2022 Outstanding Postdoc at Duke
Dr. Catherine Denning-Jannace
Department of Chemistry
2022 Outstanding Postdoc at Duke
Dr. Carla Wall
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
In 2022, we are delighted to honor not one, but two, Outstanding Postdocs: Dr. Catherine Denning-Jannace of the Dept of Chemistry and Dr. Carla Wall of the Dept of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. Both Dr. Denning-Jannace and Dr. Wall were nominated by numerous current and former research group members and their faculty mentors.
Dr. Jennifer Lodge, Vice President for Research and Innovation, presented the awards for Outstanding Postdoc to Drs. Denning-Jannace and Wall.
Dr. Catherine Denning-Jannace
Dr. Denning-Janace’s faculty mentor, Dr. Katherine Franz, wrote: Catherine joined my laboratory in February 2020. What impressed me most was her desire to stretch fearlessly into a new research area. She was interested in applying her biophysical mindset to questions about how cellular metals influence biological regulatory events, which would require that she learn new skillsets. Given the timing of her arrival at Duke just one month before coronavirus laboratory shutdowns, the opportunity to gather preliminary data for her project was seriously curtailed. During that time, she showed impressive adaptability, resilience, and fearlessness to try new things. In the work-from-home phase, she dug into a large dataset generated by a former group member but not yet fully analyzed. She very quickly learned the new software required to analyze this incredibly rich dataset. When her analysis is completed, we will have an unprecedented look at the whole proteome level, of how expression of metalloproteins in C. albicans changes as a function of time and drug exposure.
The challenges of the coronavirus pandemic of course are far from over. The negative impact on women with care-giving roles is glaring. As a mother of twin toddlers, Catherine has persevered amid the daunting realities of day-care closures, Covid scares, and constantly shifting work schedules. Not only does she adapt and persevere, she provides strength and motivation to others.
Catherine’s leadership ability and commitment to inclusion is always evident. She is a phenomenal mentor to coworkers and younger students in the lab. I have seen her go out of her way to help graduate and undergraduate students work through challenges, both experimental and personal. In the broader departmental community, she stepped up to be a member of our Duke Chemistry Diversity, Inclusion and Community committee. Catherine’s voice within that committee is helping shape a positive and inclusive climate in the department.
A graduate student wrote: Catherine is incredibly hard working and an exceptional scientist. Catherine acts as a mentor and friend to all 10 graduate students here in lab. As a senior graduate student, I have found Catherine to be an invaluable part of my PhD journey. She is always willing to help you talk through experimental design, read through a paper draft, give general life advice, or just let you vent about dissertation writing.
Catherine is an inspiration to us all with the way she manages her research and her home life as a mother of 3-year-old twin boys. Despite having her own responsibilities as a mother, a scientist, and as an advocate for women in STEM, Catherine never fails to find time for all of us. Whenever I need guidance or support, she is there. I cannot wait to see what she will achieve in her independent career and am thankful to her for all of the support and friendship over the past three years.
An undergraduate student wrote: Catherine is an outstanding lab mentor who went above and beyond in training me. She is one of the busiest people I have met yet constantly seeks to mentor others. My first project was not under Catherine’s supervision, and I struggled greatly. Catherine realized that I was struggling and entirely of her own accord, designed a small research project that fit my skills. I made more progress in those first two weeks working with Catherine than I had in my entire previous year in lab. Under Catherine’s mentorship I was finally able to reach a point where I felt proud of my research and confident enough to continue in science after graduation. I am now a post-baccalaureate researcher at the National Cancer Institute, and the skills that Catherine taught me have given me a strong start.
