NAU professor receives Fulbright U.S. Scholar Award to study in Croatia

JJ Duke, an associate professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, received a Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program award, Flex program, to study biomedical sciences in Croatia during the summers of 2024 and 2025.  

Duke, who has been at NAU since 2016, will study respiratory muscle function and fatiguability in apnea divers in Split, Croatia. 

Apnea, or breath-hold, divers are athletes that take a single breath and dive as deep as they possibly can. When holding your breath, there are two phases: the easy-going phase, where the individual is having no difficulty holding their breath, and the struggle phase. In the struggle phase, the respiratory system actively tries to take a breath, but the individual does not allow this to happen. To hold one’s breath for a long time and achieve great dive depth, the respiratory muscles must be very strong. To date, no one has measured respiratory muscle strength in this elite athlete population, nor has it been determined if their respiratory muscles become fatigued, meaning they can’t generate as much pressure. Duke and his team will take these measurements before and after a series of maximum-effort breath holds in the laboratory. 

Duke is among more than 800 U.S. citizens who will teach or conduct research abroad for the 2023-2025 academic years through the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program, which is part of the U.S. Department of State. Fulbrighters engage in cutting-edge research and expand their professional networks, often continuing research collaborations started abroad and laying the groundwork for forging future partnerships between institutions. Upon returning to their home countries, institutions, labs and classrooms, they share their stories and often become active supporters of international exchange, inviting foreign scholars to campus and encouraging colleagues and students to go abroad.  

“I am extremely honored to be a Fulbright Scholar,” Duke said. “I have had several colleagues who were scholars in the past and they spoke about the personal and professional impact it had on them and I am excited to get to experience such a wonderful opportunity.” 

The Fulbright Program is the U.S. government’s flagship international educational exchange program and is supported by the people of the United States and partner countries around the world. The Fulbright Program is funded through an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Participating governments and host institutions, corporations, and foundations around the world also provide direct and indirect support to the program. In the United States, the Institute of International Education supports the implementation of the Fulbright U.S. Student and Scholar Programs on behalf of the U.S. Department of State, including conducting an annual competition for the scholarships.       

For more information about the Fulbright Program, visit 

NAU Communications