644 Bass Connections

About Bass Connections

Bass Connections is a university-wide program that offers graduate and undergraduate students immersive research opportunities through more than 60 year-long project teams each year. On Bass Connections teams, graduate and professional students, postdocs, and undergraduates work together with faculty and outside experts to conduct cutting-edge research on important issues such as health inequality, environmental sustainability, human rights, educational opportunity, and medical ethics.

Teams generally work together for nine to 12 months. Participating students usually receive academic credit (see below for crediting options for Law students), although students in specialized roles may sometimes serve in a paid role.  

Team members blend their diverse skills and expertise, allowing students of all levels to learn and contribute. Their work results in policy recommendations, journal articles, new datasets to inform future research, health interventions, novel modes of delivering social services, prototypes, museum exhibits, future grants, and more.

Opportunities to Participate in 2021-2022

The primary application cycle for teams takes place each February for the coming academic year. However, select Bass Connections teams are still recruiting student participants for the coming academic year, including several teams which are specifically seeking Law students. The deadline to apply is June 9 at 5:00 pm. Students will be notified of selection by mid-July. Please keep reading to learn about crediting options for Law students and to review a list of teams seeking Law students. Visit the Bass Connections website for more information.

Crediting Options for Law Students

Law students who are interested in participating in Bass Connections have the following crediting options:

  • Teams led by a Duke Law Faculty Member: If a Duke Law faculty member leads a Bass Connections team (see list below), Law students are eligible to receive Law School credit (up to three credits per semester). Upon being accepted to join a team, students must apply for approval to receive Law School credit by documenting the law and policy work (research, drafting, etc.) they will be undertaking as part of the team and the amount of time they will spend on the project. Such students should contact Dean Lacoff or James Lambert.
  • Teams without Duke Law Faculty Members: Some Bass Connections team are grappling with legal matters but do not include a Duke Law faculty leader (see list below). While Law students are encouraged to participate on these teams, students would not be eligible for Law School credit. Such students could opt to use their non-Law credit, noting that each student is only permitted three such credits. Students may also petition the Law School’s Administrative Committee for permission to apply up to three additional credits. Such appeals must demonstrate the rigor of the project and the connection to legal matters. Students interested in participating in these projects should contact Dean Lacoff or James Lambert.
  • Other options: Some students participate on Bass Connections teams in a paid capacity, particularly if they are serving in a leadership/project management role on the team. Each team is structured differently. It is at the discretion of faculty team leaders whether they offer paid roles. Law students may not earn academic credit if they are paid for their work.

Some students also participate on Bass Connections teams in an extra-curricular capacity because they are passionate about the topics, see sufficient professional benefits to participation, and/or because the topic aligns with their own research/career interests.

In some circumstances, Duke Law students may also document leadership or other skill development through a Bass Connections team experience that may count toward the professional development graduation requirement. Please contact a career counselor if you are interested in pursuing this option.

2021-2022 Project Teams Eligible for Law School Credit

American Predatory Lending & the Global Financial Crisis

This project seeks to deepen the public’s understanding of the policy and market dynamics in the run-up to the financial crisis and explain the divergent responses among federal and state/local policymakers as well as the implications for preventing the next financial crisis. This team will synthesize information collected by prior teams (including oral interviews, policy analyses, and business analyses) into actionable policy recommendations.

Law School faculty leaders: Lee Reiners

Regenerative Grazing to Mitigate Climate Change

This project aims to facilitate a dramatic expansion in the adoption and success of regenerative grazing systems in North Carolina and the Southeast by creating a robust ecosystem of financing, policy and technical expertise, through collaboration with key community partners.

Law School faculty leaders: Michelle Nowlin & Daniel Lee Miller

2021-2022 Project Teams Not Eligible for Law School Credit

Law students are welcome to apply to any of the 17 teams that are currently recruiting new students, the following teams expressed an explicit interest in Law students.

Field Testing a Mercury Capture System for Artisanal Gold Mining

Mercury (Hg) is a pollutant that adversely affects human and environmental health around the world. Artisanal and small-scale gold mining is the world’s largest contributor of atmospheric mercury and one of the largest threats to forests and biodiversity in the Amazon. An international team, including Duke faculty, is designing a Mercury Capture System, which has been tested under laboratory conditions. The goal of this project is to design a trial to test the efficacy of this system in the field and its societal adoptability. The project team will identify technical requirements, economic drivers and policy needs for the system. 

Ocean Evidence Gap Map

We are living through an era of rapid social and environmental change, particularly for the world’s oceans. This rate of change is seemingly matched by the generation of information (and misinformation) regarding potential solutions to achieve sustainability changes across scales. Evidence synthesis is a powerful tool to draw insights from multiple sources to guide evidence-based decision-making and identify areas where more targeted research is needed, but current methods are inefficient.

This project will convene a network of synthesis experts and end-users to: 1) assess the efficiency, performance and usability of existing machine learning tools and approaches for evidence synthesis; 2) develop an integrated collection of efficient and accessible tools and approaches to support future evidence synthesis research; and 3) utilize the evidence pipeline to advance the marine conservation evidence base in collaboration with practitioners and policymakers.