Dr. Carla Wall
Dr. Wall’s mentor, Dr Jill Howard, wrote: Dr. Carla Wall is a shining star in our lab. Having barely been in her current role for a year, she is already making a significant impact through her research, service and mentoring. She is leading or co-leading a number of research products and also serves as a research clinician on multiple large studies. Though her research is impressive, where she truly excels is in her service and mentoring. She has notably been identified by more junior colleagues as an advocate, mentor, and role model. Carla co-leads the Duke Center for Autism and Brain Development’s Task Force for Racial Equity, which strives to dismantle systemic racism. Carla also serves as a member of the Professional Development Subcommittee of this task force, and has participated as a mentor on multiple initiatives to promote the future success of underrepresented minorities. She exudes a passion for elevating others, and in particular has been an important advocate for BIPOC colleagues. Carla is a committed clinical scientist with a big heart for service, and is one of the kindest, most personable individuals you could have the pleasure of meeting. She is wholeheartedly deserving of this year’s Outstanding Postdoc award, and will clearly continue to make a positive impact at Duke.
A graduate student wrote: Carla is continually dedicated to not only clinical research, but to the staff. She is always willing to be part of the team and lend a hand for anyone in need. We work with children with autism, which often requires the ability to adapt and accommodate individual needs, which Carla seamlessly navigates. In addition to her research role, Carla is always willing to mentor and train others. Carla has been a resource for me as I navigate the same process she went through as a doctoral student. She truly embodies being an outstanding postdoc!
A staff member wrote: Carla’s strength, empathy, commitment to justice, equity and inclusion, and her passion for supporting all of those with whom she works are palpable in all that she does. I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Carla through our research studies as well as co-leaders for the Duke Center for Autism and Brain Development Task Force for Racial Equity. She is a strong advocate for colleagues and deeply sensitive to issues of fairness, equality, and justice. She is a strong leader, gives helpful feedback with kindness, always is willing to receive feedback and incredibly approachable and also humble. She thinks about how our activities and research impact people of color and minorities. It is wonderful to have her on our research team and I’m grateful that she is in this field because we need more leaders like her.
Another staff member wrote: Carla’s commitment to diversity and inclusion is beyond the bare minimum. Carla has been an amazing support system for me and our team of multicultural employees. She has been a leader, allowing room for vulnerability, room for tears with her “just come to my office and close the door” stance, encouraging care and perseverance for our ideas, and reminding us that we have the power to find solutions through advocacy for ourselves. Simultaneously, Carla has advocated for us individually. It shows her character and dedication to bettering the human experience, not just her own, and she really deserves some recognition for that attribute. We need her in this field.
2019 Outstanding Postdoc at Duke
Dr. Adrian Oliver
Department of Biomedical Engineering
Dr. Oliver’s PI, Dr Charles Gersbach, writes: Adrian has been a postdoctoral associate in my laboratory since 2015 and has proven to be an absolutely fantastic scientist with a tremendous work ethic and exceptional professionalism. She has made great progress in the area of engineering new technologies for gene therapy that are certain to be of value for the field, and has brought recognition to Duke through her work in multiple ways. Adrian’s first project in my lab aimed to explore the diversity of CRISPR systems in nature as genome engineering tools in human cells. This work is now in press at Nature Biotechnology. She has mentored two undergraduates, both of whom are co-authors on her Nature Biotechnology paper. They were both so inspired by their experience with Adrian that they chose to go to PhD programs in biomedical research. Adrian is on a perfect path to establishing an impactful independent research program in gene and cell therapy, and has the ideal skill set to do so.
A lab member writes: I’d say Adrian is one of the rock stars in the lab. She is one of the most driven, energetic and passionate scientists I have ever met. She is constantly thinking of new experiments and encouraging me to come up with my own ideas. She truly loves the research that she does, and her excitement about new ideas and projects is palpable; it makes me excited to come to work every day. I am so grateful to work alongside her.
A grad student in the lab writes: Adrian was assigned to be one of my postdoc mentors, and she went above and beyond to help me get acclimated to the lab. She took it on herself to teach me all the fundamental skills I needed to get my project started. She also was key in the intellectual planning of my project, spending multiple hours to help me think through each and every detail. She also advocated for me to be a part of her project and got me on her paper within my first year of being in the lab. There's no doubt in my mind that Adrian would make a fantastic PI herself, because she truly looks out for the needs and success of the people she mentors.
