Three Graduate Students Honored for Outstanding Bass Connections Project Team Mentorship

April 12, 2018


Sarah Barton, Sara Maurer and Brian Wong are the winners of the 2018 Bass Connections Award for Outstanding Mentorship. This award recognizes the vital role that graduate students and postdocs play in mentoring undergraduate students on Bass Connections teams.

Each winner will receive a $700 prize and be recognized at the Bass Connections Showcase on Wednesday, April 18.

Among many strong nominations, those for Barton, Maurer and Wong rose to the top. Nominations from their fellow team members and leaders made it clear that they played an essential role in setting an inspiring vision for their team, guiding students through new learning material and research methods and cultivating a positive and inclusive team environment.

Sarah Barton

Program: Th.D. in Theology
Bass Connections Project Team: Global Alliance on Disability and Health Innovation (GANDHI)

Sarah Barton is a doctoral student in Theology and a pediatric occupational therapist at Duke University Medical Center. She received her M.S. in Occupational Therapy from Boston University and a Master of Theological Studies from Duke Divinity School. Her research probes the intersection of theology and disability, specifically examining participation in Christian sacramental practices and this participation’s relationship to anthropologies robustly inclusive of persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Barton is a second-year GANDHI team member who serves as a graduate teaching assistant for the team and the lead advisor for the sub-team addressing access to community-based resources for children with disabilities in Uganda.

Sarah Barton

Coming into the year with no knowledge of qualitative research, I was quickly put at ease with Sarah’s in-class lectures and guidance. With a great talent for teaching, she taught us the fundamentals of qualitative data analysis, skills I have been able to apply to other academic endeavors. Sarah has also been a fantastic leadership role model. She has cultivated an incredibly positive team atmosphere of open communication and encouragement, and she ensures that every member of our team is always heard. My Bass Connections experience would not be the same without Sarah’s mentorship. – Sahil Sandu ’20

Sarah radiates positive energy during every single one of our 8 a.m. research meetings. She is always warm and welcoming and genuinely interested in meeting and working with students. Sarah has guided me through all my NVivo data analysis, always offering time out of her day to meet and run through the minute details of our work. I know I can contact Sarah anytime with follow-up questions, and she’s always supportive and helpful.  – Jackie Xu ’19

Sara Maurer

Program: Ph.D. in Psychology and Neuroscience
Bass Connections Project Team: Exercise as a Therapy for Cognitive Aging and Alzheimer’s Disease

Sara Maurer is a fourth-year doctoral student in the Systems and Integrative Neuroscience Program. Her research explores how prenatal nutrition can “program” the brain throughout the lifespan, specifically examining how prenatal choline supplementation acts via anti-inflammatory mechanisms to protect offspring from neuronal, microglial and behavior defects from adult immune assaults. She is the lead graduate student on the Exercise as a Therapy for Cognitive Aging and Alzheimer’s Disease team.

Sara Maurer

As a student who had never participated in research before, I was nervous for my first day in my lab. Sara immediately created an environment that was supportive and educational. She showed me how to handle the mice in our lab and gave me background information to give me a holistic understanding of the research process. Her patience made me feel comfortable asking questions. Sara also exhibits amazing leadership qualities. She delegates without demanding, allows us undergraduates to propose solutions to problems and is always the first person in lab meetings to constructively describe both process and progress. Sara also demonstrates a passion and knowledge for our projects that extends beyond the purely scientific, and she has extended my knowledge of women’s healthcare from science to policy to social issues and their implications. –Caitlin Grant ’19

When I first began in the lab, I felt lost and overwhelmed and terrified of making mistakes. Sara took great pains to make sure I felt welcome in the lab and that I was comfortable asking her any questions. From my first time in the lab to my present role on my Bass Connections team, Sara has pushed me to grow into the best researcher and scholar I can be, allowing me to develop and flourish in the lab environment. – Shayal Vashisth ’19

Brian Wong

Program: Master of Environmental Management
Bass Connections Project Team: Energy Data Analytics Lab: Electricity Access in Developing Countries from Aerial Imagery

Brian Wong is a second-year Master of Environmental Management student, studying water resources management and geospatial analysis. In addition to serving as the project manager for the Energy Data Analytics Lab team, he is also a graduate research assistant at the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions and works with Patrick Halpin (Marine Geospatial Ecology Lab) and Global Fishing Watch to improve ocean transparency. Collectively, Wong is most interested in leveraging data science and cloud geoprocessing methods for scaled remote sensing applications.

Brian Wong

Brian brings technical expertise to our team, but also the genuine desire to know each team member better and guide our understanding of the field. He actively fostered a collaborative and energetic team environment and promoted this supportive culture through both semesters. This collaborative culture has been integral to our team’s success. Brian leads by example. He consistently checks in with team members to discuss our current research focus, provide suggestions and connect us with experts in the field. With Brian, it’s never too late to grab another coffee and mull over another question. Want to consult a GIS expert? He will suggest names. Need to learn Google Earth Engine in a night? Let’s pull up the program right now. It has been an absolute honor to work by Brian’s side and learn from both his academic expertise and his collaborative energy. – Xiaolan You ’20

Graduate Students and Bass Connections

Bass Connections project teams are a dynamic, multifaceted experience, including faculty and student participants of all levels. Program evaluations and student testimony continues to highlight the pivotal role that graduate students and postdocs play on teams, often serving as project managers and mentors to undergraduate students while also contributing to their team’s original research.

More than 155 graduate and professional students are participating in Bass Connections project teams as well as the Data+ and Story+ Summer Research Programs in the 2017-18 academic year. Bass Connections provides these students with crucial opportunities to develop skills in mentoring, project management, team-based research and community and client engagement.

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