2010 Duke Postdoctoral Professional Development Award Winners

The Duke Office of Postdoctoral Services, along with the Vice Provost for Research and the Vice Dean for Basic Sciences, is pleased to announce the winners of the 2010 Postdoctoral Awards for Professional Development. These awards are designed to support postdocs' professional development needs by providing reimbursement for activities that directly enhance the individual's professional growth.

    Jie Deng, PhD, Department of Neurobiology

Jie (Jay) Deng received his undergraduate degree in Zoology at Sichuan University, Chengdu, China. After working as an ecologist and conservation biologist in Beijing and Gainesville, Florida, he earned his PhD in Cell and Molecular Biology from the University of Florida in 2005. He spent one postdoctoral year at the Duke Center for Human Genetics, then joined the Duke Neurobiology Department as a Postdoctoral Associate. Dr. Deng currently investigates how addictive drugs alter brain reward networks through their effects on proteins that mediate epigenetic regulation of gene transcription.

Dr. Deng will travel to the Scripps Research Institute in Jupiter, Florida to learn intra-venous self-administration (IVSA) of drugs in mice. Although this technique is well developed for rats, mouse IVSA is extremely challenging because of the small body size of the animals. Dr. Paul Kenny of Scripps, whose lab is one of the few in the US performing mouse IVSA, will train Dr. Deng in this technique.


    Julie Meachen-Samuels, PhD, National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent)

Julie Meachen-Samuels received her PhD in Biology from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2008. Her doctoral dissertation examined the functional morphology and prey-killing strategies of cats. She then worked for six months as a postdoctoral scholar at UCLA with Dr. Blaire Van Valkenburgh examining the structure and function of the nasal turbinate bones in mammalian carnivores. In August 2009, Dr. Meachen-Samuels started her postdoc at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent) at Duke. Her project examines the dietary niche partitioning that occurs in living carnivore communities and analogous communities of extinct carnivores from North America. This research will use past faunal turnovers to understand how current human and climatic alterations may impact carnivore communities today.

Dr. Meachen-Samuels will travel to the 2010 SACNAS (Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science) conference in Anaheim, California. SACNAS is one of the largest and longest-standing organizations in the nation focused specifically on scientific outreach to underrepresented minorities. Dr. Meachen-Samuels will coordinate and lead a field trip to the Rancho La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles, where she did much of her dissertation work, and will share her knowledge about the evolutionary importance of this fossil site with budding scientists. She will also take part in “Conversations with Scientists”, an informal mentoring session where undergraduates are paired up with science professionals for roundtable discussion of the joys and challenges of a science career.


  Amy D. Owen, PhD, Center for Spirituality, Theology, and Health

Amy D. Owen, PhD, is a Postdoctoral Associate at the Duke Center for Spirituality, Theology, and Health at the Duke University Medical Center. She received her BA in Psychology from Luther College in 1999, and her PhD in Educational Psychology and an additional MS in Counseling from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2008. Her primary focus of research has been exploring forgiveness as a therapeutic intervention and the concept and process of forgiveness in different cultures. Recently, she also began researching the role of various spiritual and religious factors in physical and mental health. Currently, Dr. Owen is studying whether forgiveness (of self, another person, and perceived forgiveness from God) is associated with immune health among people living with HIV-AIDS. In addition, she is investigating the relationship of forgiveness and cancer; religious factors and cardiovascular disease and mortality; and the longitudinal effects of religious identification and life-changing spiritual experiences on structural neuroanatomy in late life.

Dr. Owen will travel to the 2010 Society of Behavioral Medicine Conference in Seattle, WA, where she will present three poster abstracts: “The Complex Relationship of Religious Factors, Cardiovascular Health, and Mortality” (first author), “Forgiveness and Reduced Risk of Cancer Onset” (second author), and “Religious Correlates of Structural Brain Changes in Late Adulthood” (second author). She will also join the Society’s Spirituality and Health Special Interest Group, and participate in their mentoring program.


The Office of Postdoctoral Services thanks the 2010 Awards Committee: Dr. Danielle Maatouk, Dr. Anirudh Ullal, Ms. Molly Starback, Dr. Tomalei Vess, and Dr. Anne West.