The Marshall Plan

January 31, 2012


Duke senior wins scholarship to study genetics.

Cambridge bound
Cambridge bound: Daphne Ezer
Les Todd

Even before arriving at Duke as a freshman, Daphne Ezer '12 had set herself apart. As a high-school student in Norfolk, Virginia, having already done research in computational and mathematical biology, she e-mailed Duke computational biologist Alexander Hartemink '94 about joining his lab.

"I can assure you that's the only time that has ever happened," says Hartemink, the Alexander F. Hehmeyer Associate Professor of computer science and a former Rhodes Scholar.

Little surprise, then, that Ezer is again ahead of the pack. A double-major in biology and computer science, she has won a prestigious Marshall Scholarship to complete two years of graduate study in the United Kingdom. She plans to use her award to pursue a doctoral degree in genetics at the University of Cambridge.

Ezer hopes to use artificial intelligence technologies to "predict the biological impact of a genetic mutation that we have never observed before." She will work with Cambridge researcher Boris Adryan to develop predictive models of how genes are turned on and off.

At Duke, Ezer was an A.B. Duke Scholar and Faculty Scholar, president of the Duke chapter of the Association for Computing Machinery, an organizer of the 2011 National Undergraduate Bioethics Conference, and a winner in the undergraduate division of the Duke Start-Up Challenge, which promotes student entrepreneurship. She also served as a teaching assistant in computer science and taught English to Tibetans in China.

She says the overseas experience proved valuable in broadening her horizons and strengthening her ability to communicate her work. "Research is only half of the process of science. For science to have any impact, research must be shared with others," she says.