G-BIO-PHD - Biology - PhD

Degree designation.

The Department of Biology offers a variety of training opportunities leading to the PhD in biology.

Students in the department may specialize in a wide variety of areas including anatomy; behavior; physiology; cellular and molecular biology; community, ecosystem, physiological, and population ecology; evolution; functional morphology; developmental, ecological, molecular, organelle, and population genetics; genomics; and phylogenetic systematics.

There is a high level of interaction among the various areas of biology and other programs. Faculty members participate in the University Programs in Developmental Biology, Ecology, Genetics and Genomics, Cellular and Molecular Biology, Computational Biology and Bioinformatics, Structural Biology and Biophysics, and Neurobiology; tropical research is facilitated through the university’s membership in the Organization for Tropical Studies. There are also strong relationships with the Departments of Evolutionary Anthropology (primatology, phylogenetic systematics, macroevolution), Mathematics (theoretical biology), and Psychology (behavior); the Pratt School of Engineering (biomechanics); the Medical Center (molecular biology and genomics); and the Nicholas School of the Environment (ecology).

Students entering the program generally have a broad background in biological sciences supplemented with basic courses in chemistry, mathematics, and physics. Biochemistry and physical chemistry are strongly recommended for students interested in molecular areas, and advanced courses in mathematics are recommended for students in population genetics and ecology. While deficiencies may be corrected by taking appropriate courses during the first year of graduate study, it is advised that students search widely in this bulletin for information about the intellectual resources of the university. Courses below the 500 level may not be applied toward the required credits needed for a post-baccalaureate degree. With the approval of their Director of Graduate Studies and the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, graduate students may enroll in lower-level courses, but these courses will not count toward any graduation requirement and will not be included in a student’s GPA calculation. Special attention should be given to announcements of the programs and departments listed above, as well as to those of Cultural Anthropology, History, Immunology, Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, Pharmacology, Philosophy, and Sociology, and of the Pratt School of Engineering and the Nicholas School of the Environment.

Secondary Menu

Biology logo

Duke Biology is one of the few broad Biology Departments in the country, providing students, faculty, and staff with the opportunity to learn and perform research in a highly integrative and interactive setting. Our department hosts over 50 faculty, studying areas spanning developmental biology, cell biology, molecular biology, ecology, evolution, organismal biology, and genomics. 

Sonke Johnson: Ida Stephens Owens Distinguished Professor

Apr Apr 12 12 Biology Seminar | Dr. Daniel Speiser, Department of Biological Sciences, University of South Carolina | A kaleidoscope of eyes: advantages, constraints, and evolutionary histories of distributed visual systems 3:30 pm 4:30 pm French Family Science Center 2231

Ph.D. Program

Our program is highly flexible, allowing students to design the path that best fits their professional needs. Our students spend the majority of their time engaged in innovative research, and have the opportunity to interact and collaborate with researchers from a wide range of fields. 

fingers holding plant life over a notebook

Undergraduate Programs

For undergraduates, we offer a broad range of learning opportunities, including traditional classroom experiences, hands-on learning in the field and the laboratory, independent study, and full student engagement in research. 

Our program offers a Bachelor of Science in Biology, a Bachelor of Arts in Biology, as well as a minor. Furthermore, our 12 optional Concentration areas enable students to more narrowly focus their studies.

Diversity Initiatives

We want to be just, equitable and transparent about the ways we evaluate, compensate, and reward all members of our department. We want to be a department of scholars that gives back to the local and international scientific communities in which we are embedded. We are committed to creating an academic environment enriched by diverse life experiences, where everyone feels respected, heard, and safe. We are dedicated to preventing all forms of discrimination and harassment, and hold all members of our community accountable to our values of equity and justice.

