VIRTUAL: Duke Research Week 2021 (1.25 to 1.29.21)

The Duke University Office of Research Hosts a virtual celebration and showcase of Duke faculty and students’ novel research accomplishments Jan. 25 through Jan. 29.

Duke Cancer Institute member Charles A. Gersbach, PhD (Rooney Family Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Associate Professor of Surgery, Orthopaedic Surgery, & Cell Biology) is among the speakers.



Monday, January 25

9 a.m. to 10 a.m. 

Innovative Methods for SARS-CoV-2 Testing and Modeling

Introduction: Colin S. Duckett, Vice Dean for Basic Science


  • Thomas N. Denny, Chief Operating Officer of the Duke Human Vaccine Institute and Professor of Medicine
  • Steven B. Haase, Associate Professor of Biology
  • John Harer, Professor of Mathematics

SUMMARY: In August of 2020, Duke University launched a SARS-CoV-2 surveillance testing program as part of a comprehensive COVID-19 mitigation plan for the Fall semester. The foundation of this program was an innovative pooled qPCR testing method that regularly surveyed students, faculty and staff. In addition to detecting the presence or absence of virus, the pooled tests provided quantitative data regarding viral load. Time series data collected from the pooled tests, symptomatic testing, contact tracing, and quarantine afforded a view of viral transmission and infection dynamics. This population-level data was used to inform mitigation policies and parameter estimates for mathematical and statistical modeling approaches. In parallel to the qPCR surveillance program, new SARS-CoV-2 testing methods are being developed that may augment current surveillance capabilities. A novel next generation sequencing platform in development has the capability to support high-throughput surveillance testing while providing quantitative sequence-level data for identifying and tracking SARS-CoV-2 variants within the population. Details of methods and lessons learned will be discussed.

11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. 

Young Voters in the 2020 Presidential Election and Beyond

Introduction: Lawrence Carin, Vice President for Research

Speaker: D. Sunshine Hillygus, Professor of Political Science

[Two $100 vouchers will be awarded to participating attendees of this lunchtime webinar. Recipients will be chosen at random.]

Tuesday, January 26

8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. 

myRESEARCHsuite: Your Connection to All Things Research at Duke

Introduction: Geeta Swamy, MD, Associate Vice President for Research and Vice Dean for Scientific Integrity


  • Derek Jones, Product Manager, Office of Research Informatics
  • Jamie Wylie, Program Director, Duke Office of Research Initiatives

SUMMARY Explore how the myRESEARCHsuite of services and applications can support your research from idea generation to closeout. With a portal to manage your research portfolio (myRESEARCHhome), a personalized help hotline (myRESEARCHnavigators), and a project lifecycle resource roadmap (myRESEARCHpath – coming January 2021), myRESEARCHsuite is your connection to all things research at Duke. This webinar will include live demonstrations of these applications, and delve into utilizing the suite for proposal development, project initiation, and more.

11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. 

Daubechies Lecture 2021: Waves: Building Blocks in Nature and in Mathematics
*This Annual Keynote in honor of Duke professor and renowned mathematician Ingrid Daubechies.

Welcome: Sally Kornbluth, Provost and Jo Rae Wright University Professor

Introduction: Valerie S. Ashby, Dean of Trinity College of Arts & Sciences

Speaker: Gigliola Staffilani, Abby Rockefeller Mauze Professor of Mathematics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

SUMMARY: In this talk, MIT Abby Rockefeller Mauze Professor of Mathematics Gigliola Staffilani will provide an overview of wave phenomena in nature and explain how mathematicians use tools from many different areas of mathematics such as Fourier analysis, harmonica analysis, dynamical systems, number theory, and probability to understand these phenomena. Examples will be provided of the beautiful interaction between the “concrete" and the “abstract” and how this interaction constantly moves the boundaries of research forward.

[Two $100 vouchers will be awarded to participating attendees of this lunchtime webinar. Recipients will be chosen at random]

2 p.m. to 3 p.m.  

Graduate Student Sloan Scholars and Postdoc Talks

SUMMARY: Learn about the path-breaking research conducted by graduate students and postdocs at Duke in these 6-minute TEDx-style talks.

Keynote: Calvin R. Howell, Professor of Physics

Wednesday, January 27

9 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.  

Announcing the Winners of the 2021 Impact Challenge FlyRDU


  • Lawrence Carin, Vice President for Research
  • William “Bill” Sandifer, A.A.E., Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority

9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.  

Undergraduate Student Research Poster Competition

SUMMARY: A virtual poster showcase for undergraduate students to present your research findings through an oral presentation and visual poster display. Prizes will be given to the first, second, and third place winners.

Keynote: John Blackshear, Associate Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students

11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.  

Research Town Hall: Fundamentals of the Scientific Process: From Formulating the Research Question To Study Design and Data Collection

SUMMARY: Although the phases of the research cycle are perceived as basic and untroubled in today’s competitive and complex research word, day to day research practice have shown potential for common misunderstandings, misinterpretations and data misuse. Duke Faculty researchers and data experts invite you to review and discuss fundamentals of the scientific process, how to minimize the risk for error and questionable practices when formulating and refining research questions, converting them in testable hypotheses for study design, converting raw data to analytic data sets, data analysis and drawing study conclusions.

