Sloan Scholars

Author: John Zhu Page 3 of 4


Sloan Scholar Kundinger Receives Google PhD Fellowship

Brian Kundinger, a member of the second cohort of Sloan Scholars, has received a Google Ph.D. Fellowship to support his research.

Kundinger, who came to Duke in fall 2019, is pursuing his Ph.D. in Statistical Science under the tutelage of Assistant Professor Rebecca Steorts. He is interested in developing advanced mathematical tools to address complex problems in public policy and social sciences.

Brian KundingerThe Google Ph.D. Fellowship provides three years of funding to support recipients’ research. The fellowship program recognizes outstanding graduate students who are doing exceptional and innovative research in areas relevant to computer science and related fields and are looking to influence the future of technology.

Kundinger’s fellowship will support his research on record linkage, the task of identifying duplicate records across separate data files. This process is straightforward when we have unique identifiers or exact information. It becomes difficult, however, when data files have many errors, and it is computationally burdensome when applied to large datasets.

Record linkage is routinely used throughout the business, government, and non-profit sectors, and has found surprising applications in the study of human rights abuses. Kundinger’s particular research focuses on developing 1) fast, scalable methods for record linkage that accurately quantify uncertainty of the linkage process, and 2) algorithmically fair methods for use in situations when rates of matching and data reliability differ throughout a population.

LoCicero and Tutoni

Sloan Scholars LoCicero, Tutoni Receive NSF Graduate Research Fellowships

Sloan Scholars Ethan LoCicero and Gianna Tutoni are among 18 Duke Ph.D. students who have received the prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships for 2021.

LoCiceroLoCicero is a Ph.D. student in mechanical engineering with a concentration in control theory. His research with Leila Bridgeman develops controller synthesis methods that offer high nominal performance and robust, nonlinear stability guarantees while minimizing communication costs for large-scale systems. He hopes to apply his theoretical work to distributed renewable energy power grids, among other applications. LoCicero is also an organizer with the Sunrise Movement in Durham, where he works to advance local solutions to climate change.

TutoniTutoni, who is pursuing her Ph.D. in chemistry under the tutelage of Matthew Becker, focuses on creating functional biomaterials for the advancement of regenerative medicine. Specifically, she is creating degradable hydrogels with tunable mechanical properties that can be used to control stem cell differentiation and proliferation. She has also developed a passion for teaching undergraduates, both through her department and The Graduate Schools’ Certificate in College Teaching program.

LoCicero and Tutoni are both in the cohort of Sloan Scholars who began their Ph.D. studies at Duke in 2019. Of the 30 students in Duke’s first three cohorts of Sloan Scholars, seven have received NSF GRFs. The others are Judith Dominguez (2020), Lillian Ekem (2020), Gavin Gonzalez (2020), Erica Skerrett (2019), Adriana Stohn (2020). Two other Sloan Scholars, Tyler Johnson and Jessica LaLonde, earned honorable mentions in 2019.

duke ucem research summit

Duke UCEM Holds Second Annual Research Summit

The Duke University Center of Exemplary Mentoring held the 2021 Duke UCEM Research Summit on Thursday, February 25. Due to pandemic restrictions, this year’s summit was held virtually on Zoom. Thirteen Sloan Scholars delivered short talks about their research. Erika Moore Taylor (Ph.D.’18 Biomedical Engineering), Rhines Rising Star Larry Hench Assistant Professor of Materials Science & Engineering at the University of Florida, delivered the keynote address, discussing strategies that helped her on her own Ph.D. journey.

The Research Summit is a key part of the co-curricular programming the Duke UCEM has developed to support its Sloan Scholars. It offers Scholars a chance early in their graduate school career (usually their second year) to deliver presentations about their research topics. It also helps them work on explaining their research succinctly to audiences who are not necessarily experts in their fields. The Duke UCEM provides presentation coaching for the Sloan Scholars in preparation for the summit.

Event program (PDF)

Video of the Event

Jump to Individual Presentations:


Director Looney Featured in SloanConnect Newsletter

Duke UCEM Director Jacqueline Looney shared some thoughts on the importance of mentoring in the February issue of the SloanConnect newsletter (page 3). Check out page 3 of the newsletter (PDF).


