Meet the Members of the Bass Connections Student Advisory Council

November 3, 2016

Student Advisory Council

Got a question about Bass Connections? Get to know who’s on our 2016-2017 Student Advisory Council, and don't hesitate to reach out. 

The council includes Duke students from all levels, representing all five of the Bass Connections themes. Members come together for monthly lunch meetings, supplemented by side meetings of the three working groups. We thank these students for their leadership and service.

This year’s council is led by graduate student co-chair Meghan O'Neil, a doctoral student in English, and undergraduate co-chair Indrani Saha ’17, a Program II major studying cognitive aesthetics. Meghan brings deep knowledge of the Bass Connections experience through her involvement in the Exploring the Intersection of Energy and Peace-building through Film project team and two years of NC Jukebox. Indrani was a member of Art, Vision and the Brain and has given talks about how this experience influenced her career path.

Kirsten Bonawitz ’17 is a Neuroscience major who took part in Brain-immune Interactions in Neurodegenerative Disease. She received a follow-on grant to build on her research elucidating the role of genetics in the development of late-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Her fellow member of the Brain-immune Interactions team, Erin Choe ’17, is a Biology major.

Mercy DeMenno is a doctoral student in Public Policy. Building on her project team, Reviewing Retrospective Regulatory Review, she received a follow-on grant to analyze the role of public participation in U.S. agencies’ retrospective review processes. Samip Desai ’17, a Mechanical Engineering major, took part in Energy and the Environment.

Jemi Galani ’17 is a Biology, Chemistry and Global Health major. Her project team was Juntos: A Digital Health Intervention. Anil Ganti is in the Ph.D. Program in Electrical & Computer Engineering. The council is his first engagement with Bass Connections.

Sophie Katz ’17 is majoring in Neuroscience. Last year she participated in Art, Vision and the Brain. Helen Liu ’17 was on the Education and the Changing Brain team. Her majors are International Studies and Global Health.

For Jessica Marlow ’20, Bass Connections was a deciding factor in choosing to come to Duke. Ashton Merck is in the Ph.D. Program in History. She joined the Animal Waste Management and Global Health team after participating in The Effects of Unconventional Shale Gas Development on Rural Communities last year.

Doctoral student Alexandra Oprea studies Political Science and was a member of the Citizenship Lab team. Bengisu Pay ’18 is an Economics and Psychology major who took part in Resident Engagement and Energy Behavior Assessment through Mobile Phone Technology.

Liam Regan is in the Master’s Program in Environmental Management. Like Samip, he was on the Energy and the Environment team. Eduardo Salgado ’18 is a Neuroscience and Psychology major; he was Sophie's teammate on Art, Vision and the Brain.

Zachary Smothers recently graduated from the Master of Biomedical Sciences Program and serves as project manager for Stemming the Opiate Epidemic through Education and Outreach. Finally, Shengjie Xu is in the Ph.D. Program in Immunology and takes part in the POCkeT Colposcope team.

Don’t see anyone you know? Check out the list of members on last year’s Student Advisory Council and browse student reflections on their Bass Connections experience.

In addition to the council, there are plenty of opportunities for students to get involved as Bass Connections ambassadors: please contact the co-chairs at or

First row: Meghan O'Neil, Indrani Saha, Kirsten Bonawitz, Erin Choe, Mercy DeMenno, Samip Desai; second row: Jemi Galani, Anil Ganti, Sophie Katz, Helen Liu, Jessica Marlow, Ashton Merck; third row: Alexandra Oprea, Bengisu Pay, Liam Regan, Eduardo Salgado, Zachary Smothers, Shengjie Xu