Research projects at iiD focus on building connections. We encourage crosspollination of ideas across disciplines, and to develop new forms of collaboration that will advance research and education across the full spectrum of disciplines at Duke. The topics below show areas of research focus at iiD. See all of our research.

A team of students led by Professors Jonathan Mattingly and Gregory Herschlag will investigate gerrymandering in political districting plans.  Students will improve on and employ an algorithm to sample the space of compliant redistricting plans for both state and federal districts.  The output of the algorithm will be used to detect gerrymandering for a given district plan; this data will be used to analyze and study the efficacy of the idea of partisan symmetry.  This work will continue the Quantifying Gerrymandering project, seeking to understand the space of redistricting plans and to find justiciable methods to detect gerrymandering. The ideal team has a mixture of members with programing backgrounds (C, Java, Python), statistical experience including possibly R, mathematical and algorithmic experience, and exposure to political science or other social science fields.

Read the latest updates about this ongoing project by visiting Dr. Mattingly's Gerrymandering blog.

A team of students led by faculty and researchers at the Social Science Research Institute will bring together data that will facilitate research using social determinants of health (SDH) to examine, understand, and ameliorate health disparities. This project will identify SDH variables that have the potential to be linked to data from the MURDOCK Study, a longitudinal health study based in Cabbarus County, NC. Much of this data – information relevant to understanding socioeconomic status, education, the physical and social environment, employment, and social support networks – is publicly available or easily obtained and its aggregation and analysis offer opportunities to significantly improve predictions of health risks and improve personalized care. Students will evaluate potential data sources, develop ethical policies to protect respondent privacy, clean and merge data, create documentation for data sharing and reuse, and use statistical tools and neighborhood mapping software to examine patterns of disparity.

Despite overwhelming scientific evidence on the benefits of vaccinations, pregnant women and parents of young children often refuse to accept, or choose to space-out, vaccinations for themselves or their children. This phenomenon, termed vaccine hesitancy, has been blamed for several vaccine-preventable outbreaks in the U.S. As part of larger study to understand vaccine hesitancy locally, students will conduct secondary data analysis of the coverage and timeliness of maternal and pediatric vaccines in Durham, and identify determinants of timely vaccination uptake. Results may inform the development of interventions to reduce hesitancy and improve the coverage and timeliness of maternal and pediatric vaccine uptake in Durham.

A team of students led by researchers in the Center for Health Policy and Inequalities Research will develop a platform that visualizes significant life events across time for more than 3,000 orphaned and separated children in Cambodia, Ethiopia, India, Kenya, and Tanzania from the Positive Outcomes for Orphans (POFO) study. The types of life events visualized on the timeline will include: the death of a parent, changes in living locations, school levels achieved, special events, traumatic events, and reported wellbeing at different ages. This data will be displayed via mobile devices and will serve to allow the participant to visualize and verify the information provided about their lives. Ultimately, the platform will allow researchers to ensure accuracy of the data provided and also allow greater audiences to visualize the individuality of the study's aggregate data.

A team of students led by Glenn Elementary School Parent Teacher Association (PTA) President, David Vanie, will explore publicly available data in order to develop a set of metrics that serve to understand the needs of the GSE parent community in a holistic way.  The data will identify potential obstacles that are barriers for parent involvement, and will inform best practices for increasing participation throughout the 2018-2019 school year at GSE.  The work will be used to provide helpful insight for engaging parents in PTA organizations at public schools throughout Durham, and across the country. 


A team of students led by clinical and non-clinical global reproductive health researchers at the Duke Global Health Institute will develop an interactive, web-based platform that curates raw data on contraceptive discontinuation from the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) into a tool to help researchers and family planning advocates develop fresh insights around contraceptive discontinuation. Students will develop and refine the prototype and create a dissemination plan with guidance from Alexander Pavluck, Senior Manager of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for the Global Health Division of RTI’s International Development Group (IDG). Students will have an opportunity to pilot creative ways to incorporate social media data into the tool and ways to validate this data against ground-truth data from population representative surveys.

What do we mean by the term “poverty”?

A team of students under the direction of Professor Astrid Giugni will analyze how the way we talk about poverty and public policy has changed over time. The team will work with two databases containing visual, textual, and audio documents from 1473 to the present, allowing students to track and analyze how our understanding of poverty has changed over time. The group will tackle the challenge of analyzing the political and popular language and imagery of poverty in order to create a visualization that contextualizes how financial and welfare policy is influenced by how we talk about poverty.

 A team of students lead by Dr. Nicole Schramm-Sapyta of the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences will provide analytical consulting support to the Durham Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) Collaborative, a county-wide effort to provide law enforcement and first responders with specialized training in mental illness and crisis intervention techniques.  The team will build on last summer’s descriptive analysis of 9-1-1 call data by incorporating data from partner agencies to assess whether CIT training reduces recidivism, increases utilization of mental health services, and generally improves the lives of Durham citizens with mental illness. 

Anna Vivian (Physics, Art History) and Vinai Oddiraju (Stats) spent ten weeks working closely with the director of the Durham Neighborhood Compass. Their goal was to produce metrics for things like ambient stress and neighborhood change, to visualize these metrics within the Compass system, and to interface with a variety of community stakeholders in their work.

Maddie Katz (Global Health and Evolutionary Anthropology Major), Parker Foe (Math/Spanish, Smith College), and Tony Li (Math, Cornell) spent ten weeks analyzing data from the National Transgender Discrimination Survey. Their goal was to understand how the discrimination faced by the trans community is realized on a state, regional, and national level, and to partner with advocacy organizations around their analysis.

