The Quad: News From Around Campus

Three Duke mainstays remembered

Longtime history professor Raymond Gavins was a pioneer his whole life. The first African American to graduate from the University of Virginia’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, as well as the first African American on the history faculty at Duke, he focused his scholarship and teaching on the struggles faced by many, including himself, during the Jim Crow era.

Gavins arrived at Duke in 1970 and helped launch the history department’s oral-history program. More recently, he worked with the Behind the Veil Project at the Center for Documentary Studies, conducting interviews with African Americans from across the South. Gavins received the 2008 Southern Historical Association John W. Blassingame Award “in recognition of his distinguished scholarship and mentorship in African- American history.”

He died on May 22 at age seventy-three.

Johannes Horst Meyer, a physicist and the Fritz London Professor of physics at Duke, was at the university for fifty-seven years.

Meyer’s work on experimental condensed matter physics earned him acclaim and multiple prizes. His efforts as a mentor and teacher were no less fruitful—among his former Ph.D. students are 1996 Nobel Prize winner Robert Richardson Ph.D. ’66, two members of the National Academy of Sciences, and twelve fellows of the American Physical Society.

“What stood out about Horst was how energetic he was and how committed he was to his students,” said Bob Behringer ’70, Ph.D. ’75, who studied with Meyer as an undergraduate and a Ph.D. student before joining him on the physics faculty at Duke in 1980. “He was very exuberant, and that exuberance just spilled over into everything,” Behringer added, noting that Meyer would get so engrossed in his many responsibilities that he’d “literally run down the hall” to get from one class to the next.

Meyer was a private and modest man—driving an ancient Volkswagen Rabbit and carrying a duct-taped briefcase around campus—but he had a far-reaching effect. A passionate supporter of arts from the Nasher Museum to the Ciompi Quartet, he served on the advisory board of the Duke Chamber Arts Society for more than three decades and was known for greeting visiting musicians with red bananas and Swiss chocolates. Duke Libraries also has been the beneficiary of Meyer’s gifts, as he helped furnish the History of Medical Collections and the collection of rare materials in physics.

Perhaps his most notable on-campus contributions were in maintaining and beautifying the Sarah P. Duke Gardens. He helped to develop the Asiatic Arboretum, the Doris Duke Center, and the signature Arched Bridge. He was a founding member on the Gardens’ advisory board and, in his final years, established a maintenance endowment to ensure their upkeep. “Horst was a one-of-a-kind person,” said Bill LeFevre, executive director of the gardens. “He considered Duke Gardens ‘a little piece of heaven,’ and he did everything he could to make them better and better over time.”

In 2014, Meyer was awarded the University Medal, the school’s highest honor for distinguished service. During the presentation, president Richard H. Brodhead called him “a force for good—first in the department of physics, and now across the campus and throughout the world’s scientific community.”

He died on August 15 at age ninety.

Over his sixteen years at the university, in addition to his role as professor of English and Romance studies, Srinivas Aravamudan served as director of the John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute, dean of the humanities, and director of the Humanities Writ Large initiative. The last was an effort initiated by Aravamudan aimed at reconsidering the place of humanities in undergraduate education.

“I knew I would be changed as a person within the first few moments of meeting Srinivas,” said Valerie Ashby, the dean of Trinity College. “He was such a gracious person, and such a humble champion of the humanities.”

Beyond Duke, he served as president for two humanities- based organizations: the international Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes, and the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies. He also was an accomplished author, winning the Modern Language Association’s first-book prize for Tropicopolitans: Colonialism and Agency, 1688-1804. He died on April 13 at age fifty-four.

Forward and upward

Duke Forward, a five-year comprehensive campaign launched in 2012, surpassed its $3.25 billion fundraising target in July, nearly a year prior to its stated end date. According to president Richard H. Brodhead, “Reaching the goal a full year early is an extraordinary testimony to the belief people have in this university and its mission.”

