The Final HoorahAli reflects on the summer experience as a new member of the Huang Fellows program, using the Duke Summer Research Showcase as an endpoint to 10 weeks of making memories and building experience as a novice researcher.
At the beginning of the summer, I along with many other Huangs were nervous for what was to come. The intentions of the program seemed clear, but so was our inexperience. Many of us had never worked in a research lab before: how do we know what questions to ask? How often do we meet with our PI? How do we explain the focus of our research to others? How do we put down mice or protect ourselves from the tools we are required to handle? But the most daunting question for all of us was, how do we make a scientiﬁc poster that is not only worthy of being presented amongst the other summer research programs, but also satisfactory in representing our labs and our research.
As the program progressed, we had conversations with Dr. Grunwald, Buz, Bill, and our guest speakers about the best way to approach this challenge. We were given presentations and exercises on how to prepare, equipped with examples, timelines, and ongoing feedback. After pushing past the fear of having never written an abstract or constructed a poster before, I was able to “take a swing” at writing my ﬁrst draft of my abstract, titled “The Role of S1-S2 Intersubunit Mutations in Altering the Thermostability of SARS-CoV-2 Spike Protein,” and continue to edit with the input received from my PI and mentor. The submission of the abstract allowed for all focus to be redirected to the creation of the poster.
The process of creating a poster as a novice student researcher most deﬁnitely looked diﬀerent for everyone. We were given dimensions, examples, and a list of “NOT to-do’s.” Creative freedom and research content were the main drivers of design. I spent almost two work days solely reframing the poster layout. Reﬂecting on this experience, my advice would be to lay all the information desired ﬁrst, and then reframe the layout. Our example posters given to us by Dr. Grunwald in one of the Huang seminar sessions
served as references for how to format our introduction, methods, results, and acknowledgement sections. Because of the diverse nature of the Huang Fellows Program, no poster-content would be similar. However, we were all instructed to come to the event with an “elevator-pitch” that would explain the broad view of our work and poster in a way that was still articulate, but understandable to a general audience.
The day of the poster session was exciting. It signiﬁed the end of a summer experience bulging with stories of growth, friendship, and mentorship. We were all proud of our work, and as we listened to the remarks of the Vice Provosts and the Director of the URS speak about the importance of our research, our trust in the Huang Fellows Program was reaﬃrmed. The time spent as a presenter-dependent on alphabetical assignment-was initially intimidating; but it ﬂourished into a fun conversation communicating the intention and importance of our own scientiﬁc curiosities. As a member of the audience, I was learning about health policy, neurodegenerative indicators, computer science and fecal output, the bias of large language models, preventative cancer treatments, and more.
The Duke Summer Research Showcase proved an enjoyable time and learning experience for students, family, friends and mentors. It brought students and researchers from all over the country together to celebrate the continuation of curiosity, bridging an all-too-real gap between science and society.
Alexandria Calloway, Huang Fellow ’26
Alexandria is a first-year student from Fort Lauderdale, FL in Trinity College of Arts & Sciences intending to major in Biochemistry and potentially minor in Computer Science and Global Health.