On Friday, August 2, ten weeks of research by Data+ and Code+ students wrapped up with a poster session in Gross Hall where they flaunted their newly created posters, websites and apps. But they weren’t expecting to flaunt their poetry skills, too!
Data+ is one of the Rhodes Information Initiative programs at Duke. This summer, 83 students addressed 27 projects addressing issues in health, public policy, environment and energy, history, culture, and more. The Duke Research Blog thought we ought to test these interdisciplinary students’ mettle with a challenge: Transforming research into haiku.
Which haiku is your favorite? See all of their finished work below!
When Duke senior Rachel Baber began
her freshman year, she was under the impression that legitimate research had to
involve a white lab coat and a microscope.
But this summer she worked to study
human health without a pipette in sight, instead spending her time in a
computer lab, which was empty besides her and two fellow interns. A few yards
away from her shared workspace, blue metal double doors swing into a
As she sits at a table near the
entrance, dozens of men and women walk past in ones and twos, some with oil
smeared on their jeans and others pushing carts with cleaning supplies, talking
with one another and nodding to acknowledge Baber.
She’s been working all summer at
the Triangle Residential Options for Substance Abusers, Inc., better known as
TROSA, and everyone passing is a resident.
TROSA is acclaimed for their whole-person
approach to substance-abuse recovery and trauma resiliency, with multi-year
programming that provides treatment, educational opportunities, and vocational
training for their clients. TROSA has been providing services for 25 years and,
like most non-profit organizations, they have a running list of projects
with limited number of staff hours to commit to them.
“It’s not that they’re back-burner
issues,” explains Karen Kelley, the Chief Program Officer at TROSA. “It’s just
that we don’t have enough front burners.”
This summer, Duke’s undergraduates
stepped in to provide a little more stove space for TROSA’s needs.
Duke’s Global Health Institute
(DGHI) requires all students to spend one summer in a research training
program, which associate professor Sumi Ariely believes is a vital opportunity
for students to “work
deeply with a community partner and their vision, and to help disparities or
inequities in their community.”
“We have a responsibility to our
neighbors,” Ariely says. “‘Global is Local’ holds two meanings. As a geographic
term, it focuses on the Triangle or Durham area. It also holds philosophical value.
We in high-resource
areas don’t have all the answers, and entering global arenas flaunting our
‘solutions’ is just hubris,” she adds. “Working to solve pockets of deep
inequalities in our state and our country allows for multi-directional learning.
Local is Global acknowledges that we are
all fundamentally the same and in it together.”
Duke University and TROSA have had
a long history of collaboration. TROSA moving services are a common sight on
Duke’s campus, and Duke Health also contracts with providers who work on-site
at TROSA to give primary, behavioral health, and psychological care for
Having three DGHI interns allowed
TROSA to begin answering questions that they’d long been speculating about: How
does cigarette smoking impact the community as a rehabilitation center? How
could the program integrate sustainable practices like recycling and composting
on an institutional scale? How accessible are the classes that TROSA offers
residents and how do they affect resident growth and recovery?
Baber spent her time tackling the last
question, first classifying the full curriculum of TROSA’s courses into three
major categories: Therapeutic, vocational, and educational. Looking at past
courses that residents had taken, she began the process of setting course standards
for residents – what number of therapeutic courses are expected to be completed
at nine months into the program compared to 15 months, for example.
This number-crunching project also
provided an opportunity for the administration to reflect on course access.
Baber was able to find some patterns in curriculum, like how most residents
register for more classes as they advance through the program, and how female
residents often register for more therapeutic courses than men.
“I’d love to qualitatively look at residents’
impressions of the classes,” Baber explains. “Some people really enjoy a
certain category of courses, while others benefit more from working on a job
and dealing with problems as they come up.” Baber envisions that question,
along with identifying which classes have the highest graduation rate and
asking why that is, as possible projects for future interns.
Rebecca Graves, TROSA’s Director of Clinical
Operations, sees data and demographic review like this as a critical means of
assessment and improvement. “As a nonprofit, we use a quarterly review to pay
close attention to demographic changes. If 80% of applicants were female and
only 20% of our population was women, we’d need to review — What’s keeping
people out of the door? Are we inhibitive in some way?”
