Coronavirus may have shut down campuses and closed labs, but that hasn’t stopped some Duke students from brainstorming ways to improve COVID-19 testing while working from home -- with help from artificial intelligence. A student-led team is building a machine learning system that could help doctors analyze CT scans of people’s lungs and diagnose COVID-19 more quickly and accurately than nasal swab tests. Their system is able to distinguish COVID-19 from other common infections, such as pneumonia. And unlike many AI tools… read more about Duke Students Taught a Computer to Detect COVID-19 in Lung Scans »

Every morning, Duke Biology staff, faculty and students receive a pick-me-up from Randy Smith.  Smith, departmental manager for Biology, has been sending a daily email to everyone in the department that includes updates on labs and on mask and glove donations and tips for working from home. “My role has become a cross between a cheerleader and an air traffic controller,” Smith said. “Biology is pretty tight community. It’s important to me that we maintain that while we're all separated." Smith began preparing the department… read more about Dedicated Devils: Randy Smith »

Much like people, fruit flies must decide when the time and place are right to make a move on a mate. Male fruit flies use cues such as age and pheromones to gauge their chances of success, but just how they do that on a molecular level was a mystery. New research suggests that the answer lies, in part, in their DNA. A new study finds that the scent of other flies, coupled with signals from a male’s internal hormones, alter the activity of a gene that controls how turned on he is by pheromones when he reaches maturity. A… read more about How a Male Fly Knows When to Make a Move on a Mate »

Like many Duke faculty Sherryl Broverman was forced to convert her class “AIDS and Other Emerging Diseases” from a large lecture addressing 200 or more students to an online conversation.  Even she was surprised, though, by how quickly the medium influenced the message.  “For my first Zoom class, on a Tuesday, I sat at my desk and wore a blazer.  By Thursday, I was on my couch and it was just more like having a conversation.  My cat even visited.” The unexpected intimacy of Zoom changed the quality and content of… read more about How a Master Teacher Transitions to Teaching Online »

Like many people during the COVID-19 crisis, Dean Mohamed Noor spends part of every day in virtual meetings. But he makes his Zoom calls a little better by taking them from the bridge of the Starship Enterprise. Noor is a biology professor and dean of natural sciences at Duke and winner of the Linnean Society’s 2008 Darwin-Wallace Medal. He’s also a hard-core Trekkie. A few years ago, looking to revamp some of his courses, Noor started using science fiction to teach real-world science. If you want to know what human-Vulcan… read more about Meet the Duke Dean Whose Obsession With 'Star Trek' Landed Him a Gig as Their Next Science Consultant  »

Biograd Lauren Smith and Associate Professor Steve Haase have published a new paper in Science, "An Intrinsic Oscillator Drives the Blood Stage Cycle of the Malaria Parasite, Plasmodium Falciparum."  Smith and her colleagues grew the malaria parasites in vitro, using human blood cells, and observed that expression of about 90% of the parasite’s genes was synchronized.  With no human host to contribute to time-keeping, the experiment demonstrated that the malaria parasite has its own internal clock that governs its… read more about Lauren Smith and Steve Haase Publish Major Finding on Malaria »

When a person gets malaria, a rhythmic dance takes place inside their body. The disease’s telltale signs -- cyclical fevers and chills -- are caused by successive broods of parasites multiplying in sync inside red blood cells, then bursting out in unison every few days. Now, a study shows that even when grown outside the body, malaria parasites can still keep a beat. Reporting in the May 15 issue of the journal Science, researchers have uncovered rhythms in the parasite’s gene activity levels that don’t rely on time cues… read more about Malaria Parasite Ticks to its Own Internal Clock »

Fifteen Duke Ph.D. students have received prestigious awards from the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program (NSF GRFP) for 2020. Launched in 1952, the GRFP is the oldest graduate fellowship of its kind. It supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing Ph.D. or research-based master’s degrees. Fellows receive a three-year stipend, coverage of tuition and fees, and opportunities for international research and… read more about 15 Ph.D. Students Receive Prestigious NSF Fellowships »

The Faculty and Staff of the Department of Biology offer their heartiest congratulations to the Class of 2020.  One hundred sixty-four students graduated with a First Major in Biology.  Out of this group 45 graduated with distinction and 21 with high distinction.  18 Biology majors were inducted into Phi Beta Kappa.  More than 70% of Biology majors completed independent studies, demonstrating that they can "think like a biologist."  Almost two-thirds earned second majors, minors or certificates in subjects outside the… read more about Congratulations Class of 2020! »

DURHAM, N.C. -- Duke juniors Monica Desjardins and Darien Herndon have been named two of 55 recipients of the Udall Scholarship, which recognizes students who have demonstrated a commitment to careers in the environment or Native American tribal public policy or health care. Both Desjardins, a psychology and global health major from Maricopa, Arizona, and Herndon, a biology major from Lumberton, North Carolina, have been recognized as scholars in the area of Native American tribal health care. Only 8 of the 55 scholarships… read more about Two Duke Students Awarded Udall Scholarships for Work in Native American Tribal Health Care »

