2017 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 2017 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.


Rachel Harris, PhD, Biological Sciences

Rachel Harris received her PhD in Biological Sciences from the University of Tasmania, Australia. She has been a Postdoctoral Associate in Duke’s Department of Evolutionary Anthropology since February 2016, under the mentorship of Dr. Christine Drea. Rachel’s research focuses on the relationships between beneficial bacteria, animal health, and olfactory communication in ring-tailed lemurs and meerkats.

Dr. Harris will use the Postdoctoral Professional Development Award to attend the 14th triennial meeting of the Chemical Signals in Vertebrates group in Cardiff, Wales, where she will present her research on the effects of health and injury on olfactory cues in ring-tailed lemurs.


Bonnie Kaiser, PhD, Anthropology

Bonnie Kaiser earned a PhD in Anthropology and MPH in Epidemiology at Emory University. She has been a postdoctoral researcher at the Duke Global Health Institute since 2015, working with Dr. Brandon Kohrt and Dr. Eve Puffer. She conducts global mental health research in Haiti, Nepal, and Kenya, with a focus on cultural aspects of measurement, communication, and intervention design.

Dr. Kaiser will use the Postdoctoral Professional Development Award to attend a conference in Rwanda that focuses on global mental health interventions developed in low-income settings.


Marta Mulawa, PhD, Health Behavior

Marta Mulawa is a Postdoctoral Scholar in Duke’s Interdisciplinary Research Training Program in AIDS (IRTPA) T32 Program. She is based in the Duke Global Health Institute and works under the mentorship of Dr. Kathleen Sikkema. Marta received her PhD in Health Behavior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and her MHS in International Health from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Her research focuses on improving our understanding of how social networks influence HIV-related behaviors.

Dr. Mulawa will use Postdoctoral Professional Development Award to attend the XXXVII Sunbelt Conference of the International Network for Social Network Analysis in Beijing, China, where she will present her research titled, "Structural network position and performance of popular opinion health leaders within an HIV prevention trial in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania."


Cameron Prigge, PhD, Biological and Biomedical Sciences

Cameron Prigge received her PhD in 2015 from Oakland University, where she examined dopaminergic neuron pathophysiology in retinal degenerative disease. Cameron is now a Postdoctoral Associate under the mentorship of Dr. Jeremy Kay in the Department of Neurobiology where she uses the retina as a model system to study the development of neural circuits. She is particularly interested in determining how neurons utilize repulsive interactions to avoid crosswiring during development.

Dr. Prigge will use the Duke Postdoctoral Professional Development Award to attend the 2-week-long course “Vision: A Platform for Linking Circuits, Behavior & Perception” at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York.


Jennifer Rocca, PhD, Ecology

Jennifer Rocca received her BS in Botany from the University of Florida, a Masters in Plant Biology from the University of Texas at Austin, and her PhD in Ecology from Colorado State University. She is currently a Postdoctoral Associate in the Bernhardt Aquaterrestrial Biogeochemistry Lab in the Biology Department, where she examines microbial community coalescence during seawater intrusion of freshwater wetlands. Jenny’s research interests include unraveling the assembly mechanisms driving microbial community structure, and understanding the impacts of environmental perturbations on functional redundancy and community resilience.

Dr. Rocca will use the Postdoctoral Professional Development Award to present at the 2017 Ecological Society of America Annual Meeting, where she was invited to the special session, “Microbes in Modernity: Microbial Responses to Anthropogenic Change”, to present her postdoctoral research on microbial community coalescence.


Okan Yurduseven, PhD, Electrical and Computer Engineering

Okan Yurduseven received his PhD in Electrical Engineering from Northumbria University, United Kingdom, where he developed multiband and ultrawideband photovoltaic antennas, and a phaseless microwave holographic imaging technique for security-screening applications. Dr. Yurduseven is now a Postdoctoral Associate with Prof. David R. Smith at Duke University. His research interests include computational imaging, microwave and millimeter-wave imaging, metamaterials, antennas and propagation, antenna measurement techniques, and wireless power transfer. He is the author of more than 70 research articles and two provisional patents, and a Senior Member of the IEEE.

Dr. Yurduseven will use the Duke Postdoctoral Professional Development Award to present his research and chair several sessions at the 2017 IEEE International Symposium on Antennas and Propagation (AP-S) in San Diego, California. In addition, he will organize and chair a special session at AP-S on emerging techniques in imaging at microwave, millimeter-wave and THz frequencies.


Jiayin Zheng, PhD, Probability & Statistics

Jiayin Zheng received his BS in Statistics from Zhejiang University and PhD in Probability & Statistics from Peking University, China. Since April 2016, he has been a Postdoctoral Associate under the supervision of Dr. Shein-Chung Chow in the Department of Biostatistics and Bioinformatics, where he studies statistical methodology related to clinical trails and pharmaceutical development. His current research interests include biomarker evaluation, adaptive/multi-regional clinical trials, survival analysis and biosimilar/generic interchangeability.

Dr. Zheng will use the Postdoctoral Professional Development Award to attend the Summer Institute of Statistics for Clinical Research (SISCR) at University of Washington. SISCR introduces participants to state-of the art methodology for biomedical studies, including clinical trials and observational studies.

The Office of Postdoctoral Services thanks the 2017 Awards Committee:  Dr. Melissa Bostrom, Dr. Hugh Crumley, Dr. Jory Weintraub, and Ms. Molly Starback.