Current Students

Click on students name or photo to view their Scholars@Duke profile


Benjamin Andress

Home town: Tecumseh, MI
College: Michigan State University
Research: I am studying the effects of mechanical load on meniscus injury healing and regenerative capacity in an inflammatory environment
Career Goals: I plan to pursue a career in clinical diagnostics and laboratory medicine through a fellowship in clinical chemistry.
Hobbies: Hunting, fishing, hiking (basically anything outdoors); watching sports, especially college football and basketball.
Why Duke: Duke has tremendous resources for a grad student, both in terms of research support (core facilities, travel funding, abundance of great collaborators) as well as professional development opportunities for a wide variety of potential career goals. Besides that, Duke has been a friendly and pleasant work environment, and has a beautiful campus.
Why Durham: My favorite thing about Durham is that it is just big enough to have some big-city amenities (great dining, performing arts, Durham Bulls baseball) but still has kind of a small town feel – it has a compact, walkable downtown, minimal traffic, and if you want to get out of town it only takes minutes. It's also only a few hours from either the beach or the mountains


Evangeline Bao

Home town: Ningbo, China
College: Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China
Research: neuron-immune interaction in shock
Career Goals:Not decided yet on whether staying in academia or going into industry. It might depends on how my thesis project goes.
Hobbies: Chinese calligraphy, ukulele, hiking, cooking.
Why Duke: I like the research environment/atmosphere here at duke. The campus is beautiful and the weather here is great (similar to my hometown in China).
Why Durham: There are many great restaurants around. Also it’s a great place to those who enjoys to be in the nature (like myself). And the living expense is affordable


Ivana Barraza

Home town: Fort-Lauderdale, Florida
College: Nova Southeastern University
Research: I am interested in how one is able to dismantle the intricate patterns of a pathogen in order to offer both alternative yet promising approaches to therapeutic treatments
Career Goals: I am keeping my options open as I propel through my research at Duke. Currently, I see myself working in industry or any area related to laboratory medicine.
Hobbies: I enjoy circuit training in the gym, dancing, trying out new places to eat, and hiking.
Why Duke: Duke has a great reputation for research driven excellence and offers great resources to help students excel professionally. I ended up choosing Duke Pathology because of the comprehensive backgrounds that all faculty demonstrate, and the incredible sense of community among students and faculty.


William Butler

Home town: Doylestown, PA
College: University of Scranton
Research: My research is focused on deciphering the role of neuroendocrine (NE) cells in prostate cancer progression and treatment resistance. This involves studying how NE cells communicate with the more common luminal-type tumor cells, elucidating how NE cells signal intracellularly, as well as discovering NE-specific biomarkers so that these cells can be therapeutically targeted. In addition to this work, tumor metabolism and glycobiology are strong interests of mine.
Career Goals:  I intend to remain in academia as I strongly enjoy both research and teaching and want a career that allows me to pursue both of these interests. A professor position at a research-oriented institution that still allows me to instruct and mentor undergraduates is the ultimate goal!
Hobbies: On the weekends, you can often find me bouncing around the Triangle exploring new local restaurants, breweries, and wineries. I also love to travel whenever I can whether it's exploring a new city or heading to the beach!
Why Duke: Duke is truly on the cutting edge of biomedical research and it was an opportunity I could not turn down when I got accepted to come here for my PhD training. Ever since matriculating, I have had the opportunity to work with world-class faculty that were truly devoted to my training and growth as a scientist. At Duke, clinicians and scientists attend many of the same seminars and collaborate with each other on many projects. This has allowed me to see things from both a clinical and scientific perspective, which I feel has given me a great advantage in my training.
Why Durham: There is so much to do in Durham that you can never get bored! From great food, parks, hiking trails, downtown fairs, and breweries, you can always find something fun and new to try. I also love to explore the other major towns of the Triangle, which are all within 25 miles!


Yu-Hsiu Chen

Home town:Taipei, Taiwan
College: National Defense Medical Center 
Research:  Senescence mechanisms in osteoarthritis and anti-senescence target therapy
Career Goals: As a rheumatologist and currently training basic science in PhD program, I ‘d like to do translational research and public science education in the future.
Hobbies: Surfing, skiing, hiking, traveling and finding restaurants
Why Duke: Duke university is a high reputation institution for research and the training here is organized but also inspired. I think the faculty, staff and peers here are friendly and supportive.
Why Durham:  Durham is an affordable city with good weather and many hiking trails nearby.