Learn more about our DEI efforts

  • Duke Biology’s Mission Statement
  • AJED Annual and Semester Reports
  • AJED Meeting Notes
  • Biology Cultural Association (BCA)
  • Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Antiracism Committee (IDEA)
  • Learning from Baboons: Dr. Susan Alberts
  • Extremophiles and Systems Biology: Dr. Amy Schmid
  • How Cells Manage Stress: Dr. Gustavo Silva
  • Predator-Prey Interactions in a Changing World: Dr. Jean Philippe Gibert
  • Exploring the Extracellular Matrix: Dr. David Sherwood
  • Cell Division's Missing Link: Dr. Masayuki Onishi
  • Listening in to Birdsong: Dr. Steve Nowicki
  • Biogeochemistry as Ecosystem Accounting: Dr. Emily Bernhardt
  • Building a Dynamic Nervous System: Dr. Pelin Volkan
  • Investigating a Key Plant Hormone: Dr. Lucia Strader
  • Imagining Visual Ecology: Dr. Sönke Johnsen
  • Outreach Opportunities Across the Triangle
  • Job Opportunities
  • Location & Contact
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Learning Outcomes
  • Major Requirements
  • Anatomy, Physiology & Biomechanics
  • Animal Behavior
  • Biochemistry
  • Cell & Molecular Biology
  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Marine Biology
  • Neurobiology
  • Pharmacology
  • Plant Biology
  • Minor Requirements
  • Biology IDM
  • List of Biology Advisors
  • Guide for First-Year Students
  • Transfer Credit
  • Application & Deadlines
  • Supervisor & Faculty Reader
  • Thesis Guidelines
  • Honors Poster
  • Past Student Projects
  • Study Away Opportunities
  • Finding a Research Mentor
  • Project Guidelines
  • Getting Registered
  • Writing Intensive Study
  • Independent Study Abroad
  • Summer Opportunities
  • Departmental Awards
  • Biology Majors Union
  • Commencement 2024
  • Trinity Ambassadors
  • Degree Programs
  • Ph.D. Requirements
  • How to Apply
  • Financial Aid
  • Living in Durham
  • Where Our Students Go
  • Milestones Toward Ph.D.
  • Graduate School Fellowships
  • Useful Resources
  • Concurrent Biology Master of Science
  • En Route Biology Masters of Science
  • Form Library
  • Mentorship Expectations
  • On Campus Resources
  • Fellowships & Jobs
  • Meet Our Postdocs
  • Department Research Areas
  • Research Facilities
  • Duke Postdoctoral Association
  • All Courses
  • Biological Structure & Function Courses
  • Ecology Courses
  • Organismal Diversity Courses
  • Alternate Elective Courses
  • Primary Faculty
  • Secondary Faculty
  • Graduate Faculty
  • Emeritus Faculty
  • Graduate Students
  • Department Staff
  • Faculty Research Labs
  • Developmental Biology
  • Ecology & Population Biology
  • Neuroscience
  • Organismal Biology & Behavior
  • Systematics
  • Research Articles & Papers
  • Botany Plot
  • Field Station
  • Pest Management Protocols
  • Research Greenhouses
  • Centers/Research Groups
  • Biology Writes
  • Alumni Profiles
  • For Current Students
  • Assisting Duke Students

Why DSCB and Duke?

by DSCB alumni, Corey Bunce

The Duke Development and Stem Cell Biology (DSCB) Program is a broad, interdepartmental consortium of students and faculty doing developmental stem cell, and regenerative biology research at the molecular, cellular, genetic, evolutionary, and systems levels. Researchers from across over 10 departments at Duke University and Duke Medical School participate. DSCB is one of many PhD programs offered under the purview of the Office of Biomedical Graduate Education. With our established strength and the continuing influx of new faculty talent, the Program has attracted top students from around the US and the world. Financial support is through NIH funding as well as other sources. 

A few unique aspects of our program:

Scientific strengths and breadth: DSCB students join a tight-knit community of faculty and students who are passionate about development and stem cell biology. Our labs study diverse model systems including worms, flies, mice, sea urchins, turtles, zebrafish, induced pluripotent stem cells and organoids. This is enhanced through a campus-wide  Duke Regeneration Center .

Our faculty:   We are a young faculty; more than half of the ~50 DSCB faculty arrived at Duke in the past 10 years, reflecting the explosive surge in interest in this area of biological science. Our faculty come from Departments at the School of Medicine (basic science and clinical), Biomedical Engineering, and the Arts and Sciences (Biology). Our faculty participate in mentoring training and are committed to training students to be outstanding scientists.

Community and Niche buddies : Current DSCB students are intimately involved with programming and advocating for the program. Each incoming student is paired with a DSCB upperclassman ("Niche buddy")

Outreach with the community:  DSCB students and faculty are actively involved in outreach through mentoring, teaching and scientific communication.

Colloquium:  Students participate in a DSCB colloquium seminar series which brings in world-class experts in development and stem cell biology. Students have the opportunity to meet with these faculty and go to dinners, providing outstanding networking opportunities.

