Graduate and Professional Student Spotlight: Reflections from the Class of 2024

May 6, 2024

Class of 2024 banner with photos of 17 graduate students.

Graduate and professional school students play a crucial role on Bass Connections teams, often serving as project managers, subteam leaders, subject area experts and mentors for undergraduates.

These 17 graduate and professional students from the Class of 2024 took a moment before graduation to share reflections on their Bass Connections experience. These students, who are among nearly 350 graduate and professional students who participate in Bass Connections each year, leveraged their project team experience to hone career-enhancing skills, strengthen master’s theses and doctoral dissertations, develop deep relationships with faculty and project partners, coauthor publications and more.

Congratulations to all of this year’s graduates!

Navya Adhikarla

Master of Engineering Management
Creating Emerging Technology Foresight Strategies for Synthetic Biology (Data+ 2023)

Navya Adhikarla headshot.“This interdisciplinary project exposed me to the crucial importance of applied tech ethics in today’s rapidly evolving technological landscape. Collaborating with teammates from diverse backgrounds including science, policy, law and economics taught me the value of understanding and integrating different perspectives to address complex challenges. I am proud to have been at the forefront of such an impactful project, which has not only enriched my graduate experience but also positioned me as a unique voice among my peers. This experience has ignited my passion for ethical leadership in the tech industry, and I am excited to continue exploring this space as I embark on my career.”

Adhikarla plans to pursue a career at the intersection of technology and ethics, with the goal of becoming a voice for ethical leadership in tech.

Navya and her team mates in front of their research poster.
Adhikarla (second from right) and teammates at the Data+ poster showcase

Solomon Ayehu

Master of International Development Policy 
Racial Disparities in Emergency Department Return After Orthopaedic Surgery (2023-2024)

Solomon Ayehu headshot.“As a physician with five years [of] hands-on experience working as a clinician in a low-resource setting, I initially developed a keen interest in studying global health and international development policy to spearhead the efforts toward universal health coverage and equitable access to healthcare … Having the chance to develop my research aspirations in health equity through [my] Bass Connections team ... has offered an enriching and indispensable scholarly experience. Steering our intervention subteam, we collaborated with community partners to design a community-engaged research platform to better understand the social determinants of health that most account for the racial disparities observed in Emergency Department return following orthopedic surgery ... Being a part of this extraordinarily talented group of medical students, undergraduate students and graduate students of different disciplines has sharpened my teamwork abilities and interpersonal skills [in a way] that will stand the test of time.”

After graduation, Ayehu plans to pursue a career in health policy analysis and research.

Austin Burlile

Master of Public Policy
Marine Conservation Evidence and Synthesis (2023-2024)

Austin Burlile headshot.“Bass Connections taught me methods of qualitative research and evidence synthesis that not only helped me complete my master's project but are also directly applicable to my job after graduation. Participating on [this] team gave me the opportunity to gain experience in a topical area that interests me – conservation – which I have historically struggled to break into due to my social science and policy background. I'm happy to have worked with such a great team on such an interesting project!”

After graduation, Burlile will be working for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Makala Carrington

Master of Divinity
Developing Best Practices for Trauma-Informed Teaching and Learning (2023-2024)

Makala Carrington headshot.“Participating in [this] project deeply resonated with me, not only as an Air Force reserve Public Health Officer but also as a trauma survivor of firearm violence. This experience enriched my understanding of how trauma impacts educational environments and aligns with my upcoming studies [for] a doctor of public health degree ... Gaining insights into creating sensitive educational settings that support all learners, particularly those affected by trauma, was profoundly meaningful. These insights are pivotal for integrating trauma-informed practices into military health initiatives to enhance the well-being of service members. The project underscored the necessity of informed approaches that facilitate environments where individuals affected by trauma can thrive, shaping my future work in public health and trauma-informed care.”

After graduation, Carrington will pursue a doctoral degree in public health and continue serving as a public health officer in the Air Force Reserve.

Carrington and her team at the 2024 Bass Connections showcase.
Carrington (second from right) and teammates at the 2024 Fortin Foundation Bass Connections Showcase

Jamie Chornoby

Master of Public Policy
Social Provision of Information for Effective Democratic Citizens (2022-2023)

Jamie Chornoby headshot.“Bass Connections profoundly shaped my Duke experience. As a master of public policy student, I have two short years at Duke. Through the project, I connected almost immediately with a diverse, dedicated and passionate team. [This] project broadened my experience with multimethod research. Collectively, we wove together focus group research, funding model development, state-level legislative analysis, practitioner interviews and a news subsidy experiment. The interplay of methods gave me new windows into issues like information access and polarization ... The project also affirmed what skills I want to focus on in future professional work. For example, some of the highlights of the project for me were the opportunities to share our work with broader audiences, such as the Local Journalism Researchers’ Workshop and the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication Conference. Working with this Bass Connections team fostered connections with faculty, researchers and students, inspiring multiple independent studies and research assistantships since completing the project.”