A former postdoc, now Assistant Professor, writes: Two characteristics highlight why Adrian is a good candidate for this award: her tenacity during her research and her dedication to mentorship. Adrian was among the first to harness CRISPR systems of a special type, the subject of her recently accepted Nature Biotechnology paper. This work is impressive, but it started with a small blip on a graph. When the initial result was unimpressive, most people would have walked away from the project. Adrian instead set out to optimize every aspect and eventually developed a technology that can increase gene activation over 100-fold, resulting in a manuscript in one of our field’s top journals. She did this impressive work while mentoring two Duke Undergraduate students. She was a fierce advocate for both of them, and motivated them so that they were some of the most productive undergraduates I’ve ever seen. Adrian truly deserves this award.
A former student writes: I worked for Adrian as an undergraduate at Duke for two and a half years. Adrian was a joy to work for and her mentoring style set me up for a successful transition into graduate school. I learned a great deal from her strong work ethic and high standards for scientific rigor. In addition to research, she always helped me with my next career step. When I was thinking about going into industry, she connected me with people who could share their experiences. When I finally decided on graduate school, she helped me understand the application process and guided me through the pros and cons of each school. Adrian is an Outstanding Postdoc because she embodies the characteristics of an outstanding mentor and teacher.
2018 Outstanding Postdoc at Duke
Dr. Sarah Longo
Department of Biology
Dr. Colin Duckett, Vice Dean for Basic Science, presented the award for Outstanding Postdoc to Dr. Sarah Longo from the Department of Biology.
Dr. Longo's PI, Dr. Sheila Patek, wrote: "One year ago, Sarah joined my lab as a postdoc on a Department of Defense, Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative grant. Being a postdoc on this grant is an unusual and, for most postdocs, a somewhat terrifying experience. This team effort spans seven labs and innumerable areas including biology, engineering, polymer sciences and physics. Sarah came from a 100% biology laboratory, never having worked on a cross-disciplinary team, and was dropped right into this hot-bed of technical and cross-disciplinary interactions. Within weeks of her arrival, it became clear that Sarah is a rare talent, not only as a gifted scientist, but as someone who joyfully engages with the discomfort of working across disciplines. A mere few weeks into her job, she arrived with a calm and curious attitude, and immediately meshed with one of the key attributes of the team, which is to have a small ego and a willingness to be totally out of one’s comfort zone. She can handle intense interdisciplinary exchanges, and, perhaps most importantly, members of the team immediately gravitated toward her insightful questions and curiosity. Sarah has developed a novel and exciting postdoctoral research project that involves real-time analysis of elastic energy release and measurements of the power density of biological systems, such as trap-jaw ants and snapping shrimp. Just in the span of the year, she has developed a new system that is likely to yield a series of high-profile papers. In all of the postdoctoral researchers in my lab to date, I have never had someone take such a deep dive into a topic, work tirelessly across disciplines, and emerge, in the span of just one year, with a new system, new insights, and ultimately a research program that will ground her own lab when she eventually starts her faculty career. There has been another remarkable aspect to Sarah’s arrival in the lab – her effect on my lab members. She has been transformative for the people in my lab. She is curious about their projects, looks at details, and then dives in to help – whether with R coding, mathematical analyses of motion, or experimental rigs. She has such a delightful way of combining curiosity with rigor that the whole lab has been energized and excited. Sarah is a truly superlative postdoc."
A lab member writes: "As a recent undergraduate at my first job, I felt unqualified and awkward around the older students in our lab. However, as soon as Sarah started working with us, the whole dynamic changed. Sarah's easygoing nature, joyfulness, and ability to include everyone in a conversation made me feel like part of the lab. Sarah has also supported me when I face challenges. She has talked with me extensively about my research projects, and gotten excited about the twists and turns they take. Sarah awes me by the time she puts in to learning new concepts and techniques and I aspire to be as motivated and knowledgeable as she is, although it seems like an impossible goal. She supports everyone and somehow does all of her own work excellently as well."
A graduate student writes: "Despite her work on three projects, Sarah can always find time to sit down and help me. She is always there to listen and provide feedback on how to improve my methodology or suggest another research avenue to pursue. Sarah improves the quality of all research projects in the lab, not just her own."