Miriam Dilts

Home town: Enola, PA
College: Brigham Young University
Research: Studying with Dr. Xunrong Luo on the immunology of transplant rejection
Career Goals: I am interested in conducting research in industry or working in science administration
Hobbies:  I love to play board games with friends, read books, play piano, and rock climb! I also like to hike when I get the chance to go on trips.
Why Duke: Duke has an excellent reputation, but I was most drawn by the fascinating research being done and the potential mentors available to me.
Why Durham: After living in Utah, I was tired of winter and wanted to live somewhere warmer! I also missed the east coast and wanted a chance to come back.



Lucy Driver

Hometown: Lexington, NC

College: North Carolina State University

Research: Identifying novel therapeutic cancer targets and defining their mechanism of action.

Career Goals: Long-term, I’d love to pursue a career in the scientific industry as a medical science liaison, research director, or return to academia as a professor.

Hobbies: I love to garden, exercise, travel, and take care of my two cats.

Why Duke: Aside from Duke’s outstanding reputation, I was attracted to the world class cancer research taking place and core facilities available for use. More specifically, I wanted to pursue a research-oriented career that I knew the Pathology program could help facilitate. Pathology stood out to me the most due to the diverse research and faculty it encompasses, and that it is the only clinical department that awards PhD degrees. In addition, Duke’s sense of community, notable history, and beautiful architecture is unmatched.

Why Durham: Durham is versatile where it has the hustle and bustle of a city while still having a laid-back aura. It has something for everyone to enjoy; a great food scene, amazing dive bars/breweries, music & arts, minor league baseball, and rich culture. Durham’s proximity to the research triangle also offers countless opportunities for exploration, research collaboration, and professional development.


Michael Kim

Home town: Seoul, South Korea
College: Wake Forest University
Research: I am interested in urologic diseases
Career Goals: I would like to have a career in academics.
Hobbies:  Watching and playing soccer and basketball (Go Lakers!), cooking, and playing video games.
Why Duke: Duke has a beautiful campus and a great pathology graduate program. Many resources and opportunities are available to a graduate student. The faculty is amazing and supportive.
Why Durham: The research triangle area has the perfect balance of a big city and a small city where you can find everything you need and has a manageable cost of living. It also has great weather and a lot of outdoor activities nearby.


Heng Liu

Home town: Wuhan, China
College: Huazhong University of Science and Technology
Research: My research is to investigate the telomere maintenance mechanisms and identify potential therapeutic approaches in brain tumors.  
Career Goals: I hope to work in academics doing scientific research to solve clinical questions.
Hobbies:  I enjoy the time with my wife and my two-year-old kid. I also enjoy reading, classical music and cooking.
Why Duke: Duke has one of the largest brain tumor centers, which provides me with great opportunities to study this fatal disease. Duke also offers great programs and resources to guide a student to become a successful scientist.
Why Durham:  Durham is a great place to raise a family. The weather here is comfortable, and the living cost is reasonable. Several beautiful state parks are great places to go during the weekend. Our neighborhood is nice and friendly.


Jennifer Liu

Home town: Temple City, CA
College: University of California, Santa Cruz
Research: My research goals are to learn more about underlying mechanisms of diseases and to further develop my critical thinking skills  
Career Goals: I'm interested in global health organizations that work to better understand and address health inequities.
Hobbies:  Reading, hiking, spending time with friends and family
Why Duke: Duke has a very inclusive and collaborative research environment, and there are many opportunities for personal and professional growth. I was drawn to the Pathology program because of the emphasis on clinical/translational research, and the faculty and students seemed really welcoming and supportive.
Why Durham:  I really like the small-town feel of Durham and all the outdoor spaces. I also like getting to experience four seasons!


Zoe Loh

Home town: Toronto, Canada
College: University of Notre Dame
Research: Subcellular localization of PTEN and its effects on prostate cancer cell metabolism
Career Goals: To have a job that allows me to travel the world
Hobbies: Teaching, Fencing
Why Duke: For the faculty and amazing program support
Why Durham:  Weather, cost of living, a suburban city feel!