After working with often-incomplete data, Baber
and fellow interns Ashley Wilson (C’20) and Gabrielle Zegers (C’19) were able
to realize what information is missing, refine what TROSA should keep
collecting, and find what they could from the data they did have.
“Check them off as huge successes,” Graves
reiterates. “They’re making marked achievements, finding new data,
extrapolating new information, and creating new policies here. They all took
ownership as self-motivated researchers, and my dream is that they’d all stay.”
Beyond working on their assigned projects, the
three students were eager to invest themselves in the TROSA community,
attending a dance with new women in the program, volunteering at the TROSA
thrift store on weekends, volunteering at the medical center, and helping with
GED tutoring each Tuesday evening.
“Getting to learn from residents about their
recovery and what they’re doing to help themselves has been the best part of
this job,” Baber says. In global health, students often face large and looming
statistics surrounding the opioid epidemic. “It’s easy to dehumanize that
problem. It’s easy in global health to think ‘Oh, these numbers are so huge.
I’ll never make a difference.’ But talking to individuals personalizes the
matter, it makes you realize that positive change can happen.”
For more information about TROSA, visit: www.trosainc.org
Existential speculations are normal part of college, and parents shouldn’t worry too much if their child calls home freshman year to speculate on the writings of Immanuel Kant or Sigmund Freud with them. It’s all part of growing up.
But for Shenyang Huang (C’20), these existential questions aren’t just pastimes: They’re work.
As a neuroscience major and a participant in Duke’s Summer Neuroscience Program, Huang has spent eight weeks of his summer in the Imagination and Modal Cognition laboratory researching under Dr. Felipe De Brigard, a three-in-one professor of philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience. Huang has been working at the intersection of those fields with PhD student Matt Stanley to explore some hefty questions about morality and memory.
The team is grappling with our past mistakes, and how they’ve impacted who we are today. Specifically, how do we remember moments when we behaved immorally? And how do those moments shape the way we think of ourselves?
These questions have been approached from various angles in different studies. One such study, published in 2016 by Maryam Kouchaki and Frencesca Gino, claims that “Memories of unethical actions become obfuscated over time.” Or rather, we forget the bad things we’ve done in the past. According to their study, it’s a self-preservation method for our current concepts of self-worth and moral uprightness.
surprised when I read the Kouchaki and Gino study,” Huang explains. “They claim
that people try to forget the bad things they’d done, but that doesn’t feel
right. In my life, it’s not right.”
In their two-part study, Stanley and Huang surveyed nearly 300 online participants about these moments of moral failure. They reported memories ranging from slightly immoral events, like petty thievery and cheating on small assignments, to highly immoral incidences, like abusing animals or cheating on significant others. Through questionnaires, the team measured the severity of each incident, how vividly the person recollected the experience, how often the memory would bubble to consciousness on its own, how they emotionally responded to remembering, and how central each event was to the subject’s life.
preliminary results resonate more with Huang: Highly immoral actions were
recalled more vividly than milder transgressions, and they were generally
considered more central in subjects’ life narratives.
“Moral memories are central to one’s sense of self,” Huang says, “and the other paper didn’t discuss centrality in one’s life at all.”
Though contradictory to what Kouchaki and Gino found, the findings have a firm foundation in current psychology literature, De Brigard says. “There are a lot of studies backing the contrary [to Kouchaki and Gino], including research on criminal offenses. People who have committed crimes of passion are known to suffer from a kind of moral PTSD — they constantly relive the event.”
is only one branch of research in a comprehensive analysis of morality and
memory De Brigard is exploring now, with the help from the six graduate and
eight undergraduate students operating out of his lab.
“Working in a lab with philosophers, psychologists, and neuroscientists, you see different approaches to the same overarching problem,” Huang says. And as he begins to consider PhD programs in neuroscience, this interdisciplinary exposure is a huge asset.
“It’s helpful and inspiring — I can’t take every class, but I can sit
and overhear conversations in the lab about philosophy or psychology and learn
from it. It widens my perspective.”