Student Stories

Sara Platek.
Public Policy

By far the most valuable part of any Bass Connections experience is the rare opportunity to work with members of the Duke community from a broad range of backgrounds and areas of study.

Hannah Horvath.
Environmental Sciences & Policy, Global Health

Ultimately, we hope [our reports] will create awareness and bring a greater understanding of energy use to campus so we can inspire students and faculty to make behavioral changes, and so we can assist staff by giving recommendations for energy efficiency measures.

Carlee Goldberg.
History, Political Science

Starting from my first year, I was a full-blown researcher, learning how to code, conduct interviews and staff research studies. Participating in this project gave me connections with professors and familiarity with how to engage in direct research.

Selena Qian at right.
Computer Science, Visual & Media Studies

Bass Connections showed me the different ways that research can manifest. Research is not necessarily working in a lab or analyzing vast quantities of data.

Aryaman Gupta
Biomedical Engineering

I had expected my trip to Uganda to develop me as an engineer; rather, I returned to the U.S. with a stronger desire to overcome avoidable medical disparities.

Liz Crisenbery.

In fields where collaboration is rare, project teams provide opportunities to work with others towards a common goal, develop transferable skills and make connections with people outside of your department.

Gabrielle Zegers
Cultural Anthropology

During my work on the recycling project at TROSA I learned about diagnosing and bridging gaps between communities and resources, how to better involve all levels of TROSA residents in the decision-making process in order to address local-global environmental challenges and how to think about generating benefits that matter to different stakeholders involved in the intervention. 

Meghana Sai Iragavarapu
Program II

We interviewed employees from the Durham Public Health Department, historians, community health workers, and most importantly, Durham residents living with diabetes. We visited grocery stores and homes in neighborhoods only two miles apart and found shocking disparities.

Arthi Kozhumam.
Biology, Global Health

Our project is a longitudinal assessment evaluating physical and mental health outcomes of children through various psychological measures—asking questions related to depression, anxiety, resilience and adaptability to trauma, attachment to friends and caregivers and other mental health considerations.

Matt Phillips.

[The] diversity of expertise and experience enabled us to develop a more complete and nuanced understanding of cybersecurity issues than we would have developed otherwise.

Melissa Marchese taking feather samples with boat driver and field assistant, Pancho.
Environmental Sciences & Policy

Upon my return to Duke [after a summer of fieldwork], we spent two semesters discussing and presenting our findings. I realized that a myriad of impactful questions in fields such as ecology, global health and policy remain unanswered. I decided to continue my research in this region by pursuing a senior thesis.

Arabella Chen and Annie Lee.

What does camping in the Amazon entail? Well, let us inform you. We proudly present Camping 101: Peruvian Amazon Edition.

Christine Crute.
Integrated Program in Environmental Health and Toxicology

We had to redesign our research plan overnight and determine how to get usable data. On a daily basis, I learned to handle unforeseen issues that arose and determine new routes of study.

Roy Auh.

I had the opportunity to present a paper about Project Vox at the 24th World Congress of Philosophy. As an undergraduate, it was a scholarly chocolate factory where on top of exploring many topics, I was able to see some of my heroes and heroines in person.

Aashna Aggarwal and team members in Zambia.

I think there are a lot of factors that go into the decision-making [about increasing access to energy]. They’re often overlooked in the equation where we’re calculating energy access, but working closely together with these communities is a really big part of it.

Duke students and faculty visited a solar microgrid site in the village of Mugurameno in August 2018.
Political Science

What surprised me the most was with all of the funding coming in and a new emphasis on sustainability and energy access as well, that same emphasis on sustainability hasn’t necessarily been extended to the actual business side of the energy access equation.

Kelly Dobroski
Environmental Management

Managing this project has been one of my proudest achievements during my master’s degree. From learning how to better communicate with and support team members to learning how to manage data and multiple timelines, my experiences gained through this project will forever be some of my fondest memories.

Providing Clean Fuel team.

You may underestimate the numerous intricacies of independent research, but once you get used to it, exciting opportunities abound! Accomplishments are especially personal, and even the perception of progress provides great satisfaction.