The campaign will continue as scheduled until June 2017, as it aims to meet the sub-goals that were set for each of Duke’s schools, the athletics program, and the libraries, as well as goals set across “university-wide priorities.” Chief among these priorities are financial aid, faculty support, Bass Connections, and interdisciplinary initiatives in the arts, energy, global health, and innovation and entrepreneurship.

Duke’s minimum wage continues its upward trajectory

In August, the minimum hourly wage for Duke employees was raised to thirteen dollars—an increase from the previous rate of twelve dollars. Compensation for Duke staff had been a major topic of discussion at the end of the spring semester, as Duke Students and Workers in Solidarity had protested—among other things—for a higher minimum wage for employees, targeting a floor of fifteen dollars hourly by mid-2019.

The most recent change is the second increase in two years—the minimum was raised to its previous level from $10.91 in July 2015—and occurred as part of an annual review, says vice president for administration Kyle Cavanaugh. The increase further distances Duke’s minimum wage from the federal and state minimum of $7.25 per hour.

Summer session helps the inaugural Washington Duke Scholars get ready for campus life

Freshman Brennen Neeley wasn’t sure what it meant when, upon his acceptance to Duke this spring, he was admitted as a Washington Duke Scholar. Focused on aiding first-generation college students, the newly established program hadn’t outlined specific benefits, until he came to campus.

“We came in, put all our stuff down, set up our rooms, and they took us to East Duke, to the Nelson Music Room,” says Neeley, who hails from Georgetown, Kentucky. “The program directors walked in and introduced themselves…and then they said, ‘Okay—everything is free.’ And there was just this gigantic sigh of relief in the room.”

Indeed, the Washington Duke Scholars program includes full four-year tuition for recipients. But the investment is more than just monetary—it covers access to a number of programs aimed at facilitating these students’ transitions to Duke. Most notably, this summer, all thirty inaugural scholars were on campus for a six-week session, during which they learned the rigors of Duke academics firsthand. The new course, ARTSCI 101, focused on both statistics and writing as applied to public-health research; the scholars also had daily “reflection” periods with student assistants to prepare for the added responsibilities of college life.

Neeley notes that the program provided exposure in a number of ways—not just to surrounding areas like the Durham Farmer’s Market and Northgate Mall. “We were introduced to people who could look very ordinary,” Neeley says, “and then you’d sit down and have a conversation with them, and you’d be like, ‘I can’t ever think the same again.’ ”

After a five-day respite back home before the fall semester, Neeley returned to campus for freshman move-in, where he quickly readjusted to the Duke rhythms. That meant he could focus on the best parts of orientation.

“It’s been really nice, for example, introducing yourself to a new person every day,” he says, “but also knowing that if you see another Washington Duke Scholar at the Marketplace or West Union, you can go sit with them and reminisce on those six weeks and talk about the class you had in common.”

He’s not certain what he wants to study, but as he works through his courses spread across four departments this semester, Neeley says he feels prepared. “Now I know that when I start a class, there’s no outside factor that should stop me from doing the best that I can.”


Why do humans have chins? To the relief of Jay Leno, Duke evolutionary anthropologist James Pampush has spent the past decade exploring this perplexing presence in humans, one absent in all other animals. In his doctoral dissertation, Pampush argues against some of the common explanations: that they developed as adaptions for easier speech, or they held an importance in mating. His conclusion? Our changing eating habits have led steadily to smaller teeth and jaws, although not all bones receded in size at the same rate. Hence, the chin. A justification for the existence and persistence of goatees, however, was not found.

Why do we mess up names? Names are useful, until they’re mixed up and become cause for embarrassment, as depicted in nearly all romantic comedies. A new study by Duke researchers in the psychology and neuroscience areas identifies the pattern to the way we mistakenly blurt out wrong names. The study finds that wrong names tend to come from the same category—that is, relatives are given the names of other relatives, friends are given the names of other friends. The misnaming phenomenon is also more likely when names are phonetically similar (i.e., they have the same beginning or ending sound), although physical likeness doesn’t affect the propensity to misname—at least, when not on a movie set.

