceives fatty acids and the role of CD36 in olfactory fatty acid detection »

The metastatic spread of lung cancer to distant organ sites is a common complication of the disease; as many as 30-40% of patients present with metastases at diagnosis, at sites including the brain, bone, and liver (3). In the setting of brain metastasis specifically, 40% of lung cancer patients will go on to develop brain metastases, which confers significant decreases in patient quality of life and reduces overall survival to the order of months (1). Therefore, a more comprehensive understanding of the molecular… read more about Investigating the Role of KIF2A in Lung Cancer Metastasis »

Type Ia supernovae serve as "standard candles," and allow us to measure distances; this opens routes to learning more about things such as the expansion rate of the universe, to simply understanding the size and distances between cosmological objects. Furthermore, we need a comprehensive survey done of all the detectable supernovae in our local universe in order to accurately define and study the large-scale motion, or bulk motion, of clusters of galaxies towards the outer edge of our local universe; our galaxy, the Milky… read more about Exploring the Shapley Supercluster »

The proposed research project for summer 2022 was to investigate the effect of cotreating cells with HDAC inhibitors and sucrose on transfection efficiency. Initially, the plan was to treat the cells with various concentrations of sucrose and HDAC inhibitors for varying incubation periods, such as 24 hours, 48, or 72 hours, to determine an optimal combination for maximizing transfection effectiveness. To investigate this effect, experiments testing the effect of entinostat, an HDAC inhibitor, and sucrose at 10 uM… read more about Investigating the Effect of Cotreating Cells with HDAC Inhibitors and Sucrose »

This project aims to gain a better understanding of neuronal networks. Prior research has identified distinct subtypes of neurons based on morphology, gene expression, and physiologic properties. Different classes of neurons hold unique roles in cortical processing. Particularly, GABAergic interneurons, such as parvalbumin-expressing (PV) and somatostatin-expressing (SST) interneurons, are thought to have unique roles in regulating the excitatory/inhibitory (E/I) balance of neocortex. Dysfunction of such GABAergic… read more about Better Understanding Neuronal Networks »

Elevated intraocular pressure (IOP) is a major risk factor for the development of primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG), which affects more than 2.7 million Americans and is a leading cause of blindness worldwide 1. Increased IOP is mainly caused by reduced aqueous humor drainage via the conventional outflow pathway, which consists of the trabecular meshwork (TM), Schlemm’s canal, and distal vasculature 2. Increased TM contractility is associated with decreased aqueous humor drainage and can be stimulated by the activation of… read more about Research on the Rho/ROCK Pathway »

My research this summer focuses on healthcare access for African migrants in Northern and Southern Italy, to serve as the foundation for my senior thesis. This project synthesizes my interests in public health with my studies of Italian language and culture throughout my time at Duke. Additionally, I chose Italy as a site of study because of the interplay between regionalism and the public healthcare system. In Italy, there is a national health service, known as the Servizio Sanitario Nazionale (SSN), that is administered… read more about Healthcare Access for African Migrants in Northern and Southern Italy »

This summer, I worked in the lab of Professor Emily Derbyshire, researching the ligand-binding profile of the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) of the malaria-carrying Anopheles gambiae mosquito.  AhR, a transcription factor, has been implicated in insecticide resistance in several other insect species, namely by upregulating expression of insecticide-metabolizing cytochrome p450 enzymes, and mediates the Anopheles gambiae immune response to parasites and bacteria. Given AhR’s potential role in determining mosquito survival,… read more about Identifying Endogenous Ligands of AhR ligand binding domain (AhR LBD) »

The Dean’s Summer Research Fellowship Grant was a pivotal opportunity in aiding my ability to do research for my undergraduate honors thesis. With the funds provided, I was able to extend the scope of my data and collect information. To provide context, the first research question my thesis will address is how do art historical survey texts change through editions? What are the demographics of the artists included and how, if at all, does that change through time? This past spring I examined the text, Janson’s History of… read more about Data Scraping Art History Survey Texts  »

Senescence is a stress-induced durable cell cycle arrest. Senescent cells accumulate with age in most tissues of humans, primates, and rodents, as well as at the sites of tissue injury and remodeling [1]. Previous studies have shown that the accumulation of senescent cells in certain tissues, including white adipose, pancreas and liver leads to type 2 diabetes and the development of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) [2, 3]. Moreover, a recent report demonstrated that P16-senescent cells suppress their hepatic fatty… read more about Characterizing an in vivo Mice Model for Studying Senescence in Hepatocytes  »

Wnt oncoproteins play a major role in the development of all animals. To study the signaling pathway, experiments are conducted on the Drosophila homolog, the Wingless (Wg) signaling pathway. Wg signaling can produce distinctly shaped denticles or no denticles on the ventral side of the Drosophila embryo. Repression of Shavenbaby (Svb) through Wg results in naked cuticles, but proper functioning is also dependent upon transcriptional regulation by SoxNeuro (SoxN). We are interested in determining how Wg represses these… read more about Wingless Signaling in Drosophilia »

This summer I conducted research on the Human Betterment League of North Carolina (HBLNC). This summer project serves as the foundation for my year-long thesis in the history department on this same organization. The HBLNC was an organization founded in 1947 largely by a wealthy Winston-Salem businessman, James Hanes, and Massachusetts geneticist, Clarence Gamble. In its early years, aligning with the motivation for its founding, the League sought to educate the North Carolina public and beyond on sterilization, with hopes… read more about The Human Betterment League of North Carolina and its Wide-Reaching Impacts »

As a Program II student pursuing a degree in “The Arts of Communicating Mental Health,” I am interested in using art techniques to build a social support system focusing on self-expression, self-reflection, and stress relief. My research study examines the effect of interactive art in enhancing undergraduate and medical school student’s psychological well-being by providing a space for self-reflection and self-care.   In Spring 2021, I have initiated a pilot study to evaluate the undergraduate students’ responses to… read more about Evaluating the Effect of Interactive Art on Medical Students’ Psychological Wellbeing  »

In my DSRF-funded project, I was able to work on a study that investigates the correlations between note-taking formats, learning content, study expectations, and student learning outcomes. The debate over the “best practices” of note-taking remains inconclusive. Some have found that longhand note-taking is associated with better student learning outcomes, while others have found the opposite. In my literature-reading process, I found certain studies indicating that the relative advantages of either format may be connected… read more about Correlations between Note-Taking and Learning »