Duke Announces Bass Connections Teams of Faculty and Students

Interdisciplinary projects to collaborate on key social issues in five broad themes

From the gold mines of the Peruvian Amazon to the Latino neighborhoods of Durham, an unusual team-based learning and research experience will be launched this summer and over the next academic year.

Duke University this week announced the first Bass Connections teams of faculty and students who will spend the next year collaborating on key societal issues.

The Bass Connection teams were created under the belief that large, complex social challenges are best addressed with an interdisciplinary approach that also provides for an important foundation for undergraduate learning in the 21st century.

Bass Connections will build upon earlier and ongoing Duke efforts, such as Duke Engage, Duke Immerse and Duke Intense Global, to bring knowledge in service to society and engage faculty and students in innovative educational experiences. Each Bass team will establish connections across learning levels and disciplines and to partners outside of higher education.

The program will provide new educational opportunities for undergraduate,, graduate and professional students to work in project teams on important societal issues, said Susan Roth, vice provost for interdisciplinary studies.

"There are important things that students learn from collaborating in groups where there are differences in background knowledge, interests and expertise," Roth said.  "It's important for their education to be exposed to those differences, and learn to benefit from and integrate what different people bring to the table. Once students leave Duke, they will go into a world where they will be sharing their knowledge and working with teams to solve problems.

"Students also need to think now about how the knowledge our faculty creates has a bearing on the kinds of huge challenges we face as a society. That is something students are interested in, and it has been part of our strategic thinking for more than a decade."

The process of forming Bass Connection project teams started with faculty members who found interdisciplinary partners, submitted proposals and recruited undergraduate, graduate and professional students. The faculty members span across seven of the university's schools. "I was impressed by the number and range of proposals," Roth said.  "Many came from faculty who hadn't participated in our interdisciplinary initiatives before.  And the student response has been similarly extraordinary."

For their project team in brain sciences, professors Richard Auten and Staci Bilbo wanted to explore how unhealthy and stressful living conditions in expectant mothers affect the brains of their developing children.  Their team members will combine class study, lab work and field work.

Funded from a $50 million gift from Anne T. and Robert M. Bass of Fort Worth, Texas, the Bass Connections initiative will provide opportunities for students at all learning levels to gain expertise, in addition to their disciplinary and professional expertise, in five broad areas: brain and society; education and human development; energy; global health; and, information, society and culture.

As Bass Connections kicks off this summer and fall, it will support research and learning for nearly three dozen project teams in these areas.

Below are the faculty teams for four of the five theme areas.  Education and Human Development will announce its projects this month. For more information, click here.


Brain and Society

Environmental Justice and the Early-life Origin of Health Disparities: Why Mom Matters

Team Leaders: Richard Auten and Staci Bilbo


Age Differences in Economic Decision Making

Team Leaders: Roberto Cabeza and Mary Frances Luce


How Biology, Economics, Policy and Law Can Bring An End To the Drug War

Team Leaders: Cynthia Kuhn and Frank Sloan


Environmental Effects on Cognitive Development

Team Leaders: Craig Dane Roberts and Rochelle Schwartz-Bloom


Perception and Language

Team Leaders: Edna Andrews, Michele Diaz and Jennifer Groh


Trauma and Timing

Team Leaders: Rajendra Morey, David Rubin, Deborah Jenson, Brandon Kohrt and Dhipthi Mulligan



Communicating About Energy In The Triangle: Engaging Students And Local Partners To Improve Household Consumption

Team Leaders: Brian Southwell (RTI International), Daniel Vermeer (Fuqua), Laura Richman (Psychology)


Energy Efficiency In Industry: Motor Vehicle Manufacturing 

Team Leaders: Gale Boyd (Economics), Josiah Knight (Mechanical Engineering)


Exploring The Intersection Of Energy And Peace-Building Through Film

Team Leaders: Erika Weinthal (Nicholas School), Liz Milewicz (Duke University Libraries)


Goals And Collective Efficacy: Routes To Energy Saving

Team Leaders: Adrian Camilleri (Fuqua), William Chameides (Nicholas School), Gavin Fitzsimons (Fuqua), Rick Larrick (Fuqua), Dalia Patino-Echeverri (Nicholas School)


Modeling Tools For Energy Systems Analysis (MOTESA)

Team Leaders: Dalia Patino-Echeverri (Nicholas School), Nikos Pitsianis (Computer Science), Xiaobai Sun (Computer Science)


The University As An Energy Laboratory: Design And Implementation Of An Energy Disaggregation System

Team Leaders: Kyle Bradbury (Energy Initiative), Leslie Collins (Electrical and Computer Engineering), Timothy Johnson (Nicholas School), Kenneth Morton (Electrical and Computer Engineering), Richard Newell (Nicholas School), Steven Palumbo (Duke Facilities Management Department)


U.S. Climate Policy Options: Regulating Greenhouse Gas Emissions From Petroleum Refineries & Steel

Team Leaders: Billy Pizer (Sanford and Nicholas Institute), Tim Profeta (Sanford and Nicholas Institute)



Information, Society and Culture

Public Access to Government Information: Implementation, Voter Behavior, and Rights

Team leaders: Kenneth Rogerson (Sanford School of Public Policy) and Orlin Vakarelov (Philosophy)


Live Processing and Live Art: Performance and Technology

Team leaders: Martin Brooke (Pratt School of Engineering), Tommy DeFrantz (Dance), and Tyler Walters (Dance)


Information, Children Mental Health, and Society

Team leaders: Helen Egger (School of Medicine) and Guillermo Sapiro (Pratt School of Engineering)


Computing and Visualizing the Lives of Things

Team leaders: Caroline Bruzelius, Sheila Dillon, Maurizio Forte, Mark Olsen, Victoria Szabo (Art, Art History & Visual Studies), Guillermo Sapiro (Pratt School of Engineering), Carlo Tomasi (Computer Science), Ingrid Daubechies (Mathematics)


Modeling and Simulation

Team leaders: Anita Layton and Nick Gessler


Reimagining Urban Communities

Team leaders: Cathy Davidson (English) and Molly Tamarkin (Library)


Global Health

Environmental Epidemiology Research Training in the Peruvian Amazon: Vulnerability to heavy metals and emerging infectious diseases

Team Leaders: Bill Pan (Nicholas and Global Health), Marco Marani (Nicholas and Pratt), Helen Hsu-Kim (Pratt), Ernesto Ortiz (Global Health), and Beth Feingold (Global Health)


A Community-Based Mental Health Intervention with Latinos in Durham, N.C.

Team Leaders: Kathryn Whetten (Sanford), Sara LeGrand (Center for Health Policy and Inequalities Research), Kristen Shirey (Psychiatry) and Kristen Sullivan (Center for Health Policy and Inequalities Research).