Twelfth Annual Duke Postdoctoberfest

The Office of Postdoctoral Services and the Duke University Postdoctoral Association (DUPA) held the 12th Annual Postdoctoberfest Celebration on Friday, October 6, 2017, to honor the university’s hard-working postdocs and their mentors. Postdocs, their families, faculty, and staff enjoyed hot and veggie dogs with all the fixings, local Foothills Brewery beers, and the music of the Huzzah Band. The giant bouncy race car was a hit with all the kids in attendance, as were the four flavors of Maple View Farms ice cream. Postdocs received an official Duke Postdoc t-shirt and enjoyed the warm fall weather. We gave ourselves a big round of applause in honor of our twelfth anniversary!

Each year, the highlight of Postdoctoberfest is the presentation of awards to the Outstanding Postdoc and Outstanding Postdoc Mentor at Duke.

Outstanding Postdoc Mentors:

Dr. Raphael Valdivia, Vice Dean for Basic Sciences, presented the award for Outstanding Postdoc Mentor to Dr. John Aldrich and Dr. David Rohde. Dr. Aldrich is the Pfizer-Pratt University Professor of Political Science. Dr. Rohde is the Ernestine Friedl Professor of Political Science. For the past 15 years, John and Dave have jointly run the "Political Institutions and Public Choice" (PIPC) lab, in which they bring together postdocs, graduate and undergraduate students, high school students, and faculty. Drs Aldrich and Rohde were nominated by numerous current and former members of the PIPC lab, and by the Chair of the department. Dr Georg Vanberg, Chair of Political Science, wrote: "One aspect that consistently impresses me about Dave and John is the tremendous effort, care, and time they put into mentoring their postdocs. John and Dave are generous in sharing their intellectual gifts, expertise, and time with their postdocs to improve their work, and to embed them in networks that will be critical to their academic success. This is truly selfless work, not rewarded by any publication on their vita. Like many disciplines, political science suffers from an underrepresentation of women in faculty ranks, and -- unfortunately -- many women experience a lack of mentorship during their graduate school careers. Dave and John have focused on this issue, and have been very active in providing postdoctoral opportunities and outstanding mentoring to junior women in our field."

A current postdoc wrote: "Dave and John believe that the laboratory-team model of research and teaching, prevalent in the natural sciences and rarer in the social sciences, is a valuable and effective model for training students in political science. Individually, Dave and John are exceptional mentors. Dave takes obvious joy in mentoring students and scholars. His door is always open and I consistently walk out of his office with greater clarity of thought than when I entered it. John is unfailingly committed to his students’ personal and professional success. More than once, he’s told me that his favorite part of his job is mentoring PhD students and postdocs. I have learned more in the space of a single conversation with John, than I have over semester-long courses. For me, being a postdoc in the social sciences could have been, as it is for many people, an isolating experience. Because of Dave and John, my experience has been anything but isolating. John and Dave have provided support and encouragement beyond what I imagined possible when I accepted this position. I am overjoyed to acknowledge all the good Dave and John have done for me and their other postdocs."

A former postdoc, now Assistant Professor, wrote: "As a postdoc, it’s hard to imagine a better environment to work in than PIPC. Individually, the position gave me crucial time to work on my research, but the space itself also created a vibrant environment for curious researchers to come together. John and Dave have been incredible mentors to me and many others. One reason is they lead by example. They show you, rather than tell you, academic lessons and life lessons. I am so grateful for their continued encouragement and support."

Another former postdoc, now Assistant Professor, wrote: "The names John Aldrich and Dave Rohde are recognized throughout the discipline for the enormous impact they have had on the study of American politics. What may be less appreciated is their deep commitment to the development of postdocs. Their kindness, generosity, and patience helped me (and countless others) to become the scholar I am today. They always made time to meet with me, and always offered sage advice. The PIPC program is an open, welcoming environment for fostering scholars. While John and Dave’s scholarly accomplishments are awe inspiring, they pale in comparison to their kindness and generosity. I am profoundly thankful for these years of mentorship and friendship."

In short, Drs Aldrich and Rohde exemplify what it means to be an Outstanding Postdoc Mentor. Drs Aldrich and Rohde, we are very pleased to present you with this award.  Thank you for serving as a role model for faculty mentors at Duke University!

Outstanding Postdoc:

Dr. Lawrence Carin, Vice Provost for Research, presented the award for Outstanding Postdoc to Dr. 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."

Dr. Yurduseven, these nominations demonstrate that you are truly an outstanding postdoc whose research successes are bolstered by your mentorship of others.  Thank you for serving as a role model for postdocs at Duke University.

The faculty, administration, and staff of Duke University extend a hearty THANK YOU to all of our postdocs and postdoc mentors. We are proud to honor your achievements in research, mentoring, and teaching!

2017 Outstanding Postdoc Mentor Dr. John Aldrich with Dean for Basic Sciences Dr. Raphael Valdivia and Director of Postdoctoral Services Molly Starback

Accepting the 2017 Outstanding Postdoc Award on behalf of Dr. Okan Yurduseven, his wife, Olena Aleksandrova, colleague Dr. Jonah Gollub with Vice Provost for Research Dr. Larry Carin and Director of Postdoctoral Services Molly Starback

May I have your attention please! Anastasia Maddox from the Office of Research Support

A great crowd gathered on a warm fall day

Time to cool off with an adult beverage

Enjoying two scoops of tasty Maple View ice cream

Heating things up was the Huzzah Hot Jazz band

The bouncy Race Car will be ready to drive again next year