Biomedical Engineering and Electrical and Computer Engineering major David Brenes, and Electrical and Computer Engineering/Computer Science majors Xingyu Chen and David Yang spent ten weeks working with mobile eye tracker data to optimize data processing and feature extraction. They generated their own video data with SMI Eye Tracking Glasses, and created computer vision algorithms to categorize subject gazing behavior in a grocery purchase decision-making environment.

Artem Streltsov (Masters Economics) and IIT Mechanical Engineering major Vinod Ramakrishnan spent ten weeks exploring North Carolina state budget documents. Working closely with the Budget and Tax Center, part of the North Carolina Justice Center, their goal was to help build a keystone tool that can be used for analysis of the state budget as well as future budget proposals.

Yuangling (Annie) Wang, a Math/Stats major, and Jason Law, a Math/Econ major, spent ten weeks analyzing message-testing data about the 2015 Marijuana Legalization Initiative in Ohio; the data were provided by Public Opinion Strategies, one of the nation's leading public opinion research firms.

The goal was to understand how statistics and machine learning might help develop microtargeting strategies for use in future campaigns.

Robbie Ha (Computer Science, Statistics), Peilin Lai  (Computer Science, Mathematics), and Alejandro Ortega (Mathematics) spent ten weeks analyzing the content and dissemination of images of the Syrian refugee crisis, as part of a general data-driven investigation of Western photojournalism and how it has contributed to our understanding of this crisis.

Over ten weeks, Computer Science Majors Amber Strange and Jackson Dellinger joined forces with Psychology major Rachel Buchanan to perform a data-driven analysis of mental health intervention practices by Durham Police Department. They worked closely with leadership from the Durham Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) Collaborative, made up of officers who have completed 40 hours of specialized training in mental illness and crisis intervention techniques.

Lauren Fox (Cultural Anthropology) and Elizabeth Ratliff (Statistics, Global Health) spent ten weeks analyzing and mapping pedestrian, bicycle, and motor vehicle data provided by Durham's Department of Transportation. This project was a continuation of a seminar on "ghost bikes" taught by Prof. Harris Solomon.

Boning Li (Masters Electrical and Computer Engineering), Ben Brigman (Electrical and Computer Engineering), Gouttham Chandrasekar (Electrical and Computer Engineering), Shamikh Hossain (Computer Science, Economics), and Trishul Nagenalli (Electrical and Computer Engineering, Computer Science) spent ten weeks creating datasets of electricity access indicators that can be used to train a classifier to detect electrified villages. This coming academic year, a Bass Connections Team will use these datasets to automatically find power plants and map electricity infrastructure.

Felicia Chen (Computer Science, Statistics), Nikkhil Pulimood (Computer Science, Mathematics), and James Wang (Statistics, Public Policy) spent ten weeks working with Counter Tools, a local nonprofit that provides support to over a dozen state health departments. The project goal was to understand how open source data can lead to the creation of a national database of tobacco retailers.

Over ten weeks, Mathematics/Economics majors Khuong (Lucas) Do and Jason Law joined forces with Analytical Political Economy Masters student Feixiao Chen to analyze the spati-temporal distribution of birth addresses in North Carolina. The goal of the project was to understand how/whether the distributions of different demographic categories (white/black, married/unmarried, etc.) differed, and how these differences connected to a variety of socioeconomic indicators.

Linda Adams(CompSci), Amanda Jankowski (Sociology, Global Health), and Jessica Needleman (Statistics/Economics) spent ten weeks prototyping small-area mapping of public-health information within the Durham Neighborhood Compass, with a focus on mortality data. They worked closely with the director of DataWorks NC, an independent data intermediary dedicated to democratizing the use of quantitative information.

Computer Science and Psychology major Molly Chen, and Neuroscience major Emily Wu spent ten weeks working with patient diagnosis co-occurence data derived from Duke Electronic Medical Records to develop network visualizations of co-occurring disorders within demographic groups. Their goal was to make healthcare more holistic, and reduce healthcare disparities by improving patient and provider awareness of co-occurring disorders for patients within similar demographic groups.

Emily Horn (Public Policy, Global Health), Aasha Reddy (Economics), and Shanchao Wang (Masters Economics) spent ten weeks working with data from the National Asset Scorecard for Communities of Color (NASCC), an ongoing survey project that gathers information about asset and debt of households at a detailed racial and national origin level. They worked closely with faculty and researchers from the Samuel Dubois Cook Center for Social Equity.

Statistical Science majors Nathaniel Brown and Corey Vernot, and Economics student Guan-Wun Hao spent ten weeks exploring changes in food purchase behavior and nutritional intake following the event of a new Metformin prescription for Type II Diabetes. They worked closely with Matthew Harding and researchers in the BECR Center, as well as Dr. Susan Spratt, an endocrinologist in Duke Medicine.

Lindsay Hirschhorn (Mechanical Engineering) and Kelsey Sumner (Global Health and Evolutionary Anthropology) spent ten weeks determining optimal vaccination clinic locations in Durham County for a simulated Zika virus outbreak. They worked closely with researchers at RTI International to construct models of disease spread and health impact, and developed an interactive visualization tool.

With the significant international consequences of recent outbreaks, the ITP Lab conducted extensive stakeholder interviews and macro-level health policy analysis to expose gaps in pandemic preparedness and develop legal frameworks for future threats. 

How well and in what ways do governments communicate with their citizens? How do governments analyze data and create visualizations to promote public access to government information? 

This project summarizes the existing sample agreements from different institutions, analyzes the key contractual issues in the formation of alliances, and develops master charts of legal provisions to compare different approaches, to provide a reference for the formation of new alliances in the era of epidemic disease outbreaks. 

With the significant international consequences of recent outbreaks, the ITP Lab conducted extensive stakeholder interviews and macro-level health policy analysis to expose gaps in pandemic preparedness and develop legal frameworks for future threats.