Who We Are

Joanna Downer, PhD
Associate Dean for Research Development

Joanna joined the Chancellor’s and School of Medicine’s Dean’s Offices at Duke Medicine in January 2006. Since 2009, she has led Research Development at the School of Medicine. She previously worked in science writing & media relations, first at Duke Medicine and then at Johns Hopkins Medicine. At Duke, she covered basic and clinical cancer research, and at Hopkins she covered the biomedical sciences, genetic medicine, and cell engineering. She also has extensive experience in scientific editing. Joanna holds an MA and PhD in nuclear chemistry from Washington University in St. Louis. While in graduate school, she was a Mass Media Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, placed at Time Magazine in Washington, DC. Joanna also holds a BS with Honors in chemistry from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA. A member of the National Association of Research Development Professionals since 2010, she was elected to its Board of Directors in 2019 to serve a four-year term.

(919) 681-8272 

Irina Mokrova, PhD

Irina Mokrova, PhD
​Research Development Associate, Senior

Irina joined the office in August 2019. Previously, she was an Advanced Research Scientist/Statistician in the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina. Irina holds a PhD in Human Development and Family Studies and an M.S. in Human Development from the University of North Carolina Greensboro, and a BS in Psychology from Moscow State University in Russia.

(919) 681-8809

Christine Erlien, PhD
Research Development Associate, Senior

Chris joined the Office of Research Development in July 2017; she also assists Robert Calderbank in supporting development of research collaborations with Oak Ridge National Laboratory.  She has been at Duke since 2007 and in research development since 2011.  From 2007-2011, she taught Freshman Writing in Duke’s Thompson Writing Program.  From 2011 to 2017, she served as Director of Research Opportunities for the Nicholas School of the Environment, where she gained experience with a variety of federal agencies (NSF, NIH, DOE, NASA, EPA, NOAA, DoD) and with foundation submissions. Chris holds a PhD in Geography from UNC-Chapel Hill and a BS in Soils and Environmental Sciences from Montana State University.

(919) 681-1840

Maile Henson, PhD
Research Development Associate

A member of the Office of Research Development since January 2016, Maile came to Duke after working with biotech startup companies to secure NIH funding (SBIR/STTR), managing and coordinating the grant proposal process.  She completed her postdoctoral training at the NIH/National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences in Research Triangle Park, NC, where she studied the molecular mechanisms of synaptic weakening and elimination in the developing brain.  Maile also served as a Scientific Review Officer intern in the Extramural Division of NIEHS.  She holds a PhD in Neuroscience from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a BS in Biology from the University of Texas at Dallas.

(919) 681-3889

Martha Payne, PhD, MPH
Research Development Associate, Senior

Martha joined the Office of Research Development in January 2016 as a Research Development Associate and was promoted to her current position in April 2019. Previously, she held a range of research positions in the Duke Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, including her most recent appointment as Associate Professor. Martha holds a PhD and MPH in nutrition from the UNC Chapel Hill and a BA in neuroscience from Oberlin College. Her research career has focused on nutritional determinants of late life depression and brain health. Martha has been a PI or co-investigator on a variety of NIH and foundation grants. Martha serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Nutrition in Gerontology and Geriatrics, and is an ad hoc reviewer for journals in nutrition, obesity, neuroimaging, mental health, and aging.

(919) 681-1611