Sloan Scholars

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David Pujol

Sloan Scholar David Pujol Earns His Ph.D.

Sloan Scholar David Pujol graduated from Duke in December 2022 with his Ph.D. in computer science. He is the second Duke Sloan Scholar to earn his degree.

Pujol was part of the first cohort of Sloan Scholars recruited by the Duke University Center of Exemplary Mentoring, starting his Ph.D. at Duke in fall 2018. He received a bachelor of computer science and mathematics from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. His research at Duke focused on understanding the interactions between privacy protected data and fair algorithms. His dissertation, completed under the guidance of Associate Professor Ashwin Machanavajjhala, is titled “Fairness in Differentially Private Data Release.”

Pujol is now a scientist at Tumult Labs, a company cofounded by Machanavajjhala that works on a software platform for designing and deploying differentially private solutions.

Register for 2023 Duke UCEM Research Summit (Feb. 23)

The Duke University Center of Exemplary Mentoring will hold its annual research summit on Thursday, February 23, 3:30-5:30 p.m. in Bonk Auditorium at the French Family Science Center. Sloan Scholars—Ph.D. students in the physical sciences and engineering—will deliver short presentations about their research. The event will also feature a keynote address by Andrew D. Jones III, an assistant professor of environmental engineering and affiliate faculty in the Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science Department, the Duke Materials Initiative, and the Integrated Toxicology & Environmental Health Program at Duke.

Members of the Duke community are welcome to attend.

Register Now

Event Program (PDF)

Keynote Speaker

Andrew D. Jones IIIAndrew D. Jones III

Akhenaton-Andrew (Andrew) D. Jones III is an assistant professor of environmental engineering and affiliate faculty in the Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science Department, the Duke Materials Initiative, and the Integrated Toxicology & Environmental Health Program at Duke University. His research uses engineering and policy analysis to help solve global challenges related to water and health.

Jones is a 2021 recipient of the NIH R35 Maximizing Investigator’s Research Award to develop new models and tools for studying biofilms and a 2019 Sloan SEED fund award to develop new tools for point of use water quality monitoring systems. He was recognized as Young Investigator by the Center for Biofilm Engineering at Montana State, the premier center for biofilm research in the US. He received a B.S. in mathematics and a B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from MIT, where he was a Lemelson Presidential Fellow and an Alfred P. Sloan MPHD Scholar. He completed postdoctoral training as a Future Faculty Fellow at Northeastern University. He has directly supervised 2 high school students, over 20 undergraduates, 5 M.S. students, 5 Ph.D. students, and 2 postdoctoral trainees, including 8 from underrepresented backgrounds and 19 women. Jones and his team have presented at more than 40 conferences and seminars.

Student presenting research

Sloan Scholar Barreto Receives Prestigious Training Grant in Biomolecular and Tissue Engineering

Sloan Scholar Amanda Barreto has received a National Research Service Award (NRSA) Institutional Research Training Grant (T32) to help fund her research project and training for a career in biotechnology. 

Barreto is a biomedical engineering Ph.D. candidate with a concentration in tissue engineering. Her research focuses on kidney disease and developing regenerative techniques. Chronic kidney disease affects more than 10% of the global population, and affected patients experience varying levels of kidney defects. The only treatment for most patients includes dialysis or organ transplant. 

Barreto is a 2021-2022 Alfred P. Sloan Scholar and has received an honorable mention for the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships Program. She received a bachelor of science in biomedical engineering, magna cum laude, from Florida International University.

The Predoctoral NIH T32 Fellowship in Duke’s Center for Biomolecular and Tissue Engineering is funded by a grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences NIH NSRA Program. The award supports the departments’ capacity to train the next generation of scientists in biotechnology. The fellows are exposed to various professional development workshops and seminars and participate in a summer internship. The goal of the program is to enhance fellows’ training for biotechnology careers. 

Cameron Darwin

Cameron Darwin Becomes 1st Duke Sloan Scholar to Earn Ph.D.

Cameron Darwin earned his Ph.D. in mathematics in September 2022, becoming the first Sloan Scholar at Duke to complete his degree.

Darwin came to Duke in fall 2019 as a member of the second cohort of Sloan Scholars recruited by the Duke University Center of Exemplary Mentoring. He received his bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the University of Texas at Austin, where he became interested in differential geometry and physics.

