Interdisciplinary Themes

Bass Connections projects, courses and summer programs are aligned with five key thematic areas. Each theme is hosted by one of Duke’s interdisciplinary institutes and initiatives. Bass Connections Open provides additional opportunities for projects outside the themes.

Brain & Society

Using brain science to help solve society’s most pressing problems

Many of the core problems of our time – climate change, financial crises, addiction, social inequality – arise from individuals and their choices. Brain research on cognition, emotions, expression and decision-making will be translated in this theme to address collective challenges and increase understanding of what makes us human.

Bass Connections in Brain & Society engages undergraduates, graduate students, postdocs and faculty from different programs and majors in an immersive curriculum that combines research and coursework into a common program of scholarship in multidisciplinary project teams.

Curricular and project elements build connections between basic research in neuroscience (and related biological sciences) and socially challenging questions in medicine, the humanities, public policy, economics, ethics and law, to understand issues such as physical and social responses to transformative events; the workings of the brain in rhetoric and the arts; memory in legal testimony; and the role of decision processes in shaping our institutions and public policies. Each Brain & Society team tackles a current issue relating to the brain and its link to society as a whole.

Education & Human Development

Exploring the factors that contribute to positive outcomes across the lifespan

Achieving positive life outcomes depends on a complex, interconnected set of experiences and circumstances including the resources of the community, social and family supports, health and education as well as cultural and historical factors. Bass Connections in Education & Human Development engages students and faculty in interdisciplinary research that explores that full range of factors contributing to valued life outcomes across the lifespan, including health, social and familial connections, happiness, income and employment.

Being situated in the American South, we also recognize that history continues to impact the life experiences of children born here, particularly those living in rural areas, minority households and low socioeconomic status households. We encourage a broad exploration of the factors that contribute to human development, with a focus on our local community but also extending beyond and engaging with our interconnected world.

Energy & Environment

Addressing critical energy and environmental challenges

Bass Connections in Energy & Environment cuts across business, engineering, policy and science to educate tomorrow’s energy leaders, create new options through research and improve decision-making about energy.

Students at all levels and in all programs of study gain the knowledge, skills and experience needed to play leadership roles in a rapidly evolving energy future. Bass Connections in Energy & Environment raises the stakes for students and faculty by crossing boundaries through problem-focused education—boundaries among disciplines, educational levels and schools; geographic boundaries; and boundaries between the university, business, civil society and government.

Global Health

Working creatively and collectively to address health disparities worldwide

The health of individuals and populations depends greatly on where and how people live in the world. Access to quality health care, information about disease prevention and the environmental impact on health vary widely around the world. Global stability depends on the reduction of these and other health disparities.

Bass Connections in Global Health supports students and faculty working to address health disparities worldwide – including in the U.S. – through an integrated suite of education programs and activities on campus and in the field. Recognizing that a sustained comprehension of global health can come only through immersive experiences and collaboration with community partners, Bass Connections in Global Health offers opportunities for students – undergraduate through doctoral – to participate in coursework, experiential learning and field projects to find solutions to local and international health disparities.

Information, Society & Culture

Exploring the evolution of society and culture through the lens of data

Access to unprecedented amounts of information is creating new opportunities for Duke students and faculty, working together in multidisciplinary teams, to actively engage with and to change the world around them. At the same time, the unprecedented availability of personal information published by smartphones, web browsers and social media is exposing society to new risks.

Bass Connections in Information, Society & Culture combines coursework, co-curricular experiences and integrated project teams to explore the evolution of society and culture through the lens of information, using the latest computational methods to understand society’s most pressing problems in new and creative ways.

Bass Connections Open

Bass Connections Open supports interdisciplinary, team-based research projects and courses that fall outside the scope of the existing themes. This experimental channel is designed to identify percolating areas of interest not addressed by the current themes.