Student Opportunities

Indian Palace

The Duke India Initiative (DII) provides student travel grants for full-time graduate (Ph.D.) Duke students for scholarly activities related to India. Travel does not have to be to India, but travel must be related to India and aligned with the mission of the DII (https://igs.duke.edu/units/duke-india-initiative).  

For 2018-19, seven graduate students received student travel grants from DII. Their proposals range from conference paper presentation, workshop attendance to field research and other activities related to India. 

Avrati Bhatnagar, Department of History

The project 'Visualizing “the Woman Question:” Photographic Practice and the Making of Indian Female Subject'  looks at two contemporaneous moments in nineteenth-century Indian history – first, the emergence of gender reforms or “the woman question” and, second, the proliferation of photography in the subcontinent. While paying attention to the ways British colonialism informed the simultaneous unfolding of these moments in significant ways, the project will engage with photographic portraits of women from the first few decades of the proliferation of the camera in the region (1840 onwards). The purpose is to trace the ways prevalent photographic norms at the time, help complicate our understanding of the formative years of feminist as well as anti-colonialist discourse in India. 

Harlan Downs-Tepper, Sanford School of Public Policy

How do Indian slum residents’ employment outcomes differ according to their migrant/nonmigrant status?  Drawing on a large, ongoing research initiative led by Prof. Anirudh Krishna in three Indian cities, I will conduct mixed-methods research to identify and understand employment patterns and migration through analysis of the existing data, and in-person interviews with current slum residents.

Siddharth Kawadiya, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering 

"Reinvent the Toilet Challenge: India" is an initiative started by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to provide sustainable sanitation solutions in India, where nearly 525 million people practice open defecation. Under this program, one group of onsite sanitation systems are the Omni Processors (OPs), which involve a mixture of physical, chemical and biological processes that can process fecal sludge without relying on sewer services. To promote OPs, an international group of experts have started working on an ISO standard for OPs , which aims to develop a methodology to guarantee safety and performance of OPs. Siddharth's focus deals with the standard for odor emissions for OPs, which is meant to ensure that these systems will not cause odor nuisance. The grant will be used for the very first field testing of the draft standard in India. 

Emily Pakhtigian, Sanford School of Public Policy

My project examines the mediating role of information on the relationship between household time and risk preferences and adoption of environmental health technologies by evaluating the sustainability of a randomized latrine-promotion campaign in Orissa, India that took place over a decade ago. Data collected in the years following the intervention reveal discontinued use and abandonment of latrines, suggesting that households may face additional barriers to maintaining their use. Through the support of DII, I am returning to some of the areas included in the original intervention to examine current trends in latrine ownership and use to contextualize my empirical analysis.  

Emily Rains, Sanford School of Public Policy 

Nearly one billion people live in urban “slums” – neighborhoods that lack formal housing and service access - and this figure is expected to increase substantially in the coming decades. My dissertation explores how and why slums vary in their level of informality and what that implies for policy needs and political problem solving strategies in different neighborhoods. I draw on in-depth ethnographic case studies to build theory, a large multi-city survey to empirically validate the theoretical framework, and spatial and satellite data to speak to generalizability across other cities.

Madhurima Vardhan, Pratt School of Engineering

Coronary artery disease is a complex medical condition that reduces blood flow in the arteries that encircle and supply blood to the heart. Typically, this reduction is the outcome of plaque buildup in the arteries, forming narrowed vessel regions called lesions. Lesions that occur along the bifurcation of the main vessel and a side branch are referred to as bifurcation lesions. Due to the morphological complexity of these lesions, an established bifurcation stenting technique does not exist and data on the hemodynamic characteristics at bifurcation lesions remains scanted. In this work, we examine the correspondence between bifurcation lesion morphology and diagnostics metrics used in interventional practices. By applying a massively parallel CFD solver, HARVEY, we conducted high-resolution simulations in a patient-derived 3D geometry that was modified along the bifurcation to prospectively evaluate the effect of morphological changes in bifurcation lesions. This work demonstrates the application of HPC-based flow models, extending possibilities for cardiovascular research with the potential for improving patient outcome. 

Kena Wani, Department of History

My research examines the history of Gujarati capitalist subjects in transition as they negotiate with and build new institutions, economic regimes and cultural subjectivities in the early decades of independence in the western region of India. I argue that a critical engagement with the logic and practice of postcolonial expertise cannot be pursued without examining the histories of regional business kinships, the tenacity of their mercantile pasts, and the underlying logic of continual reproduction. In the process, my work follows the global itineraries of merchants, scientists, and entrepreneurs in mid twentieth century post-independence India, and tracks a series of techno-scientific experiments, institutions, and philanthropic endeavours that were carried under the aegis of the developmental state in the region of Gujarat, specifically in and around the city of Ahmedabad. These projects involved a wide range of issues─ rural and agricultural improvement through televisual pedagogy, industrial reforms, labour management, formation of pedagogical institutions that would teach managerial sciences, etc. In studying how these concerns were honed in continuity with each other, I focus upon the ways in which they addressed anxieties about the classic developmental subjects of the 20th century: “the unruly labourer” and “the uneducated farmer.” In the process, I show how they concomitantly produced the classic male hero of postcolonial regimes: “the modern scientific/business visionary.” As my research courses through these various projects, from outer space technologies involving communication satellites for broadcasting developmental television to small scale industrial automation ambitions, I reveal how the simultaneous narratives of the triumphant business/scientific visionary and the actual failures of the projects on ground were co-constitutive, if not endemic to this very mode of expertise. On a broader stroke, the project focuses upon the social processes of capital accumulation, the role of the postcolonial state in such histories of capital, and the contingencies, cultures of welfare, and the corporate logics of sovereignty which emerged out of them.