By Karl Leif Bates

Clare Fieseler

Clare Fieseler wants to teach grad students how to make short films explaining their science.

Duke students apparently really care about improving graduate education in the STEM fields (science, technology engineering and math). Two Duke projects have been named winners in a National Science Foundation contest to develop ideas to do just that.

The Innovation in Graduate Education Challenge, invited graduate students to submit ideas with the potential to improve graduate education and professional development. Ideas could be oriented to students, faculty, departments, institutions, professional societies, and/or federal agencies.

Second place and a $2,000 prize went to “The Scientists with Stories Project,” founded  by Clare Fieseler, a 2010 masters graduate from Duke who is now a PhD student in Ecology at Chapel Hill. Grad students on both campuses designed and conducted a 6-day workshop on storytelling and video skills in 2010 which resulted in short films about their science — several of which have won awards at festivals. The model of giving grad students the tools to communicate with the general public is one Fieseler thinks can be spread to other campuses.

David McDonald

David McDonald would like to see professional development modules added to the grad school experience.

Third place and a $1,500 prize went to Duke Genetics & Genomics PhD student David McDonald for his proposed professional development curriculum that includes mentors and modular classes to help students learn about grant writing, mentoring, lab budgets and service and outreach while they’re pursuing their scientific training. He calls it “Creating a Cooperative Environment for Graduate Studies and Career Preparation.”

More than 500 proposals were submitted to the NSF and eight prizes were awarded. Did we mention that two of them were from Duke? 

Learn more about these students and their projects.