Office of the Dean
Valerie S. Ashby, Ph.D., Dean of Trinity College

Celebrating Faculty Accomplishments - May 2017

May 10, 2017

Dear Faculty and Staff,
As we come to the close of the semester, I want to share recent faculty accomplishments from across the college. I am impressed by the diversity of fields represented here, the breadth of professional recognition, and the excellence evidenced by both early-career and senior faculty. Please join me in congratulating our colleagues.

I will be recognizing the most recent set of faculty books a little later in the summer. Please be sure to let the news office know when you publish a book at


Valerie S. Ashby
Dean of Trinity College of Arts & Sciences

2017 Teaching & Leadership Awards

Trinity Teaching Awards

They have taught large, introductory classes and small seminars, revised departmental curriculums, created popular MOOCs, opened educational opportunities for hundreds of girls and, in a manner of speaking, “rewritten history.” They are the Duke faculty honored recently at the Trinity College Teaching, Advising, Diversity and Leadership Awards. Our winners:

Clockwise from top left: Kathi Weeks (Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies), Robert B. Cox Award; Jessica Namakkal (International Comparative Studies) Howard D. Johnson Award; Thomas Nechyba (Economics), Alumni Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching Award; Dorian Canelas (Chemistry), David and Janet Vaughan Brooks Award; Markos Hadjioannou (Literature), Richard K. Lublin Award; Miranda Welsh (Thompson Writing Program), Excellence in Teaching Writing Award. Read more.

Excellence in Advising Award

The Award for Excellence in Advising honors faculty and staff advisers who have helped guide undergraduates in the first two years here. The award went to Catherine Admay (at right) (Public Policy), and Sue Wasiolek (student affairs). Admay’s students praised her for being supportive but also for challenging them to describe why they were choosing their paths. Wasiolek’s nominators highlighted her caring nature and willingness to take the time to get to know students.

Dean's Diversity Award

Sherryl Broverman (Biology) was the Dean's Diversity Award for developing the WISER program, a non-governmental organization that offers a secondary school for impoverished girls and AIDS orphans in Muhuru Bay, Kenya. The program, which regularly hosts Duke students and researchers, provides after school programs for girls, both to improve their retention but also to raise awareness of HIV transmission and other social issues they face there. The program has promoted diversity by challenging Duke students to work and find ways to solve deep rooted social problems and by improving access of female students to education and STEM education in particular.

Dean's Leadership Award

The Dean's Leadership Award recognizes a group in Arts & Sciences that has demonstrated leadership through a project involving teaching, research or service. This year's award went to the Naval Science Advisor Team in the Department of Naval Science. The team was cited for devising a program that has successfully “enables the students to assume leadership roles within the program and lead their peers.” In addition to classroom education, the program trains students through event planning and operation, community service, personal skills training and cultural exploration. The team consists of Maj. Joseph Steinfels, associate professor of naval science; Capt. Barry Morris, visiting assistant professor; Lt. Joseph Bivans, visiting assistant professor; Lt. Christopher Thumen, visiting assistant professor; Lt. Alexander Dworjan, visiting assistant professor; Lt. Karl Meyer, visiting assistant professor; and GySgt Zach Doty, USMC.

Bass Fellows

Two Trinity faculty were among five professors selected as members of Duke’s Bass Society of Fellows in recognition of their excellence in both research and undergraduate teaching. Read more.

Emily Bernhardt (Biology) is one of the leading stream-water ecologists in the world with influential publications. She fosters cross-departmental collaboration in addition to demonstrating excellent teaching and mentoring. Her presence at Duke, including her efforts raising donations to fund the Duke River Center, has convinced tenured faculty at other universities to join this institution. Bernhardt redesigned the Biology Department’s core ecology class to become a flipped classroom, in hopes of encouraging students to think more deeply and independently. Her teaching and mentoring make students constantly seek her as an advisor and mentor at various levels.

Lenhard Ng (Math) is a top-level researcher whose work focuses on mathematical knot theory. Ng’s research specialty is often considered difficult and abstract, but he has been successful in both getting published in prestigious journals as well as making his work highly accessible to undergraduate students. Ng is devoted to teaching, using strategies that expand “pure” theory to include possible applications. This passion and commitment for teaching extend beyond Duke’s campus and are reflected in Ng’s mentorship work with local students from the North Carolina School of Science and Math.  


The 2017 rankings by U.S. News & World Report magazine’s Best Graduate Schools included new rankings for social sciences and humanities programs. The last time these programs were ranked was in 2013.