Panel I Discussion: Creating Content for Researchers and Trainees: Challenges and Good Practices

Moderator: Tina Davenport, Senior Biostatistician, Department of Biostatistics and Bioinformatics


  • Jessica Cranfill, Training and Education Coordinator, Duke Office of Clinical Research
  • Anika Lucas Sylvester, MD, MTS, Nephrology Fellow at Duke University Health System
  • Gina-Maria Pomann, Statistical Research Scientist and the Director of the Duke Biostatistics, Epidemiology and Research Design (BERD) Methods Core

Panel II Discussion: Fundamentals of the Scientific Process and Minimizing Risk for Errors: Common Mistakes When Working With Data

Moderator: Steven C. Grambow, Assistant Professor of Biostatistics and Bioinformatics


  • David Corcoran, Director of Genomic Analysis and Bioinformatics Shared Resource
  • Rasheed Adebayo Gbadegesin, MD, MBBS, Professor of Pediatrics and Medicine
  • Matthew Hirschey, Associate Professor of Medicine, Endocrinology, Metabolism, and Nutrition and Pharmacology and Cancer Biology
  • Dana Pasquale, Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Sociology, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences

*Attending this event fulfills the RCR-200 requirement for faculty and staff.

[Two $100 vouchers will be awarded to participating attendees of this lunchtime town hall. Recipients will be chosen at random]

1:30 PM – 3:00 PM

Annual Invented at Duke Celebration

SUMMARY: Co-hosted by Duke OLV & Duke I&E, Invented at Duke celebrates and promotes the diverse accomplishments of Duke innovators and entrepreneurs. The event showcases select technologies, inventions, and novel ideas-illustrating the breadth of Duke discoveries-while also highlighting Duke's innovation and entrepreneurship resources and facilitating discussions among Duke inventors and the broader Duke community. The event aims to create an atmosphere of celebration around innovations coming out of Duke, provide education about Duke's resources, and serve as a platform for inventors to engage with each other, the local investment community, alumni, Duke leadership, and researchers.

Keynote: Jungsang Kim, Professor of Electrical & Computer Engineering

Thursday, January 28

11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m.  

The Duke Quantum Center

Introduction: Ravi Venkat Bellamkonda, Vinik Dean of the Pratt School of Engineering

Quantum Computers for Research

Speaker: Christopher R. Monroe, Professor of Electrical & Computer Engineering and Physics

Building Next Generation Quantum Computers

Speaker: Jungsang Kim, Professor of Electrical & Computer Engineering

[Two $100 vouchers will be awarded to participating attendees of this lunchtime webinar. Recipients will be chosen at random.]

4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. 

Decoding and Programming the Human Genome with CRISPR Technologies

Introduction: Gregory E. Crawford, Professor of Pediatrics and Associate Professor of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology

Speaker: Charles A. Gersbach, Rooney Family Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Associate Professor of Surgery, Orthopaedic Surgery, and Cell Biology

Friday, January 29

11:45 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. 

AI Health

Minimax Pareto Fairness and Subgroup Robustness

Introduction: Michael Pencina, Vice Dean for Data Science and Information Technology

Speaker: Guillermo Sapiro, James B. Duke Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Professor of Computer Science and Mathematics, and Microsoft Fellow

SUMMARY: We first formulate and formally characterize group fairness as a multi-objective optimization problem, where each sensitive group risk is a separate objective. We propose a fairness criterion where a classifier achieves minimax risk and is Pareto-efficient w.r.t. all groups, avoiding unnecessary harm, and can lead to the best zero-gap model if policy dictates so. We provide a simple optimization algorithm compatible with deep neural networks to satisfy these constraints. Since our method does not require test-time access to sensitive attributes, it can be applied to reduce worst-case classification errors between outcomes in unbalanced classification problems. We test the proposed methodology on real case-studies of predicting income, ICU patient mortality, skin lesions classification, and assessing credit risk, demonstrating how our framework compares favorably to other approaches. We then extend this work when the sensitive classes are not known even at training time, achieving this via a game theoretical optimization approach. We show the implications of this to the concept to subgroup robustness. This is joint work with Natalia Martinez, Martin Bertran, Afroditi Papadaki, and Miguel Rodrigues.

Inter/Intra Subject Brain to Brain Signal Transfer from Robust Deep Networks

Speaker: Vahid Tarokh, Rhodes Family Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Professor of Mathematics, and Microsoft Fellow

SUMMARY: Brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) are promising for restoring, supplementing and enhancing human capabilities, and have many potential applications in health and engineering. These BCIs must generalize well both for individuals, and across unseen subjects of a population. This is a challenging problem given the non-stationary nature of neural activity signals, limited training data, etc.

We will discuss robust intra/inter-subject BCIs in the context of neural decoding of motor intentions. First, we discuss (potential) limited data availability, and demonstrate that this may be addressed by new robust feature extraction methods, and their combinations with deep learning. We then cast inter-subject neural activity mapping in a probabilistic framework. Specifically, our proposed algorithms use various deep generative models transfer the robust representation of the neural activity of a source subject to that of a destination subject for inference. We verify our approach on an experimental data set in which two macaque monkeys perform memory-guided visual saccades to one of eight target locations on a screen.

How Research in the Cloud Enables New Approaches: Azure, Research and the Fellowship Program

Cloud based resources are enabling new and different approaches to computationally based research. Advanced technology, extended collaboration, and “unlimited” resources are enabling approaches to deliver science. This talk will discuss some of the benefits, risks, and considerations for leveraging cloud for research. Examples from recent experiences will be shared. Additionally, the talk will discuss the Microsoft Fellowship program which is an experimental program to help support researchers to approach new ways.

Speaker: Rick Friedman, Research Industry Executive, Microsoft Academic Research

[Two $100 vouchers will be awarded to participating attendees of this lunchtime webinar. Recipients will be chosen at random.]