Revaluing Care in the Global Economy

The world is facing a crisis of care. The number of people requiring care is growing. Most human care work is performed by women – overwhelmingly women of color – in either unpaid or severely underpaid positions. The essential benefits of this care work to society, meanwhile, are not counted at all. Likewise, other essential components of care – the vital contributions of nature, of the commons and of public institutions – are for the most part not counted. Addressing this crisis demands a fundamental transformation in how we ascribe value to care, as well as new tools and methods to measure that value. 

This project will address the crisis of care by developing a public-facing tool that recognizes, measures and values care in the economy. Findings will be used to build a broadly accessible resource hub for CARE (Community Access for Research and Education) with the purpose of informing and empowering policy making and further research on care. 

Understanding Variations in Hospital Costs in Support of Value-Based Care Decisions

Healthcare expenditure in the United States accounts for nearly one-fifth of the United States GDP, yet healthcare costs remain ambiguous and confusing to patients and clinicians alike. Hospitals and insurers rarely disclose the negotiated rates of reimbursement, creating informational asymmetry which may drive high prices. This lack of transparency in healthcare pricing makes it difficult for patients to make informed decisions when seeking high-value/low-cost care. To address this, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recently introduced a regulation that requires hospitals to publicly post payment data.

In partnership with Yale University, this project team will collect, collate and analyze the newly available healthcare pricing data in order to understand price variation and examine the connection between quality and cost.  

Visualizing Systemic Housing Inequality

This project will use the tools of live performance and big data to visualize the debts and burdens of injustice and housing inequality. Team members will create and use models capable of real-time generation of individual injustice debt and burden based on data collected from a wide pool of sources. Using tools like racial profilers, facial recognition systems and biometric trackers, the team will map debt and burden data onto individuals so that creative live performance can be used to visualize the debt and burden of individuals and those around them. The team’s work will culminate in a live performance event and an interactive installation at the Rubenstein Arts Center. 

Benefits of Participation for Professional Students

Project teams offer professional students an exciting opportunity to apply coursework to a concrete problem, access professional development resources, expand academic and professional networks, and build career-enhancing skills to stand out on the job market. Professional students play a crucial role on Bass Connections teams, often serving as subject area experts, project managers or sub-group leaders, and mentors for undergraduates. In recognition of the important leadership role that professional students play on teams, Bridget Eklund JD’ 21 was awarded the 2021 Bass Connections Award for Outstanding Mentorship

Bass Connections teams offer professional students the opportunity to plan and implement complex projects, work in teams, mentor and lead others, and communicate across boundaries to find solutions to complex challenges – skills that are crucial for successful careers in almost any field.

Duke Law Participation and Testimonials

Past Law students have participated on a wide range of teams, including those working on issues related to ethics, the environment, privacy and security, intellectual property, labor, health, and education.

Among many research outcomes, these teams have:

  • collaborated with federal and state policymakers on Medicaid reform;
  • developed cybersecurity guidelines to protect individuals’ and families’ personal data;
  • examined incentive-based approaches to endangered species conservation on private lands;
  • explored how governments and professional associations set and enforce codes of ethics in competitive industries such as law, athletics and business;
  • produced documentary films on the environment and peacebuilding in post-conflict zones; and
  • written policy proposals to inform animal waste management practices in the United States.

Here’s what a few Duke Law alumni have had to say about their Bass Connections experience:

The best thing about my Bass Connections project was that, much like in the real world, the “problem” we sought to address had never been answered – it was not an assignment generated to test a skill set, but rather a totally open-ended question.
Anna Johns Hrom JD ’16, PhD ’18 (Law Clerk, U.S. Courts)

As a result of having worked with a multidisciplinary team, my writing changed and improved my goal of reaching wider audiences…Back in Brazil, my experience with Bass Connections is also informing how I am building and leading teams of researchers and policy analysts.
-Daniel Ribeiro, SJD ’18 (Prosecutor, Ministério Público of the State of Rio de Janeiro)

Through Bass Connections, I had the chance to meet with highly specialized practitioners that have been doing fascinating work on environmental peacebuilding. The [experience] also gave me an opportunity to step out of my usual activities…and do things I had little experience with, like drafting a script for a documentary or thinking about how certain images might help communicate the environmental impact of armed conflict in different regions of the world.
-Xiao Recio-Blanco, SJD ’15 (Director of the Ocean Program, Environmental Law Institute)

Bass Connections provided [our team] with an opportunity to work across disciplines to solve a complex and multifaceted problem and to develop a meaningful solution to that problem—one that has the potential to have tangible benefits in the real world. It is exactly the type of opportunity that I had been looking for when I decided to apply to Duke in the first place: to take my education beyond the classroom to make a difference in the wider world.
-Matthew Phillips JD ’20 (Founder, Phillips Admissions)

Course Areas of Practice
Evaluation Methods
  • Other
Degree Requirements
Course Type
  • Other
Learning Outcomes
  • Legal analysis and reasoning, legal research, problem-solving, and written and oral communication in the legal context
  • Other professional skills needed for competent and ethical participation as a member of the legal profession

*Please note that this information is for planning purposes only, and should not be relied upon for the schedule for a given semester. Faculty leaves and sabbaticals, as well as other curriculum considerations, will sometimes affect when a course may be offered.