Among the social sciences and humanities Ph.D. programs at Duke:

  • Political Science moved from #10 to #7--a significant jump. Political Science specialty rankings are now as follows: #6 in American Politics, #8 in Comparative Politics, #14 in International Politics, #10 in Political Methodology #10, and #6 in Political Theory.
  • English tied for #13.
  • Sociology tied for #15. Duke also earned a specialty rankings of #6 in Sociology of Culture.
  • Economics tied for #16.
  • Psychology tied for #17.
  • History tied for #18. History specialty rankings include #2 in African-American History and #5 in Latin American History.


Nathaniel Mackey wins Library of Congress Bobbitt Poetry Prize

Nathaniel Mackey (English) was awarded the 2016 Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry from the Library of Congress in honor of his lifetime achievement. The Library of Congress awards the $10,000 Bobbitt Prize every two years to recognize a book of poetry or lifetime body of work by an American poet. Mackey is the author of six poetry collections, including the National Book Award-winning “Splay Anthem.” His many previous awards include the 2014 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize from the Poetry Foundation and the 2015 Bollingen Prize from Yale University. Read more.

Thomas Langford Lectureship Awards

John Supko (Music) and Tsitsi Jaji (English) received the Thomas Langford Lectureship Award. These awards — established by the Duke Office of the Provost in 2000 in a tribute to the memory of Thomas Langford — are granted each year to new or newly promoted faculty based on the appeal of their research to an interdisciplinary audience and their embodiment of Langford’s dedication to teaching, research and service.


Holmgren Wins Polish History Award

Beth Holmgren (Slavic and Eurasian Studies) was recently honored with the Wacław Jędrzejewicz History Award from the Jozef Pilsudski Institute of America in recognition of her work in Polish history. The Pilsudski Institute is devoted to collecting, safe-keeping and preserving the documents and other historical memorabilia related to the history of Poland, of Poles and of Americans of Polish descent.

Jimenez Wins Classical Studies Fellowships

Alicia Jiménez (Classical Studies) has been awarded a Fall 2017 fellowship at the Italian Academy for Advanced Studies in America at Columbia University. This fellowship allows her to work on her research, as well as make and deepen connections through weekly seminars for fellows and selected guests. Alicia’s research engages with archaeological theory and Roman visual and material culture, specifically in the western and central Mediterranean in the period 218 BCE-200 CE. Alicia also presented at the conference “New Perspectives on Roman Material Culture” at Cornell University in March. She spoke on “Standard Time: Typologies in Roman Antiquity.”

Comer Wins Innovation Award for Teaching

Denise Comer (Thompson Writing Program) will receive a 2017 Apereo Teaching and Learning Innovation Awards (ATLAS) at the Open Apereo Conference in June. The awards are given for entries that use Sakai CLE, Xerte, OAE, and/or Opencast for teaching and learning. Comer’s entry was “Writing 270: Composing the Internship Experience: Social Media and Digital Discourse.” In addition to the award, Comer also learned that her textbook “Writing in Transit” has been adopted at the University of Kansas for first-year writing.


McIver Wins Prestigious Rome Prize

Beverly McIver (Art, Art History & Visual Studies) is the 2017-18 winner of the Joseph H. Hazen Rome Prize from the American Academy in Rome. McIver, a contemporary American artist, is the Esbenshade Professor of the Practice in Duke's Department of Art, Art History and Visual Studies. She is among a group of talented Italian and American artists, scholars, writers and composers to be honored by the academy.

Natural Sciences

Psychologist Wilbourn wins 2017 Presidential Early Career Award

Makeba Wilbourn  (Psychology and Neuroscience) has received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) from the National Science Foundation. Wilbourn, pictured above with her daughter, Justice, studies how children learn language and the role that communicative gestures play in early language and cognitive development. She is particularly interested in how socio-cultural factors such as race or socioeconomic status influence gesture and language, and ultimately the vocabulary and educational outcomes of African-American children. Read more.


Warren wins 2017 Liversidge Award from Royal Society of Chemistry

Warren Warren (Physics, Chemistry, Radiology, Biomedical Engineering) has won the 2017 Liversidge Award from the Royal Society of Chemistry. He was recognized for pioneering the use of nonlinear optical imaging to extract molecular information. Warren's research interests and 300 papers reflect advances in very fundamental physics or technology, generally using magnetic resonance or nonlinear optics, with applications in extremely complex systems such as clinical imaging and art conservation.


Theoretical Chemist Beratan Wins Regional ACS Award

David Beratan has received the American Chemical Society's Southeastern Region's 2017 Florida Award. He was recognized for his outstanding contributions to theoretical biophysics and biophysical chemistry, along with major impacts in teaching and service to the larger chemistry community. Beratan is the R. J. Reynolds Professor of Chemistry. Read more.