Xingru Ma

Home town: Guangzhou, China
College: William & Mary
Research: Immunology in breast cancer
Career Goals: Currently I am leaning towards industry jobs or science/public health policy jobs.
Hobbies: I love doing yoga, playing the piano, listening to music and spending time with friends and family
Why Duke: The pathology program gave me the impression that students here are well-supported by faculty, staff and fellow students during the interview week. Duke's Brodhead center also satisfied all of my foodie fantasies about a university cafeteria.
Why Durham:  Durham's mild weather because my hometown is in the subtropics!



Robert D. Marek

Home town: Pittsburgh, PA
College: Houghton College
Research: My current research project centers on developing a vaccine against RNA splice variants of androgen receptor responsible for treatment resistance in prostate cancer. This work has led me to the development of a novel transgenic mouse model of prostate cancer which shows tolerance to human androgen receptor and multiple splice variants.
Career Goals: While I'm currently excited to be in academia, I've promised myself to keep the future open and could see myself staying for a postdoc or moving on to a career in industry.
Hobbies: In addition to taking care of two cats, my wife and I enjoy aquariums and have started to breed guppies. We also love hiking and camping in the area.
Why Duke: Duke's Pathology PhD Program offered the opportunity to work with many different PIs from several clinical departments. I am excited to work in a lab focused on translatable research, with strong connections to the clinic.
Why Durham:  Durham has been a great place to live. I've enjoyed my time in the Triangle with plenty of restaurants, coffee shops, bars, and concert venues to explore.



Vianna Martinez

Home town: Turlock, CA
College: University of California, Merced
Research: My current rotation project is focused on understanding the effects of blood in the knee joint, specifically its effects on meniscus tissue growth and healing
Career Goals: I am considering careers in teaching and science communication, with ties to public health
Hobbies:  I enjoy the outdoors, hiking, and trying out new food places!
Why Duke: I chose Duke due to the Pathology program’s translational research opportunities as well as the welcoming faculty and students
Why Durham: Durham is in close proximity to many hiking trails and is not too far from the ocean or mountains. It has great small-town vibes and has plenty of places you can explore!


Alexandra Miggelbrink

Home town: Geleen, the Netherlands
College: Leiden University (Undergrad), Utrecht University (Medical school)
Research: Evaluate the role of CD4 T cells in anti-tumor immunity
Career Goals: I see myself working more in industry than an academic lab (because I don't want to start my own lab). I guess I could work as a senior scientist!
Hobbies: I love hiking/camping. I can also be completely happy reading a great book or watching shows/movies (especially Christmas movies but don't tell anyone)/sports events
Why Duke: When I was applying to graduate school, I initially decided that Duke was the best spot for me because the academic opportunities were amazing. However, since most of the schools I applied to had similar opportunities, I eventually choose Duke because of the location and the people in the programs. For every other place I interviewed, I was thinking of trips I could take. However, here at Duke I was considering trips I could take with other people. The sense of community was very important to me because I am an international student and don't have any family in the area.
Why Durham: I really liked the feel of Durham because it wasn't a big city. When I was making my decision, I was living in Los Angeles and I quickly realized that the big city life wasn't for me! Durham was much quieter but still large enough that one will never get bored. I love the fact that we are within driving distance of both the mountains and the beach, and that a one-day trip is definitely a possibility!



Claire Otero

Home town: Flagstaff, AZ
College: The College of Idaho
Research: Identifying maternal immune correlates of protection against congenital cytomegalovirus
Career Goals: Considering industry research or publishing career options
Why Duke: The students and faculty that I interacted with during my interview visit were so welcoming, and I knew that with Duke's reputation for excellence and the wide variety of research topics and faculty in Pathology, I would be able to find a lab matching my research interests in infectious disease and a mentor who would meet my needs as a student. Things have worked out quite well in that respect, so I think it was a good decision.
Why Durham: Durham is pretty similar in size to the places I lived growing up, which was nice for me because I moved from across the country and so many other things were different. Plus, Duke's location is convenient for several reasons: the cost of living is much more reasonable than in the big cities where other top-tier universities are located, there are so many nice hiking trails and outdoor activities close by, and the variety and quality of restaurants in the area is amazing.