What makes Duke special?

Duke BioCoRE Scholars Program  provides enhanced opportunities that complement the bioscience undergraduate and graduate programs. The goals of BioCoRE are to increase the diversity of scientists in the biosciences, and to promote student development with research experiences, engagement with faculty, and career development activities. All incoming graduate students are invited to apply, and incoming scholars are eligible for an early-start summer program as well as other community-building activities throughout the academic year. 

Research Triangle :  Duke University is located in Durham, North Carolina , one of three cities — Durham, Chapel Hill, and Raleigh — that form North Carolina’s famed Triangle Region. Our students interact with other students at UNC-Chapel Hill, NCState, NIEHS, and other nearby schools. The research triangle and Durham has many local startups (including from Duke scientists) and pharmaceutical companies. Many of our graduates remain in Durham to work at these Universities and Companies.

Unique campus geography:  Duke University and Duke University Medical Center are on the same campus. This gives our students the unique opportunity to work in labs across campus, to interact with experts across broad disciplines, work with Duke undergraduates in the lab, and benefit from the cultural events across the University.

Opportunities to personalize your career paths.  Our students can pursue internships in pharmaceutical industry, clinical shadowing programs, science communication, and more.

Teaching opportunities:  There is no teaching requirement, however there are ample opportunities for students who are interested in teaching. For formal training students can obtain a  Certificate in Teaching . For students interested in moving into a teaching Academic position they can take advantage of the  Preparing Future Faculty program

The Pharmacology program at Duke is consistently ranked among the top pharmacology graduate programs in the nation. Its focus is to prepare qualified individuals for a career in independent research. Pharmacology is the science of drug action on biological systems. It encompasses the study of targets of drug action, the mechanisms by which drugs act, the therapeutic and toxic effects of drugs, as well as the development of new therapeutic agents. As the study of pharmacology is interdisciplinary, the graduate program in pharmacology is diverse and flexible. Graduate positions in the program are fully funded providing for payment of tuition, fees, and an annual stipend for the first two years. After the first two years, students are supported by the faculty member with whom they are doing their thesis research. The average time to completion of a Ph.D. is 5.5 years.

Pharmacology Graduate Student Elias Eteshola

Pharmacology Alumni

We are very proud of the alumni from our department who have successfully completed their training in Pharmacology. Please follow this link to learn more about our alumni for   pharmacology .

David MacAlpine, PhD

David MacAlpine, PhD

Jamie Baize-Smith

Jamie Baize-Smith

Home

Carmichael Building 919-681-6931 [email protected]

Caloric Restriction and tissue resilience

James White Research Liver-Muscle crosstalk during CR

Caloric restriction (CR) without malnutrition has been shown to extend lifespan with associated increase in tissue resilience. In skeletal muscle, short-term (3 month) CR increases muscle stem cell (satellite cell) number and regenerative function in both young and old mice. Much of these beneficial effects have been hypothesized to be mediated by secreted proteins. However, the identity of these proteins is largely unknown due, in part, to limited detection methods of the protein secretome. To get around these limitations, we have used the Albumin-Cre/MetRS model to characterize the CR-associated liver secretome. We have identified several differentially expressed proteins including plasminogen, a multifunctional zymogen well known to regulate hemostasis and more recently shown to play a role in tissue regeneration, including skeletal muscle.

METRNL improves aged muscle regenerations

James white Research METRNL

Meteorin-like (or METRNL) is a cytokine that is secreted by inflammatory immune cells during the early stages of the regenerative process. Our lab published evidence in Nature Metabolism in 2020 of the necessity of METRNL during muscle regeneration. We are actively expanding upon these findings by investigating chronic disease states that present with insufficient levels of METRNL in response to injury. We are keenly interested in the physiological loss of METRNL secretion by aged macrophage populations in the muscle and how the response to METRNL interacts with other interstitial cell types to combat pathological muscle regeneration.

Muscle Stem (Satellite) Cell metabolism

Glutamine is one of the most active sources of carbon substrate used to generate energy in mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation next to pyruvate and palmitate. We are actively investigating the important role of glutamine metabolism is the population of interstitial muscle stem cells that contribute to muscle’s regenerative capacity. By limiting metabolic shunting away from glutamine metabolism and enhancing the energy available to the muscle stem cell during its activation, we hope to maintain the resilience of muscle in models of aging.