Jen Semler.
Philosophy, Public Policy

I was impressed by the openness of the Project Vox team toward aspiring undergraduate researchers. When I came to my first meeting, I was immediately encouraged to start getting involved in a way that aligned with my interests and goals.

Hannah Ontiveros.

Being the project coordinator for America’s Sacred Spaces drove home for me the importance of being able to switch gears while conducting research. Your team membership might change, the sources you engage might take your inquiries in other directions and you might encounter hurdles that you don’t have the resources to surmount. The key to success is to follow where the research takes you.

Molly Paley at left.
Public Policy

Learning from experts on topics ranging from gender-based violence and family planning to the impact of the United States’ global gag rule exposed me to the many opportunities available to make a difference in the field of global reproductive health.

Kushal Kadakia.
Biology, Public Policy

Over the past few years, I’ve been able to host public conferences, lead individual meetings with stakeholders and actually see some of our recommendations become state policy, which has been an incredible experience.

Tori Trimm
Global Health, Psychology

It is in these last few weeks of my undergraduate career that I have realized just how lucky I am to have been a part of a team that encouraged my curiosity, fought against my fears, armed me with experience and reminded me that at the end of the day, research can and should be a collaborative, multidisciplinary, passionate environment.

Nathan Liang.
Neuroscience, Psychology

Data+ has been a thoroughly eye-opening experience for me. Surrounded by so many talented individuals eagerly looking to learn more about the practical applications of advances in the tech industry, I think I still do not realize just how much relevant insight I’ve gained from the program.

Sydeny Grob

Doing collaborative research became a place of safety and security each week where I was receptive to hearing the experiences of those around me and vice versa.

Celia Mizelle at left.

These projects gave me not only content knowledge but also a new way of thinking about the social determinants of health, a better understanding of translational research and an appreciation for evidence-based decision-making that I will carry forward into my next chapter.

Luke Farrell.
Computer Science, Neuroscience

To learn about the abstract mathematics from experts like Professor Jonathan Mattingly and then go to the Supreme Court and see the Justices appreciate and cite research our team has dealt with was amazing.

Four team members standing in front of Duke Chapel.
Biomedical Engineering, Computer Science

Creating WearDuke truly was a collaborative process, and our team continuously adapted our focus group material, website set-up, reward structure and marketing strategies to ensure our pilot program is as successful as possible.

Computer Science, Mechanical Engineering

I’m really willing to learn new things every day, and I’m always trying to explore new areas of expertise.

Ajilé Owens and team members.
Global Health, Sociology

The biggest personal victory for me was learning enough Malagasy and observing my Malagasy teammate conduct enough interviews to administer one by myself.

Lisa Regula and team members.
Biology, Evolutionary Anthropology

One day, I realized that I was collecting data on my 100th animal. Coming into the summer, I never anticipated that I would grow so independent as a researcher. Being able to handle the animals and collect data by myself was extremely empowering and something I’m sure I’ll use throughout my future in research.

Ryan Fitzgerald and team members.
Biology, Global Health

Sometimes the extreme isolation could be jarring. I really had to learn to rely on my team to not feel so alone, and I’m lucky to have had such an incredible group of people with me.

Mechanical Engineering

The most rewarding aspect of my Bass Connections experience was learning how to approach a real-world problem with my Engineering background and iterating on a solution through research and testing.

Mechanical Engineering

I have loved working with the team on this project, and am especially appreciative of gaining a mentor. It has been the most formative part of my Duke experience. 

International Comparative Studies, Public Policy

I joined the Schooling and Parenting Bass Connections team eager to find greater understanding of the education research that may ultimately influence policy.

Global Health, International Comparative Studies

The most meaningful part of my Bass Connections experiences was working with and learning from people I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to collaborate with otherwise.


The opportunity to work with a vast variety of professors, grad students, and undergrad students from all over Duke was the most rewarding element.


Everyone brings their personal strengths and interests to the table.


The skills and experiences I gained from these projects will not only help me better navigate postgraduate life, but will positively affect my upcoming dissertation research and writing.

French Studies

Like most Bass Connections teams, our team is a collection of people with varied majors, skills, and experiences.