STEAM @ Duke

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Traditionally, the arts and the sciences have been viewed as two distinct and unrelated fields of study. But it isn’t uncommon to see Duke students with defined paths in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) choosing to double major or minor in either the performing or visual arts — intentionally adding these disciplines to their course loads because they recognize the benefits the arts can bring to not only individual career goals but also shared human experiences.

Through the STEAM @ Duke series (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics), we survey our students and alumni to learn more about the diverse research and experiences that combine both analytical and creative thinking. If you are an undergraduate or alum and would like to take part in the STEAM @ Duke campaign, please email Margo Lakin: margo.lakin@duke.edu.

We invite you to explore their profiles below!

Results: 21

Physics major Michael Bell first became interested in the subject as a junior in high school. “I took an Intro to Physics course and after asking too many questions that were ‘beyond the scope of the class,’ my teacher introduced me to the basics of string theory — and I was hooked,” he says.  Bell soon found himself contemplating “physics-breaking” questions like: Is Force = mass * acceleration still true for an object with zero mass? Although he would eventually arrive at the answers, he rarely understood them. So… read more » about Physics and Music Create Interstellar Rhythms

Rohil Watwe cannot remember a time when he didn’t have a deep-rooted passion for healthcare. Drawn to understanding how diseases affect us and the incredible resilience the human body has in overcoming health challenges, his passion intensified in high school as an active member of the Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA) club. “Those invaluable experiences in HOSA introduced me to various facets of healthcare, from hands-on activities to competitions and seminars, and they pushed me to pursue a career dedicated… read more » about Music Brings Innovative Thinking to Healthcare

Graduating in 2022 with a B.S. in Biology, a minor in Music and a certificate in Sustainability Engagement from the Nicholas School of the Environment, Pooja Lalwani credits her Duke Music courses for enhancing her STEM scholarship. “The arts at Duke definitely taught me a lot about health and medicine,” she says. “Academically, I was really interested in music therapy and utilizing music as a way to enhance memory.” As an undergrad, Lalwani took elective courses that integrated her three interests, biology, music and… read more » about A Prescription for Harmony: How Music Enhances the Pre-Med Journey

What inspired an Economics and Mathematics dual major to also pursue a seemingly disparate minor in Cinematic Arts? For Parinay Gupta, it was his Writing 101 course: Gender and Sexuality in Latin American Films. “Delving into the analysis of gender representation in Latin American cinema, I became increasingly intrigued by the creative processes that transpired behind the camera and shaped the narratives presented on screen,” he explains. He took an acting course in Theater Studies in the spring and followed with a summer… read more » about When Cinematic Arts Brings Economics into Focus

Athena Yao has been interested in neuroscience from the moment she picked up a book in her high school library addressing the science of stress and motivation. “I was trying to figure out the source of my own stress and how I could develop a better sense of control over my life,” she shares. “It was fascinating to learn about the biological basis of emotion and behavior.” After witnessing the impacts Alzheimer’s had on her grandfather and family, the Neuroscience major, who is also minoring in Computer Science and… read more » about Science + Technology + Design = Innovations at Duke

For junior Alex Ozonoff, declaring a major in Biology was the obvious choice — after some soul searching and deep dives into entomology, epidemiology and microbiology, that is. And as his career decisions began to feel more real than hypothetical, he fixated on becoming a doctor. “My mother is a physician assistant, and my dad is a surgical technician, so I’ve always been exposed to medicine,” he explains. “It seemed clear to me from early on what I’d pursue.” On the pre-med track with a concentration in Biochemistry,… read more » about Piano and Pre-Med: Achieving a Balance

Majoring in Neuroscience with minors in Chemistry and Visual & Media Studies and on the pre-med track, Stephany Perez-Sanchez knew she wanted to pursue a career in medicine, all thanks to a high-school psychology course. “My favorite unit in that class was neuroanatomy,” the junior explains. “I was so fascinated by the brain and how this structure controls all our functions.” She brought her cerebral fascination to Duke and began her research in earnest during the summer of 2022 in the Huang Fellows Program. Focusing… read more » about Future Physician Discovers Intersections Between Media and Science

Julia Leeman, a double major in Neuroscience and Music, was first drawn to biology and psychology in high school. “I found it interesting to reflect on what others were thinking, but I was also fascinated by the idea of understanding the biological basis,” the senior explains. “I knew that when I went to college, I really wanted to see what neuroscience was all about.” As a first-year student at Duke, Leeman was a part of the FOCUS program, Cognitive Neuroscience and the Law, and learned first-hand what primary research… read more » about Listen to This: Neuroscience and Music in Conversation

Florence Wang graduated this past May with dual degrees in Statistical Science and Neuroscience and minors in Chemistry and Dance. Immersed in STEM throughout her time at Duke, she enhanced her course loads by adding quantitative statistical and life science classes. “That additional coursework really helped me gain a better understanding of the neural mechanisms behind how humans think,” she explains. During her senior year, she added a research assistant position at the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, where she was… read more » about Divergent Thinking by Dint of Dance

Biology and Theater Studies junior Emi Hegarty came to Duke with a plan to major only in Biology with a focus on genetics and genomics, but it was the course “Mechanisms of Animal Behavior” with Professor Stephen Nowicki that rekindled her interest in animal systems. “I love thinking about biology through more of an animal-focused lens,” she says. More specifically, her lens is focused on equine kinematics. With a love for horses that can be traced back to eighth grade, Hegarty worked at a barn during high school, helping… read more » about Biology Student Builds Communications Chops Thanks to Theater