His dissertation, completed under the guidance of Professors Kirsten Wickelgren and Lenhard Ng, was titled “Aspects of Quadratically Enriched Enumerative Geometry of Complete Intersections in Projective Space.”

Richardson and Barreto

Sloan Scholars, Affiliate Present at Early Start Poster Symposium

Sloan Scholars Amanda Barreto and Kiarra Richardson, as well as Sloan Affiliate Aristotle Martin, presented posters on July 28 at the Early Start Poster Symposium organized by the Duke BioCoRE (Biosciences Collaborative for Research Engagement) Program. Dionna Gamble, a 2020 Ph.D. graduate in genetics and genomics, delivered the keynote address.

More Photos from the Symposium

Jessica Lalonde and Ethan LoCicero

Lalonde, LoCicero Named Burroughs Wellcome Fund Fellows

Jessica Lalonde and Ethan LoCicero

Jessica Lalonde and Ethan LoCicero

Sloan Scholars Jessica Lalonde and Ethan LoCicero were among five Duke Ph.D. students named Burroughs Wellcome Fund Fellows under a pilot program to provide professional development support for students researching biological sciences, climate change, and human health. See the story on the Pratt School of Engineering website for details.

Jacqueline Looney

Duke UCEM Director Featured in SloanConnect Newsletter

This story is republished from the May 27, 2022, issue of the SloanConnect newsletter.

Sloan Leader Spotlight: Jackie Looney

After 30 years at Duke University, Senior Associate Dean Jackie Looney will retire next month. Dr. Looney was not only a critical part of the Sloan Scholar program at Duke, but she also led the creation of other programs that enhanced graduate student life on campus.

When she first arrived at Duke, she was a recent PhD graduate from Vanderbilt University. Initially an assistant dean for graduate recruitment, she took up the charge of creating services and finding resources to support graduate students. At first, she admits she didn’t entirely know the way, but she trusted her intuition (having just finished graduate school herself), and she knew how to do her research! She investigated other programs, looked at graduate schools across the country, and talked with students and faculty members about what they needed. With this approach, she used multiple voices and her own instincts to forge a path ahead.

Incorporating multiple voices was equally as important when launching the University Center of Exemplary Mentoring and Sloan Scholars program. At her suggestion, every academic department that signed on to the program had to commit two faculty champions. Additionally, she built in administrative support: every unit in the graduate school had to contribute, including academic affairs, finance, and admissions. This approach not only gave the Sloan Scholar program buy-in from the start, it also made it sustainable—multiple people in the graduate school contributed the program’s success.

Jackie Looney with two Sloan Scholars

Jacqueline Looney with Sloan Scholars Celine Robinson (left) and Natalie Rozman

To further its sustainability, Dr. Looney also aligned Sloan Scholars with the graduate school’s strategic plan, including recruitment, professional development, student well-being, and mentoring. She explains how this was a win-win: “While we wanted to have a program that was giving opportunity to underrepresented students, we also wanted to create a program that was going to benefit the larger graduate population at Duke.”

And Dr. Looney didn’t stop at Sloan Scholars. She also introduced a mentoring award, parental leave policy, and numerous other programs that benefit Duke students in real and meaningful ways.

“I am so proud to know that Duke is one of the graduate schools in the country that sets a standard—the standard of care for your students,” Dr. Looney says.

Those who work with her agree. “Having worked in higher education for over twenty years, there are people who stand out in my mind as true servants to the field. Jackie is one such person,” says Lorelle Espinosa, program director for higher education at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. “Jackie is on my short list of individuals to reach out to when in need of guidance. She is deeply passionate and skilled at advancing our mutual goals advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion in STEM higher education—I am indeed lucky to have her in my corner, and so is Sloan!”

Dr. Looney encourages students to approach their graduate work with similar tenets to her own career:

  • Collaborate. Create a board of directors for your graduate career: a faculty advisor for academic requirements, a staff person for the ins and outs of the department, a senior grad student for a tutor and friend. “You can’t get everything that you need as a graduate student from one individual. Number one, you’re going to wear that person down. Number two, someone who’s comfortable helping you navigate the academic requirements may not be comfortable helping you navigate the personal matters,” she says.
  • Reach out. Become engaged with the university, with the graduate school, with student groups, and with the community. Dr. Looney encourages student groups to reach across disciplines, across schools, and to bring other students in the mix. Broadening your view to include other people, other interests, and other members of your community will energize your work in the lab.
  • Most importantly, have mentors. “The one thing that I know to be true about good mentoring is that when students have it, they are more productive, they become more involved in their departments, and they become more involved in the life of the university,” she observed. “They are more satisfied with their programs, where they are, what they’re doing.”