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Tara Richbourg

Home town: Columbia, SC
College: Clemson University
Research: My general goal for my research is to utilize molecular genetic analytical techniques to elucidate pathobiological mechanisms of neurodegenerative disease. I hope to play a part in defining our developing understanding of the etiology and progression of neurodegeneration, and to contribute to the development therapeutic approaches which will improve the prognosis and quality of life of patients affected by it.
Career Goals: My career interests are under development as I gain research experience and explore my opportunities, but I am currently most drawn to a career path in academia. I would love the opportunity to foster my own unique research environment in which I would emphasize bridging the gap between basic science and clinical applications. Regardless of my exact path, I hope to make significant contributions to my field, and also to play a role in the training and mentorship of the scientists who come behind me.
Hobbies:  I love reading all genres of books, playing board games with friends, teaching myself new pieces on the piano, and cuddling with my cat, Georgia.
Why Duke: I was drawn to Duke by its stimulating academic environment and its wealth of ongoing biomedical research. I expect my time at Duke to be filled with immense growth and enrichment!
Why Durham:  I have come to love a lot about Durham. There is no shortage of delicious food and unique attractions in the immediate area, and Durham’s proximity to Raleigh, Chapel Hill, and Winston-Salem really expands the opportunity for fun and exploration!


Amelia Schirmer

Home town: Southern Pines, NC
College: UNC Chapel Hill
Research: Hippo Pathway signaling in prostate cancer
Career Goals: I am undecided on whether I wish to pursue an academic or industry research position for a postdoctoral position, they both are appealing to me for different reasons. Long term I have interests in a range of careers including teaching, science communication and government science regulation positions
Hobbies: Gardening, baking and mountain biking
Why Duke: I really appreciate the resources available at Duke and the many opportunities for collaboration within the academic research field as well as crossing over into collaboration with the clinical side.
Why Durham: I lived in Durham before starting graduate school and I am totally in love with the area. I love the food, beer and music scene that is in the triangle. I also appreciate the progressive social and political environment which is evolving and addressing issue that are important across the country. The third thing I love is the weather and neighborhoods in Durham where I live and frequently walk and bike.


Steven Shen

Home town: Kansas City, KS
College: Loyola University of Chicago
Research: Novel cancer immunotherapy, CAR T cell therapy for glioblastoma
Career Goals: Professor at a Graduate/Medical School level
Hobbies: I like spending time with friends, going to the movies, and cooking. I also transformed my hobby of collectibles into a small business.
Why Duke: Duke has an incredible pathology program. The training that is offered here is exceptional and is supported by very distinguished and kind faculty. The environment here is incomparable.
Why Durham: Ever since I started Undergrad, I have been moving all across the country for school. After I finished my Masters degree, I really wanted to settle down somewhere that was new, but still reminded me of home. When I first visited Durham, I felt that cozy, Midwest sensation that I had not experienced in a long time. Durham is a constantly growing, beautiful city that made me feel at home.


Simranjit Singh

Home town:  Queens, NY
College: New York University (NYU)
Research: Exploring drug resistance in glioblastoma
Career Goals: To continue researching cancer biology and to be a mentor who takes mentees' goals/needs into account.
Hobbies:Basketball, podcasting
Why Duke: The Pathology department at Duke has an interesting mix of investigation topics and basic/translational research.
Why Durham: Duke University is in Durham, NC!



Tyler Steppe

Home town: Winston-Salem, North Carolina
College: UNC Chapel Hill
Research: I am interested in infectious disease.
Career goals: I am interested in translational research, but I have not settled on whether I want to be in academia or industry.
Hobbies: I enjoy watching and playing sports, the outdoors, and reading.
Why Duke: Duke is a great school with amazing faculty and resources. The pathology program is a perfect fit for my research interests.
Why Durham: I grew up in North Carolina and wanted to stay local. Durham is a great city with a variety of things to do. It is close to both the beach and the mountains, and it is also close to Raleigh and Chapel Hill.


