Julia Grace Happel


New York, NY

Academic Interests

Environmental Science and Policy, Medicine

Fun Fact

My highschool tennis team played on the courts where the US Open is held.

I am a born and bred New Yorker who is excited to explore North Carolina. My
dream is to become a doctor, but I am also passionate about environmental science.
During my Junior year, I got a sneak peak of what a life in medicine might look like
when I shadowed a Hematologist Oncologist at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. I
became immersed into the world of blood and bone marrow cancers and was fascinated
by what I saw. I loved learning about the diseases and treatments and building
meaningful emotional connections with the patients I saw each week.

What keeps me interested in STEM is the constant questioning and continual
pursuit for answers. In highschool, I interned at the Krauss Lab at Mount Sinai Hospital.
The lab studies skeletal muscle cell growth and regeneration, focusing specifically on
satellite cells, which activate and proliferate after an injury. During my time in the lab, I
ran experiments growing myoblasts into muscle fibers and tracking protein expression.
I spent the spring of my junior year at The Mountain School, a semester away
program and working farm. Through collaborative study and living, we assumed a
common goal of caring for our school and native surroundings. I learned how to make
maple syrup, chopped wood for the boiler, took care of animals, and pruned trees in the
apple orchard. Through classes, hikes, work periods, and more, everyday brought
opportunities to learn from our surroundings. The Mountain School’s idea of the
“classroom” was never limited to an academic building or words in a textbook, and I am
a strong believer that experiential and collaborative learning provide the most robust and
sustained education.

Beyond academics, I am on the club tennis team at Duke and enjoy playing the
piano, going on hikes, and baking. I am also a member of the Duke Climate Coalition and
Pancakes for Parkinsons, a student-led organization that fundraises for the Michael J. Fox
Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.

What do you like about being a SPIRE Fellow?

Although I have only been at Duke for a short time, it is clear to me that there are so
many people here who want to support me in whatever way they can. I love that students
at Duke are collaborative and motivated and that professors are eager to build
relationships with students outside of the classroom. Passion, grit, and spirit are core
components of the Blue Devil family, making for an innovative and imaginative
community that is constantly working to improve itself and the world around it.

Julia Grace Happel
Julia Grace Happel