Congratulations to the following student award winners from Duke University units in 2020.   African & African American Studies   John Hope Franklin Award for Academic Excellence: Elizabeth DuBard Grantland Karla FC Holloway Award for University Service: Beza Gebremariam Mary McLeod Bethune Writing Award: Jenna Clayborn Walter C. Burford Award for Community Service: Kayla Lynn Corredera-Wells   Art, Art History & Visual Studies        Mary Duke… read more about Student Honors and Laurels for 2020 »

DURHAM, N.C. -- Eighteen Duke students and alumni have been awarded Fulbright placements to teach English, study and do research abroad during the 2020-2021 academic year. The Fulbright US Student Program is the U.S. government’s flagship international educational exchange program, offering opportunities in over 140 countries. The Fulbright award is designed to facilitate cultural exchange and increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and those of other countries. The awards are announced on a… read more about Eighteen Duke Students And Alumni Awarded Fulbright Scholarships »

Everybody gets a little stir-crazy in lockdown, and Duke faculty are no exception.  Professor Fred Nijhout used his enforced isolation to create moving art from some sand, scrap, and “an old 3d printer.”  His creation uses magnets to move a steel ball across a flat sand table, leaving intricate designs in its wake.  Fred took his inspiration from artist Bruce Shapiro, who programs computers to control sand tables, bubbles in water pipes, and fabric banners to create “kinetic art pieces.” … read more about Nijhout Sand Table Makes Its Own Art! »

Jim Clark, Professor of Environmental Sciences and Policy and Biology, has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences.  The Academy is a private, non-profit society of distinguished scholars.  Established by an Act of Congress in 1863, the NAS is charged with providing independent, objective advice to the nation on matters related to science and technology.  Members are elected by their peers in recognition of outstanding research. The Biology Department offers its hearty congratulations to Professor Clark! read more about Jim Clark Elected to National Academy of Sciences »

Congratulations to new Bass Fellow Sheila Patek!  Sheila was named the Mrs. Alexander Heymeyer Professor of Biology on April 25.  The Bass Fellowships were established in 1996 by a gift from Anne T. and Robert Bass.  Their donation called for matching gifts from others, whose names would be attached to the 5-year professorial appointments.  The faculty remain members for life of the Bass Society of Fellows, which now numbers 106.  Candidates are nominated by faculty and evaluated by a faculty committee for having achieved… read more about Sheila Patek Named a Bass Fellow »

Five Duke professors with demonstrated excellence in research and undergraduate instruction have been selected as the 2020 Bass Fellows. “This moment of crisis has highlighted the importance of having faculty who excel, both in teaching and in research,” said Gary Bennett, vice provost for undergraduate education. “Bass Fellows represent the best that Duke offers -- faculty with a commitment to discovery and delivering a transformational undergraduate education, one that changes lives and strengthens our global communities… read more about Five New Bass Professors Named for Excellence in Teaching and Research »

“For my first Zoom class, on a Tuesday, I sat at my desk and wore a blazer. By Thursday, I was on my couch and it was just more like having a conversation. My cat even visited — my students asked to meet her,” says Sherryl Broverman.> The Duke associate professor of biology and global health is talking about the first time she taught her pandemic class online a few weeks ago. The course, Biology 154 - Aids and Other Emerging Diseases, is one of the largest electives at Duke and she’s been teaching it every Spring for 20… read more about Teaching a Pandemic Course During a Pandemic »

Biomajor and 2019 Horn Prize winner Laura Naslund has published her honors thesis work in Environmental Science and Technology.  The paper studies selenium contamination of watersheds from mining by mountaintop removal.  Selenium from streams in the watershed concentrates in biofilms composed of microorganisms, and then is consumed by insects.  Naslund showed high concentrations of selenium in these insects and also in the spiders that feed on them.  The article was selected for the American Chemical Society's… read more about Laura Naslund (Class of 2019) Publishes Honors Thesis »

DURHAM, N.C. -- Since the 1980s, a sprawling mountaintop removal mining complex in southern West Virginia has been leaching pollutants -- such as selenium -- into nearby streams at levels deemed unsafe for aquatic life. Now, even though the mine is closed, researchers have also found high concentrations of selenium in stream insects when they fly out of the water and the spiders that eat them along the banks, an indication that the contaminant moves from water to land as it makes its way up the food chain. The study shows… read more about Stream Pollution From Mountaintop Mining Doesn’t Stay Put in the Water »

Adapting to remote learning means much, much more than taking a lecture online. On Monday, faculty and students began the process of relearning how to do the hands-on educational experience that Duke is noted for, even if they are a continent apart. The ingenious solutions that several have already developed are good indications that it will work. Below are some snapshots from moments during the first day of remote learning: Utterly Claymated Nicholas Professor Elizabeth Albright needed a good backdrop for her virtual… read more about Dispatches From the First Day of Remote Learning »