The Sloan Scholars program at Duke and other University Centers of Exemplary Mentoring have benefited from Dr. Looney’s vision, persistence, and wisdom. Thanks to her, graduate students—Sloan Scholars and otherwise—have greater opportunities and more fulsome support systems.

Ortega and Martin

2 Duke UCEM Students Earn Honorable Mentions for NSF Graduate Research Fellowships

Sloan Scholar Eduardo Ortega and Sloan UCEM Affiliate Aristotle Martin were among the Duke Ph.D. students who received honorable mentions for the prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships for 2021.





Ortega is a Ph.D. student in electrical and computer engineering with a concentration in hardware security. His research focuses on understanding how emerging computational technology may be pivoted as a cryptographic scheme for hardware security primitives. He is a member of the fall 2021 cohort of Sloan Scholars.

Martin is a Ph.D. student in biomedical engineering. He is part of the inaugural cohort of Sloan UCEM Affiliates, a new initiative launched by the Duke University Center of Exemplary Mentoring in fall 2021 to expand its support to more students. His research focuses on using supercomputers to simulate blood flow in patient-specific vascular geometries at cellular resolution.

Among the Duke UCEM’s 40 Sloan Scholars and eight Sloan UCEM Affiliates, seven have received NSF GRFs, and four others have earned honorable mentions.

Icons of test tubes, microscope, beaker, circuit symbol, atom, pie, and close tag symbol

Video: 2022 Duke UCEM Research Summit

Ten Sloan Scholars presented short talks about their research at the 2022 Duke UCEM Research Summit on February 17. Now in its third year, the summit offers an opportunity for Sloan Scholars to present their research relatively early in their graduate school careers. As part of their professional development, the Scholars also received coaching on their presentations before the summit.

Howard Conyers (Ph.D.’09 Mechanical Engineering) delivered the keynote address, speaking about his professional experience as a NASA engineer and a pitmaster and barbecue enthusiast.

Watch the Summit

Jump to Specific Presentations

Register for 2022 Duke UCEM Research Summit, Feb. 17

2022 Duke UCEM Research SummitThe Duke University Center of Exemplary Mentoring (UCEM) will host its annual Research Summit on February 17 at 3:00 p.m. Ten Sloan Scholars—select Ph.D. students from Duke’s physical sciences and engineering programs—will deliver short virtual talks about their research.

Members of the Duke community are welcome to attend. Register at

In addition to Sloan Scholars’ presentations, the event will also feature a keynote address by Howard Conyers (Ph.D.’09 Mechanical Engineering), an aerospace engineer at NASA and a pitmaster and barbecue enthusiast who has hosted a food show on PBS and been featured in the New York Times and other national publications.

Event Program (PDF)

Keynote Speaker

Howard Conyers, Ph.D.’09 Mechanical Engineering

Howard ConyersHoward Conyers, Rocket Scientist and Pitmaster from Paxville, South Carolina, is the founder of Conyers Family BBQ, Gumbo Jubilee, and the 100 Acres Project. After over 20 years of learning the history of the South and earning a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering, he has worked for NASA for over 10 years.

He officially launched Conyers Family BBQ LLC in 2016 to be a pitmaster, cultural food educator, and STEM expert in the New Orleans area. His emphasis quickly became cultural educational dinners, media productions, and demonstrations. In 2018, Dr. Conyers hosted and co-produced the PBS Digital Studios show Nourish, and it was awarded the Telly Award and a Webby Nominee in its pilot season.

For his combined interest, Dr. Conyers was one of 25 people recognized as a Southerner of the South by Southern Living in 2018. In 2020, he partnered with Kingsford’s Charcoal to lead the development of the Preserve the Pit Program, which provides training and mentorship for barbecue professionals.

Dr. Conyers has conducted much research in validating the oral history of barbecue, distilling, and Southern food culture, and he has uncovered foundations of Southern foodways that were shaped by Black hands. Renowned for his knowledge of American barbecue and Southern foods, he is showcasing that African Americans have heavily shaped American barbecue despite not getting their proper credit, while also exhibiting their ingenuity. As a product of the deep rural South, he is taking important lessons of the past and applying them to the present.

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