A former undergrad who is now a grad student writes: "Sarah was an excellent mentor during my senior year as an undergrad and continues to mentor me as I begin my PhD program in Biology. Sarah has eased my transition by being patient and kind, while making sure my work is thorough and high-quality. I have had many graduate student and postdoctoral mentors, but Sarah has been the most effective, engaging, and influential mentor in developing my scientific curiosity and technical capabilities"
2017 Outstanding Postdoc at Duke
Dr. Okan Yurduseven
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Dr. Lawrence Carin, Vice Provost for Research, presented the award for Outstanding Postdoc toDr. Okan Yurduseven from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. The award was accepted by Dr. Yurduseven's wife, Olena Aleksandrova and colleague Dr. Jonah Gollub. Dr. Yurduseven was nominated by his PI and many of his labmates. Dr. Yurduseven's PI, Dr. David Smith wrote: "Since Dr. Yurduseven started working at Duke University in May 2014, he has co-authored 41 peer-reviewed scientific papers, including 24 journal articles. Of those, he is the first author in 12 of these articles. Moreover, he has published 18 conference papers (first author in 10) and filed four provisional patent applications. In recognition of his efforts, he was invited to deliver an invited speech at the University of Cambridge on behalf of the Duke MetaImager research group. Particularly impressive is that Dr. Yurduseven has chaired two sessions at the European Conference on Antennas and Propagation (EuCAP 2015); two sessions at the IEEE International Symposium on Antennas and Propagation (AP-S 2016); and three sessions at AP-S 2017. He will also deliver an invited talk at the European Microwave Week, again on behalf of the Duke team. Okan is an outstanding postdoctoral associate not only in his research activities but also in his mentoring. Despite his extremely busy research schedule, he always finds the time to help students. As an example, in his first year of postdoctoral appointment, he was approached by a graduate student who had no background in the field that he would be conducting his PhD. Under his guidance, the student published 4 journal papers with Dr. Yurduseven before the end of his second year. I have supervised many, many postdocs; Dr. Yurduseven is truly exemplary, and easily the best in terms of being able to address the design of an entire system. It is rare to find one individual who can manage all aspects and not be overwhelmed. Dr. Yurduseven is such an individual."
Another member of the group wrote: "Besides his outstanding research skills and publication achievements, Dr. Yurduseven is an enthusiastic mentor and easily approachable to students. He encourages initiative and asks tough questions with the purpose of encouraging students to think deeply about the problems at hand. He works as an equal with his colleagues and is always ready to transfer his experience and learn from others. I believe that academia needs more scientists like Dr. Okan Yurduseven."
A graduate student wrote: "Okan is the best mentor, and here is why. Okan says firstly, there is no such thing as talent, there is hard work, and many failed attempts resulting in one successful attempt. So, the more we try, the higher our probability of success. Second, any plan is flexible - if one thing does not work out, another may. Third, when a task seems impossible it can be split into sub-tasks. This simple strategy works for me because it allows me to keep my focus and achieve results. Okan also teaches me to do everything in a quality way. By quality he means the highest level I can achieve, so I can answer positively to the question of whether I have done all I could today. Importantly, our communication is a two way street – “We get smarter by teaching others”, he says. I consider myself lucky to be working with Okan."
2016 Outstanding Postdoc at Duke
Dr. Chris Nelson
Department of Biomedical Engineering
Dr. Lawrence Carin, Vice Provost for Research, presented the award for Outstanding Postdoc to Dr. Chris Nelson from the Department of Biomedical Engineering. Dr. Nelson was nominated by his PI and many of his labmates.
Dr. Nelson's PI, Dr Charles Gersbach, wrote: "Chris has made a tremendous impact at Duke and beyond since arriving as a postdoc in my lab. Chris’s many accomplishments from graduate school (including an impressive 16 research publications, 8 review articles, and 5 patent applications), were an accurate harbinger of what he would accomplish as a postdoctoral fellow. In a relatively short time in my lab, Chris worked hard through several different technical challenges, and was able to submit a manuscript to Science only 15 months after joining my group, which was published in that journal earlier this year. The impact of the results is reflected in the widespread attention that the paper received, including highlights in The New York Times, The New England Journal of Medicine, Nature, BBC, and NIH Research Matters. As evidence of the translational impact of Chris’s work, we have been contacted by many biotech companies interested in his results. In fact, Duke is in the process of licensing Chris’s patent applications. I am certain that Chris will have a successful independent career in which he will mentor many students and postdoctoral fellows. The Outstanding Postdoc Award will honor the incredible contribution that Chris has made both through his internationally recognized research and his mentoring within Duke to support our students."