Hunt Institute finds a new Duke home

When it comes to education policy, the distance between Duke and its Tobacco Road rivals isn’t too far to bridge.

In June, the Sanford School announced it will join with the James B. Hunt Institute for Educational Leadership and Policy, a nonpartisan think tank aimed at improving public education. The institute, established in 2001 and named for former North Carolina Governor Jim Hunt, was linked with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The university and the institute severed ties this spring in light of the institute losing state funding in 2015.

The think tank is known nationally for convening governors and policymakers to explore key educational issues. With Sanford’s expertise in education research and child policy, the partnership will aim to—among other goals—create a national conference focused on early-childhood education and policy.

New horizons for graduate students

Over the summer, Duke announced a new program that aims to provide more potential tracks for doctoral students post-graduation. Funded by a three-year, $350,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the program entails a variety of investments in interdisciplinary education: skills training for jobs both academic and not, varying internship opportunities, and an innovative curriculum designed to foster new means of research and analysis. The grant is meant to generate new partnerships and synergies throughout campus—among the graduate school, the Career Center, Duke Libraries, Bass Connections, and others. It also envisions a full-time “navigator” for students, who will assist them as they weigh career options and facilitate faculty mentoring.

DAA teaching award honors a teacher who makes science relatable

Flashlights, wooden blocks, bicycle tires, and Tic-Tacs are all mainstays in the teaching kit of Libby Bucholz Ph.D. ’08. She’s not, however, a kindergarten teacher seeking to survive the Wild West of free time; she’s a professor of biomedical engineering at Duke, generating analogies that explain concepts like computerized topography (CT) scans, magnetic resonance (MR) signals, and piezoelectric transducers.

With the help of these hands-on comparisons, Bucholz—who received the Duke Alumni Association’s Alumni Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching Award (ADUTA) in April—habitually transforms the complexities of biotechnology into digestible, seventy-five-minute stories, making tricky topics more than accessible for students.

“It’s sort of my philosophy, I think. I want to create connections to the material and make sure the students care about it,” says Bucholz, who’s also the associate director of undergraduate studies in biomedical engineering. “That’s my goal, to make them excited and interested. And, hopefully, that will help retention.”

Her toolbox is ever-expanding. In recent semesters, she has begun having classes play an adapted version of the word-guessing party game Taboo—“MRI Taboo,” as she describes it. The goal? Helping her students understand nuanced terms (e.g., “transducer”) by relating them to other key concepts covered in class. Her classes are steeped in concrete, peer-validated examples to inform her audience of the curriculum’s real-world applications.

“I have never been more compelled to do research beyond the scope of a class and ask questions as I have during her classes,” wrote Lauren Heckelman ’16, one of the students who nominated Bucholz for the ADUTA. Heckelman credited Bucholz with inspiring her to pursue teaching, adding that “if I can one day impact a single student the way that she has influenced me, I will consider my career a success.”

The nominations are touching, Bucholz says, as they’re coming from her “really awesome” students. Moreover, the award validates the effectiveness of her teaching techniques. Given the fun Bucholz is having teaching, and the response she’s eliciting from her students, the flashlights and blocks aren’t going anywhere.

“I know a lot of students—they’re learning, they’re engaged, they’re present, they come to class,” she says. “Who cares if it’s a little silly or different?”


SHAWNA YOUNG is the new executive director of the Talent Identification Program (TIP). Young was previously executive director for the Office of Engineering Outreach Programs at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She succeeds Martha Putallaz, who had been Duke TIP’s executive director since 2004.

ANDREW J. READ is the new director of the Duke University Marine Laboratory. The Stephen A. Toth Professor of marine biology at Duke, Read is the successor to Cindy L. Van Dover, who, after ten years as director, will remain on the faculty at the Nicholas School. Read is an expert on marine mammals, sea birds, and sea turtles, and he was nominated in 2015 by President Obama to serve as chair of the U.S. Marine Mammal Commission.

