Ben Shepard
Ben Shepard

Science & Society News

Learn what is happening inside the Duke Initiative for Science & Society. Stay up-to-date on our research, events, and student activities.

Wed, Jul 17

2018-2019 Bass Connections Project Review: Building an EEG Lab and Gathering Consumer Opinion On Brain Privacy

Our 2018-2019 Bass Connections project team was the most productive collaboration yet. During this time, we trained a new group of undergraduate and graduate students in the process of properly conducting an electroencephalograph (EEG) study, and how to design, collect, and analyze behavioral data from an online participant pool.

Dr. William Krenzer and two lab particpants posing in front of their poster during the 2018 Bass Connections Poster Session

Members of the Bass Connections project team present their data at the 2019 Spring Showcase

Our team began the year investigating the extent to which consumer-based EEG devices can accurately detect fluctuations in attentional and emotional states. Despite early skepticism, initial data gathered shows support for the potential long-term experimental use of these devices. This innovative technique for collecting neurological information will greatly help the project moving forward.

A concurrent study looked into brain data privacy. Students created a questionnaire, collected responses, and analyzed data to further understand the public’s view of their brain information and 3rd party access to their data. The project team drafted the results for a manuscript and prepared the findings in a poster for presentation during the 2019 Spring Bass Connections showcase. The team also hopes to present the data at this year’s International Neuroethics Society annual conference in Chicago this fall.

Dr. William Krenzer’s leadership in organizing the hands-on experience of running participants through the experiment was the highlight of the project.

“Any student that gets to learn from his experiences and through a project run by him should consider themselves wildly lucky,” said one student in an anonymous survey. “I can’t emphasize enough how much he meant to myself and the rest of the program.”

Naturally, such vertically integrated teams see many participants graduating at the end of the year. However, we are very excited for the handful of students who will be continuing with the project during the new academic year. Their experience will provide valuable mentorship opportunity as new students join the team this fall.

We expect our 2019-2020 team’s progress to surpass this year’s as we continue to collect EEG data via these consumer-based devices, with hopes of furthering our understanding of the neurological processes associated with attention and emotion. We anticipate continued commercial growth of this technology and will continue building on our understanding of individual views of brain data privacy and the potential issues that can arise from widespread use.


Dr. William Krenzer, SLAP Lab, Bass Connections

William KrenzerWilliam Krenzer is a Postdoctoral Associate in Science and Society, specifically working in the Science, Law, and Policy (SLAP) Lab. His research within SLAP Lab broadly explores how neuroscience (e.g., EEG) can be used to understand, or better explain, common practices within law.

Wed, Jul 03

Scientists Are Giving Dead Brains New Life. What Could Go Wrong?

In experiments on pig organs, scientists at Yale made a discovery that could someday challenge our understanding of what it means to die.

Thu, May 16

Congratulations to the Class of 2019!

Science & Society faculty and staff celebrated with friends and family in attendance during last Saturday’s 2019 graduation proceedings. We recognized 24 Masters students, including seven JD/MAs, along with five undergraduates who have completed the Certificate in Science & Society.




Each year we ask students from our various programs to speak about their experience at Duke and what their education meant to them. Here are a few highlights from this year’s ceremony:


Kelly Todd, JD, MA

The program is about pushing us outside of our comfort zones. Encouraging us to try new things. Challenging us to take on projects or classes that might be out of our wheelhouse at first. Kelly Todd giving graduation remarks

And always, the faculty and professors at Science and Society support us and believe that their students will really help science make the world a better place. They even got me to believe that, and I’m a lawyer, so you know that means I’m inherently pessimistic.

Everyone says that when you go to law school, it changes the way you think. I think the same can be said about this program. In law school, we’re taught to look for problems, because to the extent that you can find a flaw in the other side’s argument, you win. It makes you a good lawyer, but an incredibly hard person to watch Suits or Law and Order with.

As bioethicists, we’re taught to look for solutions. There is no winning or losing, only improving.

This program is different though. As bioethicists, we’re taught to look for solutions. There is no winning or losing, only improving. We’re always looking for ways that law or policy or any other tool can be used to make things a little bit better, a little bit fairer, a little bit more … beneficence-y? Or should I say non-maleficence-y?


Elaina Ghainam, MA

Since leaving Duke, countless people in my life have commented on how amazing this unique program sounds. Elena Ghanaim giving graduation remarks I’ve had colleagues say to me, “You’re so lucky that they had a program like that” and “I wish they had something like that at my school.” And it’s true, I am so lucky that this unique program exists. It has truly changed my trajectory and makes me so excited about my future professional life. We have a wonderful foundation of knowledge and an expansive network to guide us on our journey.

I hope that everyone who is graduating today and who goes through this masters program in the future finds their next step to be as fulfilling as mine has been for me.


Jamal Moss

After reflecting over my time at Duke, resiliency and equity were two themes that were salient. I entered graduate school as a first generation student coming from a low-income single parent family. I battled with numerous adversities that taught me that resiliency is a muscle: Jamal Moss giving graduation remarkssomething we must strain and tear in order to build it. While at Duke, there were moments when I wasn’t sure if I could do it, but I kept going.

I leaned into my community and tribe to push me when I couldn’t push myself. In those moments is when I discovered the importance of equity or giving folks the resources and power they need to be successful. It is now through the lens of equity that I choose to engage with my community as a member of the Racial Equity Task Force for the city of Durham. I hope through this work we can make our community and environment more equitable.


Graduating Masters

  • Rimsha Afzal
  • Neha Batra
  • Joshua Frost
  • Lydia Kwong
  • Jamal Moss
  • Disha Subramaniam
  • Towqir Aziz
  • Kirsten Bleiweiss
  • Elena Ghanaim
  • Rachel Landrum
  • Soe Maung Phone Myint
  • Shu Min Yang
  • Zachary Banov
  • Cameron Fox
  • Miaraha Humayun
  • Marcia Lindsey
  • Ashle Page


Graduating Masters with a Joint Degree in Law

  • Bobbie Burrows
  • Karina Moy
  • Cole Wilhelmi
  • Kelly Hamachi
  • Kelly Todd
  • Ting Liu
  • Jenny Wang


Graduating Seniors Earning a Certificate in Science & Society

  • Ammara Aqeel
  • Skye Tracey
  • Alexandria Hurley
  • Athina Vrosgou
  • Laura Naslund

Fri, May 03

How DNA Testing at the US-Mexico Border Will Actually Work

Starting as soon as next week, the Department of Homeland Security will begin piloting a DNA testing program at the US-Mexico border intended to expose immigrants suspected of posing as families.

Sun, Apr 28

Blame my brain: A killer’s bold defense gets a court hearing

More criminal defendants are turning to brain science to argue that they shouldn’t face harsh punishment.

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