A graduate student wrote: "Since undergrad, I have worked in four different labs and been mentored by many people along the way. Chris is by far the best mentor that I have had. In addition to patiently teaching me lab techniques, he inspires me to think like a scientist and has become my role model on how to mentor. Chris’ insights always lead me to a broadened perspective. Even when he knows the answer to something, he teaches me how to figure it out myself so that next time I don’t need to ask. He makes me feel like part of the team and excited to own my part of the project."
An undergraduate wrote: "I have yet to find – in any of my research experiences at Duke or otherwise– a mentor who is as dedicated and engaged as Christopher Nelson. Dr. Nelson teaches me to be an independent researcher by giving me actual experience, instead of simply spoonfeeding me a “recipe.” Dr. Nelson has also taught me to think critically about accuracy and honesty in science. In every project, Dr. Nelson encourages me to be rigorous in my inquiry, stringent in my methods, and honest in my analysis. Needless to say, Dr. Nelson is generous with his time. He meets with me almost every week to check in, and comes in on some weekends simply to accommodate my schedule. Beyond the time he spends on me, he is also the go-to for many other undergraduates in the lab because he is so approachable, non-judgmental, and encouraging. I have always felt encouraged to discuss my new, sometimes half-baked ideas with Dr. Nelson, and he empowers me to question his reasoning about his project designs. Finally, Dr. Nelson is a mentor to me outside of research. He is truly invested in my future. Every semester, after we give each other performance reviews (yes, he insists that I give him a mentor review), his first question is about my well-being: am I stressed? Overcommitted? Unlike many other mentors I have had in the past, I feel that Dr. Nelson is genuinely my advocate. Dr. Nelson is a gift - to the Duke research community, to science, and to me."
2015 Outstanding Postdoc at Duke
Dr. Kathryn Dickerson
Center for Cognitive Neuroscience
Dr. Raphael Valdivia, Vice Dean for Basic Science, presented the 2015 Award for Outstanding Postdoc to Dr. Kathryn (Katie) Dickerson from the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience.
Dr. Dickerson's PI wrote: "Katie Dickerson has earned the best endorsement I can imagine for this award: her lab mates clamored for me to nominate her. Katie’s upbeat, direct approach is coupled with ingenuity, keen intelligence, and a true gift for clear-sighted and gracious communication. Katie makes it look easy, even when things are very hard. Katie has been deeply involved in mentoring the graduate students in the lab. Her ability to teach the process of being a scientist has given students exactly the right guidance to keep them on track with difficult projects. Graduate school is inherently hard and often dispiriting, so I cannot stress enough the value of Katie’s ability to offer both concrete instruction and social support for the students. I predict that when she leaves my laboratory she will continue to help everyone achieve superb science with tremendous translational impact, just as she is doing here, and make it look easy along the way."
One of the grad students who works with Dr. Dickerson wrote: "Kathryn Dickerson is hands-down THE BEST RESEARCH MENTOR I have ever observed. I consider myself very lucky to be one of the graduate students she has taken on as a mentee. Knowing I can go to Katie for help on everything from research to writing my dissertation has been a great resource (and comfort) in progressing towards my dissertation defense. Katie’s example has taught me a lot about how to better conduct research AND how to better conduct myself as a researcher."
