Senior Spotlight: Reflections from the Class of 2023
April 27, 2023
These 23 seniors took a moment before finals to share what their Bass Connections experiences have meant to them. They’re among nearly 1,000 Duke undergraduates who participate in Bass Connections each year along with 200 graduate and professional students and 350 faculty and staff members.
For some undergraduates, taking part in collaborative, interdisciplinary research confirmed their interests; for others, the experience opened up new paths. Numerous students found ways to take their research further through related honors theses and other opportunities while at Duke, and have identified career interests to pursue through post-graduation employment and further education.
Congratulations to all our graduating seniors!
Public Policy Studies
Trauma-Informed Courts: A Public Health Approach to Juvenile Justice (2022-2023)
“This project team has been a highlight of my Duke experience. I have learned so much about the juvenile justice system, the impact of trauma on childhood development, and the theory and principles of trauma-informed care. Working on an interdisciplinary team with both undergraduate and graduate students from a variety of academic fields has helped me build connections and improve my teamwork skills. I have also been able to develop my research and writing abilities, which will serve me for the rest of my academic and professional career. My experience has immensely strengthened my interest in the legal system and juvenile justice.”
Brockelman will attend NYU School of Law in the fall, and plans to continue working to improve the juvenile justice system in her legal career.
Chemistry and Asian & Middle Eastern Studies
A City and Its River: Contaminant Risk in Durham's Ellerbe Creek Watershed (2022-2023)
“Bass Connections taught me that environmental health issues are best understood through a combination of ecological, social and chemical lenses. But more importantly, it taught me that I don’t need to be subject expert in all three perspectives. I simply need to know my strengths and then lean into the collaborative nature of research.”
As part of a postbaccalaureate fellowship program, Castelino will be conducting research at the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health for two years before pursuing an M.D.-Ph.D. in environmental health.
Biology and Global Health
Evaluating Strategies to Reduce the Global Burden of Hearing Loss (2020-2021) and 2021-2022
Related Honors Thesis: Strategies to Scale-Up Global Access and Uptake of Hearing Screening: A Systematic Review
“Bass Connections was one of the most defining experiences of [my time at Duke]. I was able to learn practical research skills necessary for my future career aspirations and had opportunities to write a graduation with distinction thesis, publish and travel to conferences!”
Cionfolo will pursue a master of public health in epidemiology after graduation.
Public Policy Studies and French Studies
Language, Music and Dementia (2021-2022) and 2022-2023
Related Honors Thesis: Cajun, Créole and CODOFIL: Language Policy and Planning in Louisiana
“Bass Connections has been a wonderful experience. I have received invaluable learning experiences and meaningful faculty mentorship through working with Edna Andrews as well as others on the project. I have gained experience in conducting and interpreting academic and scientific research at a high level. It has been wonderful to be a part of a project with an interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary focus (in this case, cognitive neuroscience, linguistics and music) that has allowed me to expand my knowledge base. My experience has improved my confidence in building relationships with professors and peers as well as giving me the confidence and desire to be involved in research in the future.”
After graduation, Costley will be working in consulting in Denver.
Gene Therapy for Alzheimer’s Disease and Ethical Aspects of Genome Editing (2020-2021) and 2021-2022
Related Honors Thesis: APOE e3/e4 Allele Discrimination Using Novel Cas9 Therapies
“Bass Connections was one of the most rewarding experiences I have had at Duke. I learned about the many therapeutic applications of CRISPR-Cas9 and its potential to revolutionize the field of medicine. Moreover, I developed strong critical thinking and problem-solving skills to think creatively about gene therapies to target APOE e4 while also considering safety and immunogenicity of the therapies throughout the design process. This team offered me various research opportunities, publications and the opportunities to present at conferences. More importantly, the team empowered me to be a better leader where I now mentor other students in my lab.”
After graduation, Cumaran will pursue a master’s degree in public health and serve as a clinical researcher and medical assistant in dermatology.
Public Policy Studies
Privacy Implications of COVID-19 Contact Tracing (2020-2021) and Closing the Gap on Health Disparity and Outcomes in Hypertension (2022-2023)
“Serving on two Bass Connections projects was a highlight of my Duke experience. As someone who is passionate about exploring the intersectionality between healthcare and policy, I was able to dive into pressing issues to develop research skills, strong connections and an appreciation for community-based interventions. Working with students and faculty from across Duke’s departments and schools also showed me the interdisciplinary nature of research and collaboration. Whether it was interviewing county health directors or calling patients and discussing their blood pressure readings, Bass Connections taught me how to apply research methods to real-life projects with tangible outcomes. My experience motivated me to pursue a thesis in health policy for my department, and I am thankful for the incredible support I have received along the way!”
Desai will be working in health policy next year while applying for medical school.
Biomedical Engineering and Global Health
“Bass Connections had a huge impact on my Duke experience! This project gave me an opportunity to participate in community-based public health work during the peak of the pandemic. I helped design a chronic care model to improve diabetes management at a free clinic in Pamlico County. My work with Bass Connections encouraged me to pursue my own independent research study about the experience of living with diabetes in South India. Additionally, my mentors Sumedha Gupta Ariely and Diana Silimperi have been pivotal and continued to support me throughout my undergraduate career.”