Tyler Johnson

Sloan Scholar Tyler Johnson Accepted as Arms Control Fellow at SURF

Sloan Scholar Tyler Johnson, a third-year Ph.D. student in physics, has been accepted as an Arms Control Fellow at the Stanford US-Russia Forum. SURF’s mission is to facilitate research and cooperation in areas of mutual interest to both the United States and Russia, as well as link emerging scholars and leaders in the US-Russia space. This year’s 51 fellows were chosen from a pool of more than 700 applications from 215 universities in Russia and the United States.

See the announcement


Duke UCEM: On George Floyd and What We Do

The following message was sent on June 4 to the Sloan Scholars and to staff and faculty affiliated with the Duke UCEM:

Dear Sloan Scholars and Duke UCEM Colleagues,

Like you, we are pained and appalled by the string of recent tragedies that have once again illustrated the injustices that our communities of color face every day. As noted in President Price’s message to the Duke community on Saturday and reiterated in The Graduate School’s statement today, it is not enough to merely recognize and grieve these circumstances; we as a university must work together to change them and to continue addressing the effects of structural racism.

Our work with the Duke University Center of Exemplary Mentoring is one small part of living up to that responsibility. The Duke UCEM’s mission has always been not merely to recruit more Ph.D. students from underrepresented groups, but also to help make Duke an inclusive, supportive environment where they can thrive. Now, more than ever, the importance of that work is clear. We thank you for everything you have done to help further the Duke UCEM’s mission in our first three years, and we look forward to more fruitful collaborations going forward.

The Duke UCEM has reached out to our Sloan Scholars to offer support and opportunities for discussion amid these difficult times. We hosted a discussion for the Scholars with Dr. Marvice Marcus from CAPS this morning. The Graduate School’s Office of Graduate Student Affairs is also checking in with various graduate student groups to provide support as needed and helping various faculty who have reached out to us for guidance on initiating discussions within their own departments. Please do not hesitate to let us know if you have any questions or suggestions on ways to support our students during this time, or on our mission of creating a more robust, inclusive environment of support at Duke.

Thank you, and take care!


Paula D. McClain, Co-Principal Investigator, Duke UCEM
Calvin Howell, Co-Principal Investigator, Duke UCEM
Jacqueline Looney, Director, Duke UCEM


Also: Statement from Adam F. Falk, president of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation

Gonzales and Stohn

2 Sloan Scholars Receive NSF Fellowships

Gonzales and Stohn

Sloan Scholars Gavin Gonzales and Adriana Stohn are among 15 Duke Ph.D. students who have received prestigious awards from the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program (NSF GRFP) for 2020.

Gonzales is a Ph.D. student in biomedical engineering with a concentration in biomaterials. He is pursuing research with Professors Shyni Varghese and Stefan Zauscher, focusing on understanding the relationship between molecular structure and function of lubricants that can protect cartilage from wear such as occurs in osteoarthritis.

Stohn is a Ph.D. student in electrical and computer engineering with a concentration in imaging and optics. She is conducting research in Associate Professor Michael Gehm’s group, and her work focuses on understanding how using computational methods can help address a longstanding challenge in optical engineering — how to image objects through barriers that scatter light, such as fog, atmospheric turbulence, or thin layers of biological tissue.

Gonzales and Stohn, both of whom recently completed their first year at Duke, are also passionate mentors for students in STEM. Gonzles has been a volunteer and mentor for students from underrepresented minorities through his work in STEM teaching and mentoring programs, while Stohn works to encourage young women to pursue careers in science and technology and has implemented her ideas through volunteering with Girls Who Code clubs.

research summit

Sloan Scholars Participate in First Duke UCEM Research Summit

Members of the first cohort of Sloan Scholars participated in the first annual Duke University Center of Exemplary Mentoring Research Summit on Tuesday, February 18.

The research summit is part of the co-curricular programming the Duke UCEM offers Sloan Scholars as part of their professional development. The scholars prepared five-minute presentations about their areas of research and received presentation coaching from Duke UCEM staff before giving their talks at the summit.

“A key part of graduate students’ development into scholars is being able to explain their research to a variety of audiences,” said Jacqueline Looney, director of the Duke UCEM and senior associate dean at The Graduate School. “We organized the research summit to give our Sloan Scholars an opportunity to hone their skills in that area. We want this to become an annual event where students and faculty in the Duke UCEM departments can learn about what our Sloan Scholars are working on, share insights, and strengthen their connections with each other.”

Lorin Crawford, the RGSS Assistant Professor of Biostatistics at Brown University and a 2017 Ph.D. graduate of the Duke statistical science program, delivered the keynote address.