Another grad student wrote:"Katie Dickerson is exactly type of postdoc that this award was designed to honor. From the moment she joined our lab 4 years ago, her warm presence and bottomless good cheer has been contagious. It's simply better in lab when Katie is there. I was particularly blessed in getting paired up with her on projects that eventually turned into my dissertation. And without hyperbole, I'm not sure I would have finished without her. At every stage, she was there offering helpful guidance, a critical eye for detail, and dedication to making sure everything stayed on track. When I was racing against the clock to complete data collection and analysis for the last chapter of my dissertation, Katie selflessly postponed a trip to the Bahamas in order to help me finish up. My last 4 years are full of experiences like that. And I was just one of five graduate students; everyone has similar anecdotes about her. We're all better scientists because of her guidance. More importantly, however, is what Katie offers as a friend and mentor. Over the last few years I've had more than my share of anxiety-riddled what-am-I-doing-with-my-life moments, and Katie has been there each time to listen, offer perspective, and invariably leave me feeling more optimistic. Her achievements over the last 4 years are a testament to her as a scientist; her ability to foster growth in those around her is a testament to her as a mentor. Combined, these are a testament to why she is a unique and outstanding postdoc."
2014 Outstanding Postdocs at Duke: Duke Diversity Postdoc Alliance
Molly Starback, Director of the Duke Office of Postdoctoral Services, presented the 2014 Award for Outstanding Postdoc to not just one postdoc, but a group of postdocs: the Duke Diversity Postdoc Alliance (DPA). The Diversity Postdoc Alliance was launched in 2013 by three postdocs, Drs. Shraddha Desai, Argenia Doss and Tricia Wright.
Drs. Desai, Doss, and Wright recognized a need for increasing communication between postdocs and graduate students from diverse backgrounds, which they define broadly as underrepresented, international or from different fields of research within the Duke community. The Diversity Alliance has collaborated with the Office of Biomedical Graduate Diversity, the Duke Biosciences Collaborative for Research Engagement, the Office of Postdoctoral Services, and the Duke Postdoctoral Association to host networking events for postdocs and grad students from diverse backgrounds. The Diversity Alliance also joined with the UNC Minority Postdoc Alliance and the NCCU Postdoc Association to throw a Diversity Postdoc Mixer for postdocs from all over the Triangle.
2013 Outstanding Postdoc at Duke
Dr. Andrew C. Butler
Department of Psychology & Neuroscience
Dr. Anne West, Associate Professor of Neurobiology in the Duke School of Medicine, presented the 2013 Outstanding Postdoc Award to Dr. Andrew C. Butler in the Marsh Lab of the Duke Department of Psychology and Neuroscience.
One lab member who works with Dr. Butler wrote, "Andrew always wants to mentor undergraduate and graduate students. Many people try to spend as little time as possible with the undergraduates (an unfortunate comment, but one I’m afraid is true) but Andy sets up a weekly meeting schedule and does an individualized reading schedule with each student. I believe he truly enjoys these meetings and he spends a large amount of time working with his undergraduates to help them write the best independent study (honors thesis) papers possible. Andy also has served on several thesis committees beyond the students he has directly mentored, and he is a fair questioner who at the same time always makes the students think."
2012 Outstanding Postdoc at Duke
Dr. Ronald McKell
Center for Brain Imaging & Analysis
Dr. Raphael Valdivia, Vice Dean for Basic Science, presented the 2012 Award for Outstanding Postdoc to Dr. Ronald McKell from the Center for Brain Imaging & Analysis.
One lab member who works with Dr. Carter wrote, "McKell is incredibly kind and generous with his knowledge and his time. He has mentored countless graduate students, research assistants, and undergraduates, while at the same time being one of the hardest workers I've ever collaborated with, as well as an extremely active father and husband. It is inspirational to see how he makes the time to commit his focus and enthusiasm towards so many areas of his life."
Another labmate wrote of Dr. Carter, "Science is competitive, no matter what field you work in. This can sometimes cause people to hoard their experience and refuse to work with others under the fear that doing so may compromise their work. McKell’s willingness to help anyone in the lab that comes to him is the key to making him such an outstanding postdoc. Whether you’re a fellow postdoc in the lab, an aspiring grad student, or an associate in research, McKell will take time out of his busy schedule to sit down, listen to your problem, and help you as best as he can. This is not a trait you find in many work environments, let alone one in science. It’s this altruistic behavior that really makes McKell a natural leader and someone that others respect."