Gopisetty is pursuing the accelerated master’s degree (4+1) in global health at Duke.
Biomedical Engineering and Biology
Related Thesis: Testing the Soil Bacterium Pseudomonas stutzeri for the Ability to Degrade Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) Plastic
“My Bass Connections experience helped me discover my passion for research at the nexus of biology and the environment. I got to learn from incredible faculty mentors and collaborate with a diverse team of students, which has shaped my understanding that effective solutions to pressing environmental issues require collaboration across disciplines, from science and engineering to policy and business. I'm excited to apply the skills and perspectives I have gained from this experience to my graduate studies as I continue to conduct research with applications to environmental sustainability.”
After graduation, Gunady will be pursuing a Ph.D. in chemical and biological engineering at Princeton University.
Eye Tracking: Objective Assessment for Mild Traumatic Brain Injury in Youth Athletes (2020-2021), 2021-2022 and 2022-2023
“Bass Connections prompted a pivotal change in my interests, from being a premed student to wanting to be an engineer. I have always been interested in the complex mechanisms of the human body, and I wanted to learn more about sports-related concussions and research ways to prevent them. After three years on the team and working with my mentor, Jason Luck, I have realized that my medical interests are more situated in biomedical engineering. Bass Connections was essential in the path I took toward finding my true passions.”
Herman will be a master’s student in biomedical engineering at Duke.
Electrical & Computer Engineering and Computer Science
Related Thesis: Examining the Impact of Introductory Mathematics on Student Desire to Pursue a STEM Major
“Being on a long-running Bass Connections team has allowed me to connect with amazing professors from multiple disciplines, learn how to pace my work throughout the year and gain confidence as a researcher in my own right while simultaneously having a positive impact on the Durham community.”
After graduation, Hunt will be pursuing a Ph.D. in electrical engineering at Stanford University.
Elections in a Pandemic (2020-2021)
“I really enjoyed my experience with Bass Connections. It certainly was strange considering it was an ongoing study about the pandemic in the midst of a pandemic, but the engagement level with the surrounding Durham community made it a really worthwhile experience. Working with the Duke Spanish Department and nonprofit Votemos NC to translate critical voter information into Spanish was particularly impactful in my Bass Connections journey.”
Israelevitz was recently selected for the James C. Gaither Junior Fellowship at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. As a Junior Fellow, he will work with one of Carnegie’s senior scholars to conduct research on a variety of international affairs issues.
Earthquake Early Warning in Kathmandu (2022-2023)
“Participating in Bass Connections has helped me develop skills as a systems thinker and changed the way I approach problem-solving. Our research project involved collaborating with stakeholders to design, develop and deploy an earthquake early warning system in Kathmandu, Nepal. While it may seem easy to come up with requirements for such a system in a traditional classroom setting, working with students from Nepal and considering real-world factors made the experience much more grounded. This project has taught me to find a balance between taking action and being mindful of the environment when working on system design and development.”
Jha will be taking a gap year to do research on ethical considerations of technology design. Then she will be pursuing an M.S. in engineering and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University.
Statistical Science and Computer Science
Implementing Electronic Symptom Screening for Telehealth Visits (2020-2021) and Big Data for Reproductive Health (2021-2022)
“Bass Connections provided me with the opportunity to develop my skills as a data scientist while exploring meaningful topics. Something that stood out to me was the amount of freedom we were given. While our team leaders were available to provide support throughout the process, we led the design and implementation of the research ourselves. This experience has given me the confidence to tackle interdisciplinary questions throughout my career!”
Lawrence will be working as a data scientist for the U.S. Government.
“Bass Connections was a wonderful opportunity to work on an issue that had real-world implications that we could see. I particularly enjoyed the interactions we were able to have with the community in Turkana, Kenya. Partnering with community leaders in the engineering decision-making process gave the project a greater sense of purpose. My favorite memory was when we all took an iteration of our device down to a local river in Durham and observed how well it measured the velocity of the flowing water. It was fascinating to make engineering decisions and have those discussions in the field instead of the usual lab setting.”
Lawter plans to go to law school and pursue a career in patent law.
Privacy Implications of COVID-19 Contact Tracing (2020-2021)
“Bass Connections provided me with an opportunity to explore my interdisciplinary interest in data and law, which extends into my post-graduation career. Working on a project related to contact tracing amid the pandemic allowed me to examine the rapid development of the technology with a critical and comparative mindset. I am also grateful to have worked with Duke Law professors and students across disciplines, which was the key to spread the project’s impact on both local and international levels.”
Upon graduation, Li will work as an analyst at Cornerstone in San Francisco.