Elliott Loverin, a junior majoring in Psychology with a minor in musical theater, is focused on the intersections of developmental, abnormal and social psychology. He’s also intrigued by the interactions between individual psychopathology and group dynamics, especially in young people. “Gaining insight into the processes that govern human behavior inspired me to pursue psychology, and its diverse applications allow me to investigate the topics I find interesting within the field.” Loverin’s theater career began with an… read more » about Psychology Student Hones Critical Thinking Skills in Theater

In May, Jacob Egol will earn his bachelor’s of science degree in Biology with a concentration in cell and molecular biology, as well as a minor in Music. He was introduced to biology at Duke as a first-year student in the Exploration of Genetics and Genomics FOCUS cluster. Inspired by the course, as well as the many others spanning the subdisciplines of biology, Egol is pursuing an interest in cell and molecular biology and developmental biology. The senior currently works in the Silver Lab, part of the Department of… read more » about Biology and Music Enhance the Human Experience

Annika Allado is a Mechanical Engineering major who is also pursuing a minor in Visual Arts with the Department of Art, Art History and Visual Studies (AAHVS). An international student from the Philippines, she came to Duke with the goal of focusing on the intersection of art and engineering, and she gained a taste of the design process as a first-year student in Engineering Design and Technical Communication (EGR101). In the introductory course, Allado was part of a team tasked with building a portable handwashing… read more » about Visual Arts Helping to Create a More Empathetic and Insightful Engineer

Junior Emily Miller is majoring in Biology with double minors in Theater Studies and Chinese — and can’t remember a point in her life when she wasn’t fascinated by the sciences. Her specific passion for biology began in middle school, when a science teacher’s enthusiasm for chemistry sparked Emily’s scientific interest. A year later, she dissected a cow’s heart in her eighth-grade biology class, and that hands-on experience was all it took to kick start her career path in the sciences. “I found it so fascinating that we… read more » about Theater Studies Gives This Medical Researcher the Creativity She Needs to Discover New Solutions

At Duke, Lihua Mo-Hunter (B.S. Neuroscience; minor Dance and Linguistics ’23) has been laser focused on a pre-med track. This summer, Mo-Hunter worked with the Duke Global Health Institute (DGHI) Student Research Training program, traveling to Kalangala, Uganda, to study sickle cell disease and to educate the local community. She’s found that her coursework in neuroscience has provided more niche topics to study: cellular and molecular neurobiology, effects of marijuana on the brain and… read more » about Dance Provides a Humanistic Outlook for a Future Neurosurgeon

Alexa Robertson (B.S. Biology; minor Dance and Chemistry ’22) has already completed her required courses for the pre-med track. And during her sophomore year, she was an undergraduate research assistant with Duke’s Kwatra Lab, where scientists focus on finding targeted therapies for adults diagnosed with glioblastoma, one of the most aggressive and common brain tumors. Robertson combines her medical pursuits with her interest in disability rights through volunteer work in special education at a local elementary school… read more » about Dance and Medicine Creating a Well-Rounded Scholar

STEAM student Claudia Chapman (B.S. Computer Science and Electrical and Computer Engineering, minor Dance ’22) is focusing on the software side of computer engineering. Although her passion for technology can be traced back to her kindergarten days, her specific love for coding developed during high school, when she took advantage of every computer science course offered. read more » about The Arts Advantage: Dance is the Balancing Force that Challenges this Software Engineer

It was an incredibly busy and fruitful four years for Madison Canfora (B.S. Neuroscience, minors musical theater and Chemistry ’21), who had already completed her pre-med track prior to graduating in December. Through her mentorship with Dr. Monica Lemmon at the School of Medicine’s Department of Pediatrics, Canfora researched physician-patient communication in the neonatal intensive care unit and created an original codebook for brain imaging that screened data for relevant descriptions of brain imaging to… read more » about The Arts Advantage: Nurturing the Human Experience Through Theater Studies

STEAM student Alexa Bolin Santiago (B.S. Biomedical Engineering; minor musical theater ’23) is a biomedical engineering junior who is intrigued with automation, an interest that developed during her co-op work with Regeneron Pharmaceuticals. With firm plans to focus on circuits, robotics and the medical application of programming, she’s also chosen to minor in musical theater and made room in her heavy course load to explore the world of theater design. read more » about Empathetic Engineers Thanks to Theater

STEAM student Simone Wall (B.S. Biomedical Engineering; minor Dance ’22) is part of the Pratt Research Fellows program, working in a lab that develops point-of-care diagnostic tools. With a career path firmly heading toward research, Simone also wants to focus on exploring as many facets of dance as she can before she graduates. She started with ballet at age four and enjoys learning new styles of dance, but she is drawn in particular to modern dance classes offered in the Dance Program because they… read more » about The Arts Advantage: When BioMed and Dance Overlap

Spencer Rosen (B.S. Computer Science; minors Theater Studies and Creative Writing ’22) is one of these STEAM students and discusses why he’s making a conscious effort to include theater in his studies. He is a general computer science major but hopes to focus on data science and computer security, and while at Duke, he’s been part of a data science team and has worked as a data-driven pricing consultant outside of school—but he also has a passion for theater. read more » about The Arts Advantage: A Balance Between Theater Studies and Computer Science