2011 Outstanding Postdoc at Duke
Dr. Hak Suk Chung
Department of Biochemistry
By any measure she would be an outstanding postdoc, but Dr. Chung has helped her lab rise above particularly sad and challenging circumstances: their mentor, Dr Christian Raetz, passed away in August 2011.
A former lab member wrote of Dr. Chung, "Having known Chris Raetz for the past 15 years, first as his graduate student, hak suk then as a post-doc, and finally as a colleague and friend, I have been privileged to hear his praises of Hak Suk on numerous occasions. I can say without hesitation that Chris would have written this nomination himself were he able. Hak Suk is, according to a letter written in July for her by Chris, 'an extraordinarily talented and hard-working scientist, who is also an outstanding mentor for young graduate students and new members of the lab.'"
A graduate student and labmate wrote: "Hak Suk has shown an unmatchable intellectual curiosity that, when paired with her devotion for experimentation, has made her the most productive member of our laboratory. To the rest of the lab, Hak Suk represents much more than a productive pair of hands. She has been a continuous mentor to undergraduates, graduate students, and fellow postdocs. It seems as if every conversation between members of our lab ends with a decision to consult Hak Suk. Over the past year, Hak Suk’s role as mentor and 'den mother' to the Raetz lab has become increasingly essential. Hak Suk’s impact on our lab is clear: she is the single greatest factor in our ability to continue Prof. Raetz’s work. Hak Suk has proven an invaluable source of lab cohesion, personal support, and experimental advice. She serves not only as a mentor we are lucky to have, but a friend we could never do without."
2010 Outstanding Postdoc at Duke
Dr. Suzanne McGaugh
Department of Biology
Dr. McGaugh’s mentor, Mohamed Noor, wrote of her, “She's moved in a year from being an evolutionary and physiological ecologist to a widely respected genomic bioinformatician and geneticist. I have never seen anyone so adept at such a broad swath of biology! Within the laboratory, Suzanne is a brilliant, scholarly, and friendly resource. If I had to summarize Suzanne in a word, it'd be ‘determination.’ If I had to summarize Suzanne in 2 words, they'd be ‘utterly irreplaceable.’ I cannot sufficiently express how fortunate I feel to have her in my lab.”
One of Suzanne’s lab mates wrote: “Suzanne embodies all of the qualities that this award seeks to honor. She is a determined and tireless advocate, undaunted by any obstacle, whether it’s teaching herself a new computer programming language, or setting up a server for our lab. She inspires and encourages others around her to persevere to success. And while she is extremely dedicated to her work, Suzanne also serves as a role model for a healthy work/life balance. Suzanne McGaugh is an excellent example of an outstanding postdoc.”
2009 Outstanding Postdoc at Duke
Dr. Mélanie Auffan
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Dr Auffan's mentor, Dr. Mark Weisner, wrote: "Dr. Auffan combines outstanding science with dedication to student mentoring. Her work in the laboratory has spanned traditional environmental engineering with work in the life sciences. Her work has required her to develop methodologies where virtually none have existed. As a result she has played a vital role in bringing together faculty and students from widely differing disciplines. In the 18 months she has been at Duke, she has published or had accepted 6 papers based on her work since coming here, including an upcoming paper in Nature Nanotechnology. Dr. Auffan has also given generously of her time in mentoring graduate students, undergraduates, and high school students. She has lectured in several of my classes and to outside groups concerning her research and the broader topic of environmental nanotechnology, and took the lead in organizing a conference between French and US researchers on the topic of nanotechnology."
Mélanie was selected in 2009 for France's highly competitive search for a permanent position with the French National Scientific Research Center. She joined the European Center for Research and Education in Geosciences and the Environment in late 2009. Mélanie is truly an outstanding postdoc, not just for her research skills, but for giving back to the community by teaching and mentoring
2008 Outstanding Postdoc at Duke
Dr. Joshua Carter
Department of Chemistry
Dr Carter's mentor, Dr. Thomas LaBean, wrote: "Josh possesses an impressive range of interdisciplinary research skills, including materials characterization and molecular biology, as well as synthetic and analytical chemistry. I have repeatedly been impressed with Josh's ability to reach outside his previous experience and implement new solutions to difficult experimental challenges. In addition to his bench science prowess, Dr. Carter displays a relaxed, easy leadership style with the younger members of the group, and has acted as lead mentor for the research projects of local high school students from Project SEED. Despite the costs in time and effort, Dr. Carter cheerfully gives of himself to provide a profitable research experience for these young students."