Public Policy Studies
Harnessing Data from North Carolina's Jails to Inform Effective Policies (2020-2021) and Justice Reform Efforts and Effects on Self-sufficiency (2021-2022)
Related Honors Thesis: An Evaluation of the Durham DEAR Program: Comparing Participant and Staff Perspectives
“Bass Connections was one of my most valuable experiences of my entire Duke education. The format … helped me gain a comprehensive understanding of the issues surrounding criminal justice in North Carolina. Interviewing those in the Durham community allowed me to get proximate to the issues I was studying in my policy classes. I learned that qualitative research is a vital tool for understanding lived experiences, which should be valued alongside quantitative methods for studying the impact of various public policies. Hearing from those directly impacted by our nation’s unjust and punitive criminal justice system confirmed my interest in pursuing criminal justice reform in the future.”
After graduation, LoBue will work as a government consultant in Washington, D.C. She plans to go to law school in the future.
Electrical & Computer Engineering
Related Honors Thesis: Exploring the Effects of the MEG to DMSO Ratio on the Morphology and Properties of Spin-Cast 2D Thin Films
“Through my Bass Connections team, I learned about the prevalence of unused clean energy and its uses and was inspired to [learn more about] renewable clean power. Throughout the rest of my time at Duke, I continued to take classes within the environmental sphere and joined Stiff Roberts’ lab group to explore solar cell implications. I plant to continue to work with clean energy [in the future].”
Upon graduation, Machado will work as a systems engineer at Enphase Energy.
Related Honors Thesis: Evaluating Students’ Perception of Assessment in Introductory Quantitative Studies
“My involvement in Bass Connections shaped the rest of my experience at Duke. Working on this project first inspired my curiosity and passion for education in STEM. I helped conduct research and built an app to help middle school-aged girls sharpen their spatial reasoning and problem-solving skills. Ultimately, my experience reinforced my passion for both research and software development related to a topic I care about. In my junior year, my Bass Connections professors invited me to work as a project manager for their Faculty Learning Community on Inclusive Assessment in STEM. This work inspired my thesis … my proudest accomplishment at Duke.”
Rubin will work as a deployment strategist at Palantir. She hopes to continue working on education in STEM in the future.
“I am thankful to Bass Connections for the opportunity to participate in undergraduate-driven, interdisciplinary research. This program has been instrumental in my development as a researcher, teaching me how to plan experiments, troubleshoot experimental results and communicate scientific findings. Above all, I’m appreciative to learn and grow with some of the most talented and passionate students who have become my amazing friends.”
Shah will be a Ph.D. student in medical engineering and medical physics at Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology.
Language, Music and Dementia (2021-2022) and 2022-2023
Related Honors Thesis: Electrophysiological Analysis of Lifelong Musicianship: A New Approach Using Dry EEG
“Joining my Bass Connections team was one of the best decisions I’ve made at Duke. It helped spark my love for research in neuroscience while allowing me to address current global issues through an interdisciplinary approach. From being able to conduct my own study, to learning how to use EEG, to listening in on weekly presentations by neurosurgeons and EEG specialists, to enjoying team dinners at our professor’s house, I am forever appreciative of my time on this team. It has not only given me this opportunity to perfectly combine my two interests, music and neuroscience, but allowed me to become close with my faculty advisor and other teammates. It has further inspired me to continue in neuroscience after graduation.”
After graduation, Tyson plans to work at the beach as assistant head ocean rescue lifeguard while also working on neurosurgery clinical research.
Language, Music and Dementia (2020-2021), 2021-2022 and 2022-2023
“Being a part of this Bass Connections team has truly been one of the hallmarks of my time at Duke. I knew that I was interested in neuroscience, but I never viewed the subject outside the lens of natural science. The work we have done as a team has been at the intersection of multiple disciplines, including neuroscience, linguistics, music and computer science. (The experience piqued my interest in linguistics, a field I never considered, and I am now graduating with a linguistics minor.) We have gone through the entire process of writing two manuscripts for publication … I have also had the privilege of creating meaningful connections with the team leaders, and I am incredibly grateful for their ongoing mentorship and support.”
After graduation, Wang will work as a research assistant in a clinical research project examining how sensory and motor networks in the brain may serve as behavioral markers for Alzheimer’s disease. She hopes to attend medical school in the future.
Economics and Mathematics
American Predatory Lending and the Global Financial Crisis (2020-2021) and COVID-19 and Household Well-being in Developing Countries (2021-2022)
“My Bass Connections and Data+ projects, along with my Bass Connections Student Research Award project, provided me with the perfect training towards becoming an academic researcher. They connected me with faculty members in different fields at Duke, and I learned how to work efficiently in a group setting with people from diverse backgrounds. These experiences prepared me well for grad school and my future pursuit of an academic career.”
After graduation, Zhao will pursue a Ph.D. in economics from Princeton University.
Interdepartmental Major in Statistical Science and Biology
“Through Bass Connections, I gained qualitative and quantitative research skills, built a global health policy vocabulary and realized my passion for health policy and health outcomes research. I also created connections with faculty and graduate student mentors who provided valuable support and guidance as I went on to work on independent research projects and figure out my post-graduation plans. I absolutely learned more through my Bass Connections experiences than through any traditional classroom experience, and I would recommend the program without hesitation to any younger or incoming students.”
Zolotor will be moving to Boston and working as a statistician at Costello Medical, a consulting company with a focus on the analysis and communication of clinical and health economic data.