Student Stories

Evolutionary Anthropology

I have appreciated being on the organizing and designing side of a research project that has such a great potential to impact children with autism on a larger scale.

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.

Aashna Aggarwal
Economics, Environmental Sciences

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.


This is a field of research that is always changing and full of mysteries—and full of collaboration from so many different people and labs and specialties. This project will continue to play an important role in my academic and professional career.

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.

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.

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.

Biology, English

I want to work with this research team to study different global policies geared towards supporting the disabled and discover ways to change existing policies that limit the physically disabled.

Environmental Sciences & Policy

My advice to students considering Bass Connections—other than to seize this unique and worthwhile opportunity—is to be flexible as the project evolves.

Global Cultural Studies, Psychology

I joined this Bass Connections project because, growing up, I saw firsthand how many of my peers were impacted by tracking and either ended up dropping out of high school or never made it to college. 

David, Julie and Gina with samplers.

I entered into this project with a good-willed but egotistic perspective that my expertise and technical training in the U.S. can be equally applied to Sarawak, Malaysia. I think it’s okay to admit that there are limits to our knowledge in unfamiliar places and that is the purpose of research.

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.

Shashank Rajkumar

Bass Connections provided me the opportunity to work towards a project that had meaningful impact in the world.

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.

Economics, Psychology

Our team leader really encourages us to learn how to conduct this research ourselves.


My participation in this Bass Connections project is one of the most meaningful and rewarding Duke experiences I have had. 


The funding allows us to do important research in a setting where it is needed, but also the way it is set up—with undergrads, master’s students, and doctoral students, along with staff and faculty, collaborating together—really works.

Environmental Sciences

Data+ gave me a broader perspective of what data science research is.

Evolutionary Anthropology

We’re working with people with dementia who are living in the Durham community.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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. 

Education, Psychology

It exposed me to this whole community of students with autism and special needs. 

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.

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.

Sarah Kerman.
Public Policy

Bass Connections projects foster genuine collaboration among undergraduates, graduate students, faculty and community members. Those relationships have and will continue to benefit my intellectual growth.

Environmental Management

Fortunately, even though the road is long and hard, a bright future is waiting for us, and waiting for Duke.

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.

Program II

My involvement with the Bass Connections program very early on in my undergraduate journey helped to establish a network of support during my time at Duke.

Electrical & Computer Engineering

Bass Connections has allowed me to further my research for my dissertation and to greatly improve my communication capabilities.

Environmental Sciences

Finding the right problem that we thought we could tackle, coming up with solutions and working together to brainstorm all the different pathways and solutions is one of the biggest learning experiences I had at Duke.

Klug on left.
Environmental Sciences, Public Policy

My work in Madagascar led me to work for the Sustainable Energy Transitions Initiative (SETI) based here at Duke, which is an international network of energy access researchers and practitioners that coordinates and supports new energy access research around the globe.

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.

Asian & Middle Eastern Studies, Environmental Sciences & Policy

Through our internal conversations on our Bass Connections team and our time at Yale discussing their progress on a carbon charge program, one lesson about equity has started to become evident: with every potential program design, a case can be made for and against how equitable it is.


I’m constantly reminded of this first experience working on an interdisciplinary team in my role at the Energy Initiative, where I am almost always the only historian at the table. Thanks to Bass Connections, I can navigate conversations about interdisciplinary research with the confidence not only that history matters, but also that I have been able to make it matter in similar situations in the past.

Cultural Anthropology, Psychology

We tried to meet our community partner where they were, and our deliverables reflected this.

Kerry Mallinson
Biology, Global Health

I am particularly excited to be involved in this work because bioaerosol surveillance is a cutting-edge technique that has raised questions about possible occupational exposure risk for humans working in close contact with animals. 

Erica Onuoha

I think we are on our way to having substantial and potentially life-altering research findings.