MICHAEL MERSON, the Global Health Institute founding director, announced he will step down next July. Merson has been the institute’s director since 2006.

BOB HARRIS, the voice of Duke broadcasting, is set to retire after this year. Harris, who was inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame in 2006, has called Duke basketball and football games for more than forty years—his voice has been called “the most familiar and recognizable sound at Duke after the bells of the chapel” by president Richard H. Brodhead.

NANCY ANDREWS will step down from her roles as dean of the School of Medicine and vice chancellor for academic affairs after this academic year. Her tenure has included construction of the Mary Duke Biddle Trent Semans Center, creation of four new departments, and the awarding of two Nobel Prizes in Chemistry for work done by medical school faculty members.

One Duke golfer sets a record, another goes to Rio

As her fellow freshmen were settling into laidback summer internships, Virginia Elena Carta was going to work on the golf course.

In late May, Carta delivered a record-setting performance at the NCAA Championship, winning the tournament with a four-day total of sixteen under par. That performance, as well as her eight-stroke advantage over her nearest competitor, were both unprecedented in NCAA championship history.

As an encore, Carta, from Udine, Italy, entered the U.S. Women’s Amateur Open in August. Beginning the match play portion of the tournament as the No. 32 seed, Carta rattled off a string of upsets to reach the 36-hole final.

“I would’ve never expected to get to the final,” Carta says. “I was ready to go shopping with my coach; we had actually planned what malls to go to.”

In the final, Carta fell to Eun Jeong Seong when Seong made a 40-foot birdie on the last hole. Still, Carta called the match “tremendous golf.” She’s excited for the upcoming 2016-17 season, during which she’ll aim to improve some things she picked up while playing with professionals in the LPGA Marathon Classic in July.

“Even when they miss a shot, you never know how they’ll finish the hole,” says Carta. “It’s a really positive attitude on the course, no matter where the ball goes.”

Carta wasn’t the only Duke golfer with an accomplished summer: Her teammate Leona Maguire, a junior, competed for Ireland in the Rio Olympics, finishing twenty-first. Earlier in the summer, Maguire was the top-placing amateur at the British Women’s Open, finishing in twenty-fifth place. She will play in a number of tournaments this fall in an attempt to qualify for the Ladies Professional Golf Association Tour.

The West Union helps students become culinary virtuosos

The symbolism from outside is hard to miss: With its new glossy glass covering, West Union—and dining at Duke—has been revitalized. Step inside, though, and you’ll encounter something that is less like a campus eatery and more like a Chopped facility.

The most inventive space to debut in West Union is the Chef’s Kitchen—a versatile site that shifts between being a pop-up restaurant, a laboratory for courses on food chemistry, and a teaching kitchen for students and faculty and staff members. According to Rick Johnson, associate vice president in the Student Affairs division that oversees housing and dining, an on-campus facility like this hasn’t been seen before in the U.S. outside of culinary schools.

“We know that students want to know how to cook, and most have little experience,” says Johnson. “So we believe that they want some instruction.”

The kitchen, modeled after nearby Southern Season’s Cooking School, consists of sixteen cooking stations and sixteen ovens, spread across two islands. Because of the ample real estate, the teachings can be interactive, rather than devolving into a live episode of Rachael Ray.

“You can get some ideas by watching someone,” Johnson says, “but the beauty of our setup is that the chefs will demo a recipe, the students will go back to the cooking islands, they’ll work on it, the chefs will come out and give culinary school style direction—‘You’re doing this right; turn your heat down’—and give individual instruction to each of the sixteen students.”

The idea has been simmering for a while: Roughly five years of planning, design, and construction have gone into the facility. Currently, the schedule is non-routine, but the plan is to book local celebrity chefs for appearances and specialty demos: chefs like Scott Howell from Nana’s; Andrea Reusing, the James Beard award-winner who is the chef-owner of Lantern in Chapel Hill and the chef at The Durham Hotel; and Vivian Howard from Chef & the Farmer in Kinston and star of PBS’ A Chef ’s Life.