Michael Sun

Home town:  Taipei, Taiwan
College: National Taiwan University
Research: Repurposing commercially available drugs against specific subtype of glioblastoma.
Career Goals: Faculty in academic institutions
Hobbies: Playing percussion and the piano, going to the beach, and trying local restaurants.
Why Duke: Duke and the Pathology program offer excellent faculty with diverse research interests, flexible course design, and boundless resources that altogether create a great environment for my Ph.D. study.
Why Durham: Durham is a small but vibrant town with lots to offer. The cost of living is very reasonable, the job opportunities are endless, and I love the local restaurants and art centers in this area!


Lucas Wachsmuth

Home town:  Cartersville, GA
College: University of Georgia
Research: My project focuses on understanding the mechanisms of brain tumor-driven immune dysfunction and improving anti-tumor immunity
Career Goals: Ultimately I hope to work at an academic medical center both practicing clinical medicine and being a PI.
Hobbies: Cooking from the NYT, hiking/camping, gardening
Why Duke: The people are really what brought me to Duke. The students and faculty here are incredibly passionate, hard-working, and intelligent, and the kind of people who you want to work and be friends with!
Why Durham:For me, Durham and the Research Triangle is the perfect compromise between a large city and the outdoors, which I love. It has a remarkable food/culture/entertainment scene for a city of its size, plus a well-connected airport, and getting to the beach/mountains is relatively quick and easy. I think it’s tough to beat what you get here, especially given the cost of living!

Jessica Waibl Polania

Home town:  Columbus, OH
College: The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH
Research: Elucidating the origins and dynamics of T cell exhaustion in GBM
Career Goals: Research scientist in an innovative, mid-size biotechnology setting working on immunotherapy.
Hobbies: Camping, backpacking, rock-climbing, and all things outdoors.
Why Duke: Duke is a great environment that has many resources and outstanding research
Why Durham: Durham is centrally located, with easy access to bigger cities, parks, and mountains or the beach if you want to drive a little further. I love exploring Durham with my partner and dog!



Asjah Wallace

Home town: Concord, NC
College: Hampton University
Research: I am interested in cancer research
Career Goals: I would enjoy a career in industry
Hobbies: Going to the beach, trying new restaurants, hiking with my dog, and baking
Why Duke: There are limited pathology PhD programs, and I was drawn to Duke because of the faculty and location within the research triangle. I also liked the emphasis on translational research and the collaborative environment within the department
Why Durham: Being close to family has been great. I have also enjoyed all the fun and entertainment that Durham and neighboring cities has to offer.


Jinjin Wu

Home town:  Xinjiang, China
College: Peking University
Research: The effect of large chromosome deletions on prostate tumorigenesis
Career Goals: I plan to further my career as a cancer biology researcher, although I am now undecided whether I will stay in academia or go for industrial positions.
Hobbies: I enjoy cooking and exploring good food; spending time with my friends & cats
Why Duke: Duke pathology PhD program offers excellent training in cancer biology, with abundant research resources and friendly environment. It has a good mixture of experienced experts and young bloods to stay productive.
Why Durham:Durham has all the warmth and coziness like a small town, and meantime remains competitive with many opportunities if one wants to pursue vibrant working environment. I like it when I can always drive for a couple of hours and enjoy the beauty of the mountains and lakes!


Yuanfan Yang

Home town:  Guangzhou, China
College:  Tsinghua University (Undergrad), Peking Union Medical College (Medical school)
Research: Resistance to Immune therapy in Glioblastoma
Career Goals: Planning to be an Academic Physician
Hobbies: Photography
Why Duke: I came to Duke on a recommendation from my medical school mentor, “Pioneer in brain tumor immune therapy”.
Why Durham: It has an easy commute and relatively low cost of living.



Yujing Zou

Home town:  Beijing, China
College: University of Toronto 
Research: Characterize novel developmental paths and metabolic requirements for the recovery of radioresistant T cells.
Career Goals: I am an aspiring T cell biologist with a passion for improving immune recovery and cancer immunotherapies.
Hobbies: Graphic design, board games 
Why Duke: Duke offers a diverse student experience and a variety of opportunities for learning and career development
Why Durham: Durham offers a rich experience for arts, culture, diverse foods, and outdoor activities. It is also close to the Research Triangle Park, the Brier Creek area, and Raleigh!