Duke Bass Connections

Bass Connections bridges the classroom and the world beyond the university, giving students from all of Duke’s schools a chance to tackle complex societal problems alongside our superb faculty. We support research teams that draw on perspectives and methods from multiple disciplines, as well as robust engagement with communities, stakeholders and decision-makers.

Each year, Bass Connections project teams bring together faculty, postdocs, graduate students, undergraduates and external partners to tackle complex societal challenges in interdisciplinary research teams. These teams generally work together over nine to 12 months. Students receive academic credit for participating. Learn more about the current Bass Connection project team opportunities.

The Duke Center for Precision Medicine has partnered with Bass Connections to form several project teams:

Information, Society & Culture theme

The 2020-2021 Enabling Precision Health & Medicine Bass Connections Team will analyze data from the 2019-2020 pilot WearDuke study, assist with recruitment efforts for the 2020-2021 year, and complete a review of the use of mHealth technologies in children and young adults for wellness. They presented this work at the 2021 Fortin Foundation Bass Connections Virtual Showcase on April 16th. In response to campus changes implemented due to the novel coronavirus, plans for the expanded pilot study were revised. Currently, the study is open to all students, regardless of location (on campus or remote) or year (undergraduate, graduate and professional).  See Project Description on Bass Connections Team page.

The 2019-2020 Enabling Precision Health & Medicine Bass Connections Team will work to develop the infrastructure for the WearDuke Initiative – a campus initiative that will use digital-based wearable technologies to help students monitor their health-related behaviors and establish healthy habits that will benefit them both at Duke and beyond.

In fall 2019, the team will launch a pilot study in one residence hall focused on sleep behaviors to assess the feasibility of the project. They will monitor enrollment, drop-out rates and participation levels over the school year. They will also work to expand and improve the companion-based app developed by the 2018-2019 Bass Connections team and develop educational resources and interventions to prepare for the second, larger pilot study in fall 2020.

The 2018-19 Precision Health & Medicine Bass Connections Teams will focus on the challenges in developing applications to support healthy living and improve patient care. The project team will be split into two sub-teams.

Team 1 will develop the infrastructure for a new campus initiative to promote health awareness and engagement, establish healthy behaviors, and enable student-centered research and learning opportunities. The initiative will initially focus on sleep behaviors and health. The team will work on the selection of a web/app-based platform to enable collection of sleep and demographic data and dissemination of educational content and activities to promote healthy sleep behavior for a select group of students.

Team 2 will assess public awareness, perceived value, and usability of MeTree, a digital family health history software platform that was recently integrated into the Duke electronic health record. They will develop novel research projects to better understand opportunities for expansion and potential barriers to utilization by different patient populations.

During the 2017-2018 academic year, CAGPM partnered with the Duke Center for Genomic and Computational Biology (GCB) and Bass Connections for two Bass Connections project teams: Enabling Precision Health & Medicine and the Blue Devil Resistome.

The Enabling Precision Health and Medicine Bass Connection project spanned two semesters and immersed students in a team-based experiential learning environment to research and design a clinical test to meet the real-world needs of patients in the Duke Health System. The team was split into two subteams: Family Health History and Burkholderia.

Collecting medical history about family members is standard practice for almost every type of physician. Family health history is more valuable than many people realize. We share our genes with all of our blood relatives, and we share our environment with our immediate family. Both genes and environment can contribute to our health risks.

The Family Health History Bass Connections team focused on expanding the utility and usefulness of the MeTree™ application. MeTree™ is a patient-facing web-based family health history-driven risk assessment application. The app is integrated into clinical practices and provides clinical decision support to patients and their primary care providers about risk levels and recommendations for risk management for 30 different conditions.

Infectious disease is a major contributor to mortality in critically ill patients, particularly those who are immunosuppressed. The immediate post-transplant population is acutely at risk for infection, given the heavy doses of induction immunosuppression needed to maintain the graft. The goals of the Burkholderia Bass Connections team were to identify genetic markers that can accurately distinguish pathogenic from benign bacteria in Burkholderia and develop a rapid and robust diagnostic assay around these markers. Our long-term goal is to provide assay results to physicians in the Duke Health System so they can tailor antimicrobial therapy for critically ill transplant patients.

CAGPM partnered with GCB, the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, and the Department of Molecular Genetics & Microbiology to form the Blue Devil Resistome Bass Connections project team. The course ran from summer 2017 through spring 2018, and students collaborated to map and analyze microbiological samples from Duke campus.

To gain a better understanding of antibiotic resistance in our environment, how different types of antibiotic resistance spread and how to interfere with such spread, students mapped the distribution of antibiotic-resistance genes across the Duke campus.

COVID-19 theme

Equity and Efficiency of Using Wearables Data for COVID-19 Monitoring (2020-2021) In April 2020, Duke launched CovIdentify to test the viability of using wearables to quickly identify individuals who may have contracted the coronavirus. The CovIdentify platform integrates information from widely used wearables with simple daily electronic self-reports on symptoms and social distancing, for up to 12 months. CovIdentify’s overarching objective is to implement existing digital biomarkers and establish new digital biomarkers to develop, validate and translate CovIdentify as a continuous screening tool. Their research on biases in study design and the potential effects on downstream technology development resulted in a publication, including a set of guidelines for improving demographic imbalances.

Bass Connections Open theme

Smart Toilet: A Disruptive Technology to Improve Health and Wellness (2020-2021) In 2020-2021, the team advanced the project by building and testing a device that can dispense fecal immunochemical test strips and expose them to human excreta. After the sample is collected on the strip, the device sends a signal to an endoscopic camera, telling it to capture an image of the test results—one line if the sample is negative for biomarkers indicating possible gastrointestinal disease, and two lines if it is positive. Ultimately, this sensor will enable the establishment of wellness baselines for individuals with deviations, triggering health interventions and specimen extraction for separate biochemical assays at specific time intervals with no user intervention nor privacy concerns associated with a camera in a bathroom.

Smart Toilet: A Disruptive Technology to Improve Health and Wellness (2019-2020) In 2019-2020, the team focused on the engineering development, quality control, refinement, business and regulatory strategy of the Smart Sampling Toilet platform. Team members developed key technical advancements that resulted in a working prototype toilet system and the demonstration of specimen extraction with no sample cross-over contamination overcoming a key technical risk of the approach.