Finding a building and discovering the Duke community

By Josh Davidoff

Finding Hudson Hall on campus on the first day of my internship at Duke University was confusing. The rain, hills and large, radiant green trees limited my view of other buildings hidden within the Duke campus as I was biking around. The large old gothic buildings here are full of character and made me feel as though I was biking backwards in time. Finding the right buildings was hard because the Duke campus seemed to exist in more than three dimensions, and I was getting exhausted from my search. But as soon as I asked for directions, the Duke community eagerly helped me find my way to Hudson Hall, just behind a resonant gothic chapel. The enthusiasm to help other people out, I later learned, is a characteristic endemic to the Duke Blue Devil community.

I am finishing up my Masters of Science degree in Environmental Health and Toxicology and I choose apply to the intern program at Duke because the Superfund Research Center’s application of ecotoxicology to environmental remediation captivated my interest. It didn’t hurt that Duke has a reputation for world-class research. And when I decided to come out here, I figured the summer research would be challenging and competitive.

So why was I in search of Hudson Hall?

Our PhD student, Thomas (left), and Josh (right)

Well, the research project I’m working on (Project 4) is based in Hudson Hall, where I work with really smart PhD environmental engineering students, Thomas Morse and Lauren Czaplicki, advancing the science of environmental remediation. I have been pleasantly surprised by how well they work together and genuinely enjoy helping each other out. This attitude has spread to me as I have learned different biological lab techniques; from DNA sequencing to Gas Chromatography. I became comfortable through my mentors and other colleagues through their communication of their wishes for my success and helping me understand their process. This helpfulness also extends through faculty and staff through the Superfund Research Center, who organize weekly lunch meetings to pique our curiosity to the world of environmental health and toxicology.

The PhD students have numerous ideas of how to remediate sites and I am researching the use of fungi and bacteriophages for efficient remediation of sites contaminated by polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, flame retardants, and bacteria. As I am preparing for a career in environmental health risk assessment and risk management, learning about how research shows the process for successful remediation will allow me to understand the value of using different remediation techniques. Throughout the summer, I will be learning various microbiology techniques to assist these students and together we will all benefit. The research is creative, hopeful, and potentially groundbreaking and I am excited to be an intern with a community that will help me find my way this summer at Duke University.