2016 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 Science, is pleased to announce the winners of the 2016 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.


Marina Blanco, PhD, Biological Anthropology

Marina Blanco received her degree in Biological Anthropology at the National University of La Plata, Argentina, and her PhD at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. During her tenure at UMass, she became intrigued by the nocturnal lemurs of Madagascar. Since 2012, she has been investigating hibernation in lemurs as a Postdoctoral Associate at the Duke Lemur Center, under the supervision of Dr. Anne Yoder. Her current research interests include the ecology of rainforest mouse and dwarf lemurs and community-based conservation activities in Northern Madagascar. 

Dr. Blanco used the Postdoctoral Professional Development Award to lead a 2-day workshop on the modeled effects of climate change on lemurs in the city of Antananarivo, Madagascar. Dr. Blanco writes about her experience here.


Hayley Estrem, PhD, Nursing

Hayley Estrem received her PhD in 2015 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and is now a Postdoctoral Associate under the mentorship of Dr. Debra Brandon at the Duke University School of Nursing. Her research focuses on child and family centered care for pediatric feeding disorder, measure development, and symptom and care trajectories for infants and young children with feeding problems.

Dr. Estrem will use the Postdoctoral Professional Development Award to attend NIH NINR's "Precision Health: from 'Omics' to Data Science" bootcamp this summer in Bethesda, MD.


Mohammadreza Imani, PhD, Electrical and Computer Engineering

Mohammadreza Imani received his BS and PhD in electrical engineering from Sharif University of Technology, Tehran and the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. He has been a Postdoctoral Associate in the David Smith Group of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering since January 2014, where he studies aspects of dynamic and frequency diverse apertures for microwave imaging. His research interests include microwave imaging, analytical and applied electromagnetics, and wireless power transfer.

Dr. Imani will use the Postdoctoral Professional Development Award to attend the 2016 IEEE International Symposium on Antennas and Propagation, where the work of his graduate student mentee has been nominated for the student paper competition and will be presented. In addition, Dr Imani has proposed, organized, and will chair a special session on computational imaging at microwave, millimeter wave, and THz.


Nikki Sullivan, PhD, Computation and Neural Systems

Nikki Sullivan is a Postdoctoral Associate in Cognitive Neuroscience in the Scott Huettel lab. She received her PhD in Computation and Neural Systems from Caltech, and an MA from the University of Chicago, where she also worked as a researcher for the Departments of Psychology and Economics. At Duke, Nikki investigates the neural mechanisms underlying decision-making, including those involving dietary and financial self-control using a combination of techniques from economics, neuroscience, and psychology.

Dr. Sullivan will use the Postdoctoral Professional Development Award to attend the invitation-only 10th Triennial Invitational Choice Symposium in Alberta, Canada, where she will present her research on process trace methods.


Max Villa, PhD, Materials Science and Engineering

Max Villa received his PhD in Materials Science and Engineering from the University of Connecticut, where he developed biomaterials and imaging tools to heal bone injuries with progenitor cells. Max's research interests involve the development of new technology to investigate biomedical questions. Max is now a postdoctoral associate in Dr. Lawrence David's laboratory in the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, where he is developing a microfluidic droplet platform for high throughput screening of human microbial communities to better understand their role in heath and disease. 

Dr. Villa will use the Duke Postdoctoral Professional Development Award to attend the 2016 Microbial Diversity course held at Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, MA, to support his transition from the engineering field to microbiology. 

The Office of Postdoctoral Services thanks the 2016 Awards Committee: Dr. Sherilynn Black, Dr. Melissa Bostrom, Dr. Hugh Crumley, Dr. Christopher Nelson, and Ms. Molly Starback.