Organic Chemist Hargrove Named Cottrell Scholar

Amanda E. Hargrove (Chemistry) is one of two-dozen top early career academic scientists named 2017 Cottrell Scholars by the Research Corporation for Scientific Advancement. The designation comes with a $100,000 award for each recipient for research and teaching. Hargrove's project is titled "Harnessing Small Molecule Receptors to Identify Patterns in RNA Structure and Implement a Course-Based Interdisciplinary Research Experience." Read more.


Tung and Mukherjee Wins Grant to Study Meerkat Social Mobility

Jenny Tung (Statistical Science) and Sayan Mukherjee (Statistical Science) received a three-year, $1.2 million grant from the Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP) to study social mobility in meerkats. They hope to identify the genetic and physiological differences that set dominant and helper meerkats apart, and what changes the upstarts undergo as they assume leadership.

Machanavajjhala Wins Most Influential Paper Award

Ashwin Machanavajjhala (Computer Science) has received the IEEE International Conference on Data Engineering 2017 Influential Paper Award. He received the recognition for his paper “L-diversity: privacy beyond k-anonymity.” His paper focuses on data privacy, and proposes a novel and powerful privacy criterion that can defend against data attacks.


Alberts Wins Cozzarelli Prize from PNAS

Susan Alberts (Biology) is the second senior author on the Cozzarelli Prize-winning article "The emergence of longevous populations in PNAS." The article won in the Behavioral and Social Sciences category. The prize honors the late Nicholas Cozzarelli, editor-in-chief of PNAS, and "acknowledges papers that reflect scientific excellence and originality." Albert's article discusses the evolution of lifespan among primate species and the consistent male disadvantage that is present throughout.

Steorts Wins NSF CAREER Award

Rebecca Steorts (Statistical Science) has won a National Science Foundation Early CAREER Award for her project titled "Scalable Record Linkage through the Microclustering Property." She plans to develop general methods and scalable algorithms for record linkage so that pressing global issues can be addressed in real time or near real time. Read more.


Charbonneau Named Top Reviewer for Journal of Chemical Physics

Patrick Charbonneau (Chemistry) has been named one of the 2016 “Journal of Chemical Physics” top reviewers in recognition of outstanding service and dedication to the journal. The criteria used to evaluate reviewer performance included quality, timeliness, number of reviews, and reliability.


Social Sciences

Tomasello Elected Fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences

Michael Tomasello (Psychology and Neuroscience) has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. The American Academy of Arts and Sciences is one of the country’s oldest learned societies and independent policy research centers, convening leaders from the academic, business, and government sectors to respond to the challenges facing-and opportunities available to-the nation and the world. Members contribute to Academy publications and studies in science, engineering, and technology policy; global security and international affairs; the humanities, arts, and education; and American institutions and the public good. Read more.

Bail Named Carnegie Fellow

Christopher Bail (Sociology & Public Policy) has been named a 2017 Andrew Carnegie Fellow. The honor, which includes a $200,000 award, is given by the Carnegie Corporation of New York which was established to promote the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding. The fellowship will support Chris’s research, where he is studying predictors of violent extremism using Google search data, and how social networks influence political polarization. He analyzes large groups of texts from newspapers, television, public opinion surveys, and social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter in order to study how nonprofit organizations and other political actors shape public discourse. Read more.

Bergelson Wins National Endowment for the Humanities Funding for Linguistics Work

Elika Bergelson (Psychology and Neuroscience) received a National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship for her project “Analyzing Linguistic Development Around the World.” Elika’s research focuses on understanding the interplay of processes during language acquisition, in particular, how word learning relates to other aspect of learning language, and social/cognitive development more broadly in the first two years of life.

Humphreys Wins Medical History Teaching Residency in China

Margaret Humphreys (History) has won an Organization of American Historians China Residency Award for 2017. She will be teaching a summer class in the social history of US medicine to masters students in history at Shanghai University. Margaret will also be lecturing in Xi'an, the capital of Shaanxi Province, People's Republic of China.

MacLean Gives Keynote on Feminist Movement

Nancy MacLean (History) delivered the keynote address at “Sharing Our Stories: The Second Wave Feminist Movement.” The event, held in late March, was sponsored by the Veteran Feminists of America, a group that honors, records and preserves the history of accomplishments of women and men active in the feminist movement; educates the public on the importance of the changes brought about by the women’s movement; and preserves the movement’s history for future generations.

Lentz-Smith Published Work on Returning Soldiers

Adriane Lentz-Smith (History, African & African American Studies) published an article in The American Experience. The article discusses the return of African American soldiers from World War I and their fight for democracy at home.