Duke India Initiative’s Students Present Their Research

October 4, 2019

By Rohini Thakkar, Duke India Initiative

Student Presenting His Research
Harlan Downs-Tepper presents his research at the DII event.

Duke India Initiative (DII) co-director Dr. Sumathi Ramaswamy kicked off DII's first event of the semester on October 1st. “Risk-taking is an important part of intellectual labor,” Ramaswamy declared as she introduced DII’s travel award recipients.

This year is the first year that DII awarded funding to Ph.D. students doing work in or on India. The grants facilitated travel to continue research or to present at a conference. Five Duke Ph.D. students reported on their trips and activities during the October 1st event. The student work focused on a wide range of topics, and their research took them to India and the diaspora. 

Avrati Bhatnagar took a 2-week trip to England, where she visited the British Library and Museum in London. While there, Bhatnagar did archival research exploring early photographic practice in relation to gender history in India. Bhatnagar is a third-year Ph.D. student in the Duke History Department. Her research engaged with photographic portraits of women from the first few decades of the proliferation of the camera in India (1840-1870). Bhatnagar hopes to expand our understanding of the formative years of feminist, as well as anti-colonialist discourse in India. 

Audience Listening to the student presentation
Avrati Bhatnagar, DII student travel grantee, shares her research.

Harlan Downs-Tepper is a second-year Ph.D. student in Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy. His research took him to Patna, India, in the north east of India. Downs-Tepper collaborated with NGOs and conducted interviews with residents of the slums in Patna. Downs-Tepper’s study builds on work by Professor Anirudh Krishna, whose work investigates the varied living conditions, employment, and migration patterns in slums in India.

Siddharth Kawadiya traveled to Warangal in Telangana state in the south of India. Kawadiya is a fourth-year Ph.D. student in Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering’s Civil and Environmental Engineering Department. Kawadiya studies under Professor Marc Deshusses. During his time in Warangal, Kawadiya field-tested an ISO standard for onsite sanitation systems called Omni Processors. These processors can process fecal sludge without relying on sewer services and contributed to the Indian government's mission to end open defecation.

Kena Wani is a sixth-year Ph.D. student in Duke’s History Department. Wani spoke about her time spent in Ahmedabad and New Delhi, where she conducted archival research on philanthropic projects initiated by the textile business community during the early 20th century. Wani’s research abroad contributed to her dissertation, "Remaking Capital: Business, Technology, and Regimes of Development in 20th century Gujarat".

Madhurima Wardhan traveled to Bengaluru in southern India. Wardhan, a doctoral student in Duke’s Department of Biomedical Engineering, is engaged in research focusing on coronary artery disease. She is optimistic that her ongoing research analysis can facilitate virtual treatment and reduce clinical complications. Wardhan’s travel grant allowed her to participate and present her research at the 25th IEEE International High-Performance Computing, Data, and Analytics (HiPC) Conference in Bengaluru. 

The grantees’ projects represent a variety of disciplines. These grants reflect DII’s commitment to promoting and intensifying collaborations within Duke and partners across India. It is DII’s goal to foster multidisciplinary, multi-cultural research, educational, and entrepreneurial activities related to India.

Details about Duke India Initiative Student Travel Grantees' Projects

Sumathi Ramaswamy's Quote - Risk taking is an important part of intellectual labor