One scheduled event that will really kick things off, though, is Mario Batali’s November 4 appearance over Parents Weekend. The cohost of The Chew and internationally renowned chef will be hosting a Q&A session as well as a demo that will be live-streamed throughout West Union, and his singular style seems appropriate for a singular facility. — Lucas Hubbard

Potent Notables

Ingrid Daubechies won a $1.5 million grant from the Simons Foundation. The James B. Duke Professor of mathematics and electrical and computer engineering, Daubechies has conducted groundbreaking work on wavelets and image compression. Wavelets are mathematical functions that are specifically crafted to compress and make complex images analyzable; the Daubechies wavelets are a family of wavelets integral to compressing JPEG images. The grant will allow her to continue her research, which could have implications for criminal investigators, anthropologists, and art historians, for the next five years.

Fred Nijhout, professor of biology, earned the international Kowalevsky Medal for achievements in evolutionary development biology and comparative zoology. His achievements were set off by investigating a question we’ve all asked: How do butterfly wings get their patterns? Nijhout discovered that the development of butterfly wings happens when the insect is still in the caterpillar stage, and he has found that the colors of each wing “compartment” can be controlled separately, in step with evolutionary pressures.

Two Duke brain researchers—Fan Wang, associate professor of neurobiology, and Kafui Dzirasa, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences—have been awarded a $1 million grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation for a pending collaboration. Their research will focus on anesthesia-affected neurons (AANs), which may be crucial to the brain circuitry that controls conscious and unconscious states.

Sessions at the Arts Annex help students and staff get creative

In a mostly gray room in a mostly gray building, Durham potter Mark Kozma pulls a wire-cutting tool through a cinderblock-sized mass of clay, making slabs as easily as the guy behind the deli counter slices sandwich cheese. “We’re going to have some slab-built options,” he says. “Some people are intimidated by the wheel.” Others are disappointed if they don’t try it. The wet, collapsing walls of a misshapen spinning object are, after all, the hallmark of beginning ceramics. Kozma prepares for the students who should be arriving any minute.

With the Nasher Museum, the American Dance Festival, the Ciompi Quartet, and an annual tide of visiting performing artists, Duke revels in the arts at their highest level. Yet without a traditional art school, Duke has lacked those enormous paint-spattered rooms, charcoal-smeared students making gesture drawings, and the full-time smell of mineral oil. To address that, in 2012 the university opened the Arts Annex—a renovated shed building not far off Campus Drive. Not quite on Central Campus and certainly not on East or West, the space rewarded those who found it, refitted with free supplies, practice rooms, and studio space where students could do all the creating they wanted.

“Students were interested, but they didn’t really know how to use the equipment,” says Scott Lindroth, professor of music and vice provost for the arts. Students would get inspired and attempt something they didn’t know how to do—with tools they didn’t know how to work. “So the screen-printing equipment might have sat unused—or used, then broken or uncleaned.”

Enter DukeCreate, a series of single-session workshops. Starting in the fall of 2015, Lindroth’s office, along with University Center Activities & Events, joined with local artists and planned one-evening classes in drawing and painting, ceramics, and photography. The response was strong enough that the 2016-17 series has grown from thirty to forty-four classes—and has opened up to staff, too.

In a busy two hours, Kozma helps eight students and staff through the four standard steps of beginning pottery on the wheel: Spinning Wet Blob, Amazing Structure, Is It Supposed To Do That?, and Can I Start Again? He also leads them through slab-built trays impressed with stamps and bottle caps and left to dry for firing.

“I’m doing it?” asks first-year student Chris Garcia-Ayala, astonished that she’s got something working on the wheel. “Yes,” Kozma says, imagining her hair joining the spinning elements. “Do you have a hair tie?”

Soon enough, students begin peeling off to focus on studies, universally pledging to return—which is, after all, the point. “The art community [at Duke] is very small,” says Bill Fick, visiting assistant professor of art, art history, and visual studies. “This is a way to grow that.” —Scott Huler

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