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!
If the May 28 kickoff meeting was any indication, it’s going to be a
busy summer for the more than 80 students participating in Duke’s summer
research program, Data+.
Offered through the Rhodes Information Initiative at
Duke (iiD), Data+ is a 10-week
summer program with a focus on data-driven research. Participants come from
varied backgrounds in terms of majors and experience. Project themes range from health, public policy, energy and
environment, and interdisciplinary inquiry.
“It’s like a language immersion camp, but for data science,” said
Ariel Dawn, Rhodes iiD Events & Communication Specialist. “The kids are
going to have to learn some of those [programming] languages like Java or
Python to have their projects completed,” Dawn said.
Dawn, who previously worked for the Office of the Vice Provost for
Research, arrived during the program’s humble beginnings in 2015. Data+ began
in 2014 as a small summer project in Duke’s math department funded by a grant
from the National Science Foundation. The following year the program grew to 40
students, and it has grown every year since.
Today, the program also collaborates with the Code+ and CS+ summer programs, with more than 100 students participating. Sponsors
have grown to include major corporations such as Exxonmobil, which will fund
two Data+ projects on oil research within the Gulf of Mexico and the United
Kingdom in 2019.
“It’s different than an internship, because an internship you’re kind of
told what to do,” said Kathy Peterson, Rhodes iiD Business Manager. “This is
where the students have to work through different things and make discoveries
along the way,” Peterson said.
From late May to July, undergraduates work on a research project under
the supervision of a graduate student or faculty advisor. This year, Data+
chose more than 80 eager students out of a pool of over 350 applicants. There
are 27 projects being featured in the program.
Over the summer, students are given a crash course in data science,
how to conduct their study and present their work in front of peers. Data+
prioritizes collaboration as students are split into teams while working in a
“Data is collected on you every day in so many different ways,
sometimes we can do a lot of interesting things with that,” Dawn said. “You can collect all this information that’s
really granular and relates to you as an individual, but in a large group it
shows trends and what the big picture is.”
Data+ students also delve into real world issues. Since 2013, Duke
Mattingly has led a student-run investigation on gerrymandering in political redistricting
plans through Data+ and Bass Connections. Their analysis became part of a 205-page Supreme Court ruling.
The program has also
made strides to connect with the Durham community. In collaboration
with local company DataWorks
NC, students will examine Durham’s
eviction data to help identify policy changes that could help residents stay in
“It [Data+] gives students
an edge when they go look for a job,” Dawn said. “We hear from so many students
who’ve gotten jobs, and [at] some point during their interview employers said,
‘Please tell us about your Data+ experience.’”
From finding better sustainable
energy to examining story adaptations within books and films, the projects
cover many topics.
A project entitled “Invisible
Adaptations: From Hamlet to the Avengers,” blends algorithms with storytelling.
Led by UNC-Chapel Hill grad student Grant Class, students will make comparisons
between Shakespeare’s work and today’s “Avengers” franchise.
“It’s a much different vibe,” said computer science major Katherine
Cottrell. “I feel during the school year there’s a lot of pressure and now
we’re focusing on productivity which feels really good.”
Data+ concludes with a final poster session on Friday, August 2, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the Gross Hall Energy Hub. Everyone in the Duke Community and beyond is invited to attend. Students will present their findings along with sister programs Code+ and the summer Computer Science Program.
Duke’s Summer Neuroscience Program kicked off their first week of research on June 4 with a standard morning meeting: schedules outlined, expectations reiterated, students introduced. But that afternoon, psychology and neuroscience professor Thomas Newpher and undergraduate student services coordinator Tyler Lee made the students play a very unconventional get-to-know-you game — locking them in a room with only one hour to escape.
Bull City Escape is one of a few
escape rooms in the Triangle, but the only one to let private groups from
schools or companies or families to come and rent out the space exclusively.
Like a live-in video game, you’re given a dramatic plot with an inevitably
disastrous end: The crown jewels have been stolen! The space ship is set to
self-destruct! Someone has murdered Mr. Montgomery, the eccentric millionaire!
With minutes to go, your rag-tag bunch scrambles to uncover clues to unlock
locks that yield more clues to yet more locks and so on, until finally you
discover the key code that releases you back to the real world.
This summer’s program dips into many subfields, in hopes of pushing the the 16 students (most of them seniors) toward an honors thesis. According to Newpher, three quarters of the senior neuroscience students who participated in the 2018 SNP program graduated with distinction last May.
From “cognitive neuro” that
addresses how behavior and psychology interacts with your neural network, to
“translational neuro” which puts neurology in a medical context, to “molecular
and cellular neuro” that looks at neurons’ complex functions, these students
are handling subjects that are not for the faint of heart or dim of mind.
But do lab smarts carry over when
you’re locked in a room with people you hardly know, a monitor bearing a big,
red timer, blinking its way steadily toward zero?
Apparently so. The “intrepid team
of astronauts” that voyaged into space were faced with codes and locks and
hidden messages, all deciphered with seven minutes left on the clock, while the
“crack-team of detectives” facing the death of Mr. Montgomery narrowly escaped,
with less than a minute to spare. At one point, exasperated and staring at a
muddled bunch of seemingly meaningless files, a student looked at Dr. Newpher
and asked, “Is this a lesson in writing a methods section?”
The Bull City Escape website lists creative problem-solving, focus, attention to detail, and performance under pressure as a few of the skills a group hones by playing their game — all of which are relevant to this group of students, many of whom are pre-med. But hidden morals about clarity and strength-building aside, Newpher picked the activity because it allows different sides of people’s personalities to come out: “When you’re put in that stressful environment and the clock is ticking, it’s a great way to really get to know each other fast.”