Photos from the research summit

Hadiya Harrigan

Sloan Scholar Q&A: Hadiya Harrigan

By Hanna Grimm
Duke Graduate School Communications Intern

Hadiya HarriganHadiya Harrigan

Ph.D. Student in Mechanical Engineering
Fall 2018 Cohort

Tell me a little about what brought you to Duke.

One of my personal goals was to pursue a Ph.D., but I wasn’t sure exactly what within mechanical engineering I wanted to study or what school I wanted to attend. Therefore, I researched various schools and mechanical engineering programs; Duke was one of the schools that I decided to apply to. I was interested in what the professors were doing, specifically my adviser, Dr. Aquino. I was excited to learn more about computational mechanics, data-driven modeling, and inverse problems.

How has the Sloan Scholarship helped you?

One of the main reasons I liked the Sloan Scholarship—although I didn’t get to take full advantage of this resource—was the Early Start program. When I was transitioning from high school to undergrad, I was a part of an undergraduate early-start program at Tuskegee University. This program was beneficial because I got to know a few people before school started, take some classes, and get acclimated to Tuskegee. I liked that the Sloan Scholarship has a somewhat similar program. I wasn’t able to go because I had an internship already lined up, but I did get to participate in some events virtually. It was nice to get some tips and tricks on how to do well in graduate school. There were a lot of awesome opportunities from attending those seminars online.

Tell me about your research.

My research is related to physics-based modeling and machine learning. Over the summer, I completed a small project as an introduction to using machine learning for sound identification. When I formally start my research, I’ll use machine learning with ultrasound scans to diagnose patients’ vascular health as healthy or unhealthy. Physics-based modeling will provide more in-depth understanding of the machine learning model parameters.

What are some significant experiences you had as a result of the program?

Every semester we meet with the Graduate Sloan Intern in small groups to support and uplift one another. Additionally, The Graduate School hosts plenty of events for us. We have various lunches where different speakers talk to us about their graduate experience and give us advice. Those events have made my experience as a graduate student better.

What do you like about Duke so far?

On campus, my favorite thing is all the study areas. For example, The Edge is awesome; there are white boards and study rooms everywhere. The whole campus is very conducive to studying.

What are some challenges you’ve encountered and how have you overcome them?

My biggest challenge right now is classes. I found it hard to transition from undergrad to graduate classes. For example, I didn’t take linear algebra in undergrad and now that I’m in a computational mechanics lab, linear algebra is very important. It was difficult to come in without that background. To overcome this challenge, I went to Math Help Room regularly, formed study groups, and talked to students with more Linear Algebra experience.

Additionally, Sloan has been a great resource, and I’m a part of a newer group called Sisters in STEM. Dean [Jacqueline] Looney in The Graduate School is one of the program leaders, and we get together once a month for conversation. We talk about struggles we are having in graduate school and outside of graduate school, including finding work-life balance.


Sloan Scholars Share Ph.D. Insights with High School Students through DukeREP

By Natalie Rozman
Ph.D. Student in Electrical and Computer Engineering

The Duke Research in Engineering Program (DukeREP) is a seven-week summer program where local Durham high school students interested in science and engineering are matched with labs in the Duke Pratt School of Engineering. The program helps students gain exposure to academic research and encourages them to pursue higher education and explore careers in STEM.

Pratt’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering decided to participate in DukeREP in order to specifically engage historically underrepresented minorities in engineering for this program. As a program coordinator for DukeREP, I helped the ECE department recruit a cohort in which two-thirds of the participants were ethnic minorities and half were female. I also knew that I wanted to get the Duke University Center of Exemplary Mentoring—and specifically the Sloan Scholars—involved.

As a Sloan Scholar, I understand the value of mentorship and knew that an informal lunch with a Q&A session would be a great opportunity for the high school students to interact with the Sloan Scholars. Through this event, the high school students were exposed to graduate school and the many postgraduate options offered by a doctoral degree in a STEM field. The high school students had a candid discussion with the Sloan Scholars, hearing not only the successes but also the struggles they faced during their undergraduate studies and as Ph.D. students. Through this event, the students had a better understanding of how to apply to graduate school, which factors to consider in choosing a graduate school, and what to expect once accepted.


Natalie Rozman (front row, third from left) with fellow Sloan Scholars and DukeREP participants.

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