Not only did Josh's labmates provide written testimonials praising his excellence in teaching, mentoring, and research, they were so enthusiastic about him that they created a video in his honor! Josh's nominations demonstrate that he is truly an outstanding postdoc, whose success in research is complemented by his service to the University and the larger community.
2007 Outstanding Postdocs at Duke
Dr. Siobhan Brady
Department of Biology
Dr. Sally Kornbluth, Vice Dean for Basic Science, presented two awards for Outstanding Postdoc in 2007. In alphabetical order, the first recipient was Dr. Siobhan Brady from Dr Philip Benfey’s lab in the Department of Biology. One of her nominations read, “Dr Brady’s research in transcription factor expression patterns has yielded innovative ways to approach expression research. In all, her two years of research at Duke have yielded six first author papers. Dr Brady currently has four collaborations with laboratories in the United States and abroad, ranging from developmental genetics to computational biology and bioinformatics. What is incredible about Siobhan is that she accomplishes all of her research while managing undergraduate independent research students and summer students. Within the past two years, she has mentored six students, all of whom completed their projects with posters, theses, or both. No matter how busy she is, she is never too busy to stop and answer questions, always with a big smile. Siobhan is not only active in the lab, but also in the community. She has volunteered at Rogers-Herr Middle School, teaching genetics to seventh graders, and she volunteers at marathons and races, including the Susan Komen Race for the Cure.”
2007 Outstanding Postdocs at Duke
Dr. Tim Griffin
Department of Surgery
Dr. Kornbluth presented the second award to Dr Tim Griffin from the Department of Surgery. Dr. Griffin’s mentor, Dr Farshid Guilak, wrote: “Tim is the ‘walk-on-water’ type of postdoc that we all dream of. His ability to learn in multiple areas has made him a uniquely trained scientist with expertise in subjects including physiology, biomechanics, bioengineering, and biological anthropology. As a scientist, he has a balanced view of every question, and so is able to reach conclusions through the data without any bias. He is able to manage and direct a number of different projects at the same time, all performed with the utmost care and precision. He is able to accomplish so much because of his clear and organized way of thinking, but also because of his ability to communicate and collaborate with others. He spends significant time mentoring undergrads, med students, and junior post-docs in our group. Tim has the characteristics of a true leader – he is exceptionally smart; he is confident yet unassuming; he is an outstanding writer and speaker; and he is highly ambitious. He is a team player who is always willing to help others and mentor younger members of the lab.”
2006 Outstanding Postdoc at Duke
Dr. Xiaopeng Zhao
Department of Biomedical Engineering
Dr. Zhao received nominations from his mentor, from a student in one of his classes, and from an officer of Sigma Xi, the professional society he serves in. Dr. Zhao's research used techniques of nonlinear dynamics to study the mechanisms underlying cardiac arrhythmias such as ventricular fibrillation, and he has established an excellent record of publication. All three of Dr. Zhao's nominators praised not only his research achievements, but also his service, teaching, and mentoring activities at Duke.
2006 Outstanding Postdoc Leader at Duke
Dr. Elizabeth Johnson
Department of Neurobiology
Vice Provost for Research and Professor of Biology, Dr. James Siedow, presented the award for Outstanding Postdoc Leader to Dr. Elizabeth Johnson, president of the Duke University Postdoctoral Association. Dr. Siedow described Dr. Johnson as a force for positive change for postdocs on the Duke campus. He noted that Dr. Johnson had been instrumental in crafting the new postdoc policy, which mandated a minimum salary level and provided equal access to health insurance regardless of source of funding. Dr. Johnson also led the effort to establish the new postdoc office at Duke, and built DUPA from a relatively small group into a well-organized team that hosted numerous professional and social events for Duke postdocs. Needless to say, Dr. Johnson did all of this while maintaining her own research in the Fitzpatrick Lab of the Department of Neurobiology.