A new collaboration between Duke University and Leica Microsystems, Inc., has created the Leica Microsystems Center of Excellence at the Light Micrscopy Core Facility, directed by Dr. Lisa Cameron.  The agreement brings three powerful new instruments to Duke, the stimulated emission depletion (STED) super-resolution microscope, the Deep in vivo Explorer (DIVE) multiphoton imaging microscope, and the Leica SP8 confocal.  This technology allows researchers to capture images and digital movies of the cellular and… read more about New Agreement with Leica Enhances Light Microscopy at Duke »

Set against a piece of black construction paper, the wings of the male cattleheart butterfly look even blacker than black. “Some animals have taken black to an extreme,” said Alex Davis, a graduate student in the lab of Duke University biologist Sönke Johnsen. The butterflies they study are 10 to 100 times darker than charcoal, fresh asphalt, black velvet and other everyday black objects. As little as 0.06% of the light that hits them is reflected back to the eye. That approaches the blackest black coatings made by humans… read more about To Make Ultra-Black Materials That Won’t Weigh Things Down, Consider the Butterfly »

In the Cascades of western North America, researchers in the lab of Duke biologist John Willis have been studying a group of wildflowers that look almost identical, but differ genetically and often fail to produce viable seeds. By cross-pollinating these plants and looking inside the resulting seeds to analyze the tissues within, Willis and Duke Ph.D. Jenn Coughlan tried to figure out why some hybrid seeds germinate and others don’t. Their results suggest that combinations of genes from both parent plants influence how… read more about Seeds of (In)Compatibility »

One of the state’s leading political figures joined six Duke faculty, staff and students in being honored for their community leadership and activism at the annual Samuel DuBois Cook Society Awards ceremony Feb. 11 at the Washington Duke Inn. The ceremony was led by Kimberly D. Hewitt, Duke’s new vice president of institutional equity. Hewitt succeeds Benjamin Reese, who retired last year and served as emcee for the Cook Society ceremony for more than a decade.  The mission of the Cook Society is to recognize, celebrate,… read more about Cook Society Honors Lives Led in Service at Duke and in the Community »

Gustavo Monteiro Silva has been named one of 100 inspiring black scientists in the Crosstalk Blog of Cell Press.  A. J. Hinton (University of Iowa) was inspired to compile the list after a student of color asked a colleague why black scientists were not covered in the curriculum.  Hinton and his colleagues came up with 75 black “Established Scientists,” including our Gustavo, and 25 “Rising Stars.”  As commenters noted the list is far from complete, but it is a step toward broader recognition. Congratulations to Gustavo… read more about Gustavo Silva Named an Inspiring Black Scientist »

Duke dance alumna Anne Talkington discusses how her research in biology, mathematics, and her training as a dancer came together to film a dance representing her graduate thesis work for the "Dance Your Ph.D." competition. Anne Talkington is an alum of the Duke dance program, having studied with the program between 2012 and 2016 in addition to her majors in biology and mathematics. She is currently pursuing her PhD at the Department of Mathematics, UNC-CH in Bioinformatics and Computational Biology, and paid a… read more about Dance Your PhD with Anne Talkington »

The Journal of Anatomy has published a paper by graduating senior Peishu Li and Kathleen Smith, "Comparative skeletal anatomy of neonatal ursids and the extreme altriciality of the giant panda" (02 December 2019, The paper addresses the extreme difference in size between panda newborns and adults--a factor of 400 by weight. Li and Smith compared the skeletons of newborn pandas with those of other bears, as well as dogs and foxes. Even among the bear species pandas were extreme, with bone… read more about BioMajor Peishu Li Publishes on Panda Anatomy »

DURHAM, N.C. -- Few singers reach their sunset years with the same voice they had in younger days. Singing sparrows are no different. Duke University-led research reveals that elderly swamp sparrows don’t sound quite like they used to -- nor do they strike the same fear in other males who may be listening in. Humans are remarkably good at guessing a person’s age just by hearing their voice. But this is the first time the phenomenon has been demonstrated in wild animals, said Duke biology professor and study co-author Steve… read more about Male Sparrows Are Less Intimidated by the Songs of Aging Rivals »

The Benfey Lab has presented an important new finding in a recent issue of Nature, RGF1 controls root meristem size through ROS signalling.  Postdoc Masashi Yamada, with the assistance of Xinwei Han and the overall guidance of Prof. Philip Benfey, demonstrated that forms of oxygen usually considered toxic actually have important roles to play in the growth of roots.  As the tip of the root creates new cells to burrow through the earth, superoxide tells cells to keep dividing and pushing the tip onward, while… read more about Benfey Lab Publishes in Nature »