Duke Ph.D. Students Find Unexpected Benefits in an Unusual Summer

November 17, 2020

Students share insights from their 2020 Provost’s Summer Fellowships

Kim Bourne chose a part-time fellowship, which she said was “a great way to gain experience in an area outside of my dissertation without hindering my progress.”

Kim Bourne chose a part-time fellowship, which she said was “a great way to gain experience in an area outside of my dissertation without hindering my progress.”

When COVID hit last spring, many graduate students had to give up their summer plans for teaching, field research and internships. The Provost’s Office quickly pledged support, and Vice Provost Ed Balleisen spearheaded the effort to identify virtual opportunities.

Experiential fellowships with eight host organizations and research assistantships with more than 20 Duke units provided summer funding and career development for all 59 Ph.D. students in need. Every student who responded to Duke’s end-of-summer evaluation would recommend this kind of internship experience to other Ph.D. students.

Kim Bourne (Civil & Environmental Engineering) got off to a strong start with Duke’s Bass Connections program. “It was incredibly helpful that my host gave me a list of goals at the beginning,” said Bourne, who developed resources for remote and in-person learning. “This experience helped me explore an area I am interested in professionally and is a great addition to my resume as I apply for jobs.”

Khari Johnson (Biomedical Engineering) spent his summer with RTI International to assess how misinformation affects people’s receptivity to health initiatives. Looking back, Johnson highlighted the value of collaborative research. “For me, the biggest takeaway was that you can always find [people with] similar passions in the place you least expected it, and building on those collaborations can be very fruitful.”

Click here to read the full story on the Duke Interdisciplinary Studies site.