Chornoby plans to pursue a career in the federal government.

Team members present at 2023 Local Journalism Researchers’ Workshop.
Chornoby (center) presents with her team members at the 2023 Local Journalism Researchers’ Workshop.

Shatanshu Choudhary

Master of Engineering Management 
Data Science in Clinical Care (2023-2024)

Shatanshu Choudhary headshot.“Serving as the project manager on [my] team was undoubtedly one of the most transformative experiences during my time at Duke. With a deep passion for healthcare, this opportunity provided invaluable insights into the complexities of the industry. I had the privilege of collaborating closely with case managers, clinicians, the directors at Duke AI Health, and Duke Health –  an experience that would not have been possible without Bass Connections. This immersive involvement not only deepened my understanding of healthcare organizations but also empowered me to develop leadership skills in managing interdisciplinary teams effectively. Working alongside experts from diverse backgrounds challenged me to think critically, communicate clearly, and navigate unique perspectives. The lessons learned have been instrumental in shaping my approach to problem-solving and decision-making.”

After graduation, Choudhary plans to pursue a career in healthcare.

Alejandra del Campo

Master of Environmental Management 
Impacts of Artisanal Gold Mining on Humans and the Environment (2023-2024)

Alejandra del Campo headshot.“Participating in Bass Connections was a highlight for me, especially after four years in the mining industry. It was enriching to connect with individuals committed to making this industry more responsible with our environment and communities. This collaborative experience also broadened my understanding of mining practices globally, as we exchanged insights and learned from diverse regional perspectives.”

After graduation, del Campo will be joining McKinsey & Company in Washington, D.C. as an associate consultant.

Alexis Domeracki

Doctor of Medicine
Developing Nursing Resources for LGBTQ+ Older Adult Care Using Human-Centered Design (2022-2023)

Alexis Domeracki headshot.“[My Bass Connections] team allowed me to think beyond the span of a hospital stay and into the world of long-term care facilities, which will enhance my ability to care for the spectrum of patients and lifespans I will treat in my career. Our team, with its fantastic mixture of disciplines and skill sets, made the work engaging and allowed for constant peer-to-peer learning. Above all, the chance to work alongside and in support of the older LGBTQ+ community, a group that laid the foundation for LGBTQ+ rights, was an absolute honor.”

After graduation, Domeracki will begin her residency in internal medicine/primary care at the University of California San Francisco.

Domeracki meets with her team over Zoom.
Domeracki (second row, far right) and her team meet on Zoom.

Anna Hallahan

Master of Public Policy
Strengthening Cross-Partisan Collaboration in North Carolina Policymaking (2023-2024)

Anna Hallahan headshot.“My experience with Bass Connections was one of the highlights of my time at Duke. I found it really rewarding to dive deep into a subject for a full year alongside the same group of people; as a result, I was really able to connect with both my project-mates and project leads and develop a deep sense of community. At the same time, I also appreciated how Bass Connections helped break me out of the Duke and academic bubble. Through our project, I was able to get to know many inspiring leaders throughout North Carolina and they helped shed light on different issues and perspectives not covered in my coursework. Their influence was impactful both personally and professionally and I will carry this experience with me long after I leave Duke.”

Nathalia Kim

Doctor of Occupational Therapy
Life After Stroke: A Sensory Health Initiative (2022-2023)

Nathalia Kim headshot.“Bass Connections was an incredibly valuable experience for me as it pushed me to step out of my comfort zone and expand my knowledge of occupational therapy. This project provided me with the opportunity to collaborate with a team of experts … as well as talented undergraduate students. It was an incredible opportunity to share our knowledge and skills and work together toward achieving a common goal.”

Aileen Lavelle

Master of Environmental Management
Belugas: Sentinels of Climate Change in the Arctic (2023-2024)

Aileen Lavelle headshot.“[My team] had the opportunity to travel to Churchill, Manitoba to see belugas in person and learn about the impacts of climate change on these charismatic species and the ecotourism industry in a small, isolated town that depends on them. It is hard to describe how fortunate I am to have seen vast aggregations of belugas in the wild alongside some of the foremost marine mammal researchers in the world. The Bass Connections experience thoroughly enriched my Duke education. I co-created a “Seas The Day” podcast to share the wealth of knowledge we learned, and throughout the year, I formed strong professional relationships.”

In the fall, Lavelle will begin a doctoral program in zoology at the University of Florida.

Members of the Belugas: Sentinels of Climate Change team posing in front of the ocean with a Duke University banner.
Members of the team in Manitoba

Andi Mujollari

Master of International Development Policy 
Energy and Environment: Design and Innovation (2023-2024)

Andi Mujollari headshot.“Bass Connections provided a platform to experiment with ideas that had brewed in my mind for years. Coming from a developing nation, our academic institutions often need more resources and capabilities to foster such exploration. Discovering Bass Connections during my first semester at Duke was captivating; I eagerly anticipated becoming involved. Working with brilliant students who joined one of my project ideas has been fascinating, alongside our mentors' unwavering support and technical expertise. Since joining the program, I have been promoting it to everyone I know because other students like me might have small ideas that could potentially change the future.”

Phuc Nguyen

Ph.D. in Statistical Science
Predicting Baseball Players’ Athletic Performance Utilizing Baseline Assessments of Vision (Data+ 2020)

Phuc Nguyen headshot.“Through my Data+ experience, I became more connected with the broader research in the university and the local community. This was helpful as I was forming ideas for my dissertation. I also had a unique opportunity to mentor a small group of undergraduate students to explore their early interests in statistics through a summer-long project. It was inspiring to see them progress from writing their first lines of R code and learning linear regression, to developing a predictive model for baseball performance based on vision and physical abilities and ultimately presenting their work to our collaborators.”

 Nguyen has begun work as an applied research data scientist at LinkedIn.

Nanditha Ram Satagopan

Master of Environmental Management
Biocultural Sustainability of Madagascar (2023-2024)

Nanditha Ram Satagopan headshot.“The experience [of] being on a Bass Connections project was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I appreciated the chance to work with a team, not just locally but from Madagascar. It was great to be contributing to work that was driving change on the ground. Finally, the flexibility to pursue a project in a skill set I wanted to hone (remote sensing) has proved beneficial for my future.”

After graduation, Satagopan will pursue a career in Environmental Planning.

Satagopan holds a large moth.
Satagopan conducting field research in Madagascar

Bruno Valan

Master of Engineering
Racial Disparities in Emergency Department Return After Orthopaedic Surgery (2023-2024)

Bruno Valan headshot.“My time with Bass Connections has been a cornerstone of my educational and professional development. Starting as an undergraduate, I worked on a team aimed at improving neurological surgery capacity in Uganda. Amidst the pandemic, we shifted our focus to a computational model predicting the growth of Uganda's neurosurgical workforce, solidifying my interest in data science and the potential of modeling in healthcare. This eventually led me to pursue a Masters of Engineering degree focusing on data science and artificial intelligence during my medical studies. Reflecting on my time at Duke, Bass Connections has profoundly influenced my career path, revealing unforeseen interdisciplinary opportunities and emphasizing the impact of engaging with real-world challenges. Now as a team leader, it is incredibly rewarding to teach statistics and data science, focusing on disparities in returns to the emergency department following orthopedic surgery.”

Valan will continue pursuing his medical degree at the Duke University School of Medicine.

Payton Wood

Master of Environmental Management
Impacts of Artisanal Gold Mining on Humans and the Environment (2023-2024)

Payton Wood headshot.“I had the opportunity to travel to Ecuador as a part of this project and [I] valued being able to engage with the area I was studying. Not only did I get to witness [the impacts of gold mining] firsthand, I was able to meet and work with local communities that were passionate about the subject. My Bass Connections experience has allowed me [to] see an entire research project from start to finish … from packing field equipment into suitcases all the way to presenting final results in a research symposium.”

After graduation, Wood plans to pursue a career in environmental research.

Students completing field research in Ecuador.
Members of the team conducting field research

Ruth Wygle

Ph.D. in Sociology
Harnessing Data from North Carolina's Jails to Inform Effective Policies (2020-2021)

Ruth Wygle headshot.“My Bass Connections experience was absolutely a highlight of graduate school. First, the willingness of Bass Connections to let me and another graduate student be team leaders and design our own course was such a gift. Second, the technical report we produced was ultimately one of the most impactful products from my graduate training period – it led to many meetings with decision-makers, including staff from the N.C. governor's office. I definitely learned a lot about how best to bring undergraduates into the research process, which I really hope to continue doing throughout my career.”

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