James White Research Satellite Stem Cell

PUBLICATIONS

Publications List

NEWS ARTICLES

Meteorin-like facilitates skeletal muscle repair through a Stat3/IGF-1 mechanism

Three PhD Students Awarded Three-Year Graduate Research Fellowships from the NSF

NSF Awards

Biochemistry PhD students Violet Beaty, Porter Ellis and Celeste Marin have been awarded prestigious three-year Graduate Research Fellowships from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and join classmate, Dalal Azzam, who matriculated to Duke Biochemistry with an NSF Graduate Fellowship in 2022.  This award financially supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported STEM disciplines.  Past recipients have contributed to research, teaching, and innovation in their areas of expertise; whilst the fellowship recognition has helped them become successful leaders in their academic and professional careers.  Provided below are brief descriptions of the projects and potential outcomes on which each of these students is working.  

Dalal Azzam Headshot

Dalal Azzam, a second-year graduate student in the laboratory of Lorena Beese: Appreciating the mechanistic underlays of protein-DNA interactions helps us understand the complex mechanisms that govern biological function.  The interdisciplinary approach combining biochemistry with structural biology provides a multi-dimensional look into the science at the core of all life.  Through this project, I am excited to expand our collective understanding of DNA-protein interactions, contribute high-resolution structures of key regulatory complexes, and elucidate how faults in these interactions promote catastrophic downstream misregulations.   

Violet Beaty Headshot

Violet Beaty, a second-year graduate student in the laboratory of Shuo Han: The human microbiota contains diverse bacterial phyla, encompassing remarkable genetic and metabolic diversity.  While the gut microbiota contributes to age-associated physiology in its host organisms, we do not yet understand which gut bacterial species within the community promote healthy aging.  Furthermore, it is unknown how these bacterial and host metabolic pathways play a role in longevity.  My work aims to understand gut bacterial signals which modulate host aging and physiology.  

Porter Ellis Headshot

Porter Ellis, a second-year graduate student in the laboratory of Maria Schumacher: In prokaryotes, i.e., bacteria, nucleoid associated proteins, or NAPs, support the compaction and organization of genomic DNA.  Emerging evidence highlights the importance of NAPs in fundamental biological processes, including gene regulation, virulence, and stress responses.  However, there is currently little information available on the mechanisms by which many NAPs interact with DNA and function in regulatory processes.  Thus, to better understand these NAP functions, my research focusses on the structural interrogation of a novel NAP and its interactions with key biological partners.  

Celeste Marin Headshot

Celeste Marin, a second-year graduate student in the laboratory of Christopher Nicchitta: Routine transcriptional and post-transcriptional processes are altered significantly under stress conditions, and how these events unfold is critical for cell survival.  However, it remains unknown how the regulatory processes coupled to mRNA export are influenced under stress.  Through my research I shall leverage optical imaging techniques to probe mRNA trafficking dynamics under stress and further our understanding of these fundamental regulatory process

phd biology duke

One herbarium’s thorny future: Duke to close century-old 'gem' of biodiversity research

A photo features a woman standing in front of a cabinet filled with stuffed folders, orange and blue in color.  The woman, director Kathleen Pryer, holds a paper with a leafy looking specimen on it, called the Gaga monstraparva

Duke University is closing its herbarium, a move that’s drawn criticism from faculty and researchers nationwide. Established more than a century ago, the Duke Herbarium is one of the largest herbaria in the country, containing more than 800,000 specimens of fungi, plants and algae.

A close-up image of the pink lady's slipper, a pink flower of similar shape to a snapdragon

Scientists across the country use Duke's herbarium to conduct, for example, climate change research.

Duke Herbarium director Kathleen Pryer has a high school student who's using herbarium data to research the pink lady’s slipper.

“It's a very distinctive, cute plant that everybody who's gone for a hike has probably seen in May,” Pryer said. “The pink lady's slipper in North Carolina flowers 17 days earlier than it did 150 years ago, and that can be attributed to climate change.”

The project is just one of the many ways scientists across the country can use the contents of Duke's herbarium. Pryer said more than 200 institutions across the world currently have Duke Herbarium samples on loan.

However, Pryer said she was told in February that Duke would be closing its more than 100-year-old herbarium. That’s largely due to funding, according to Duke officials, who said it would cost about $25 million to maintain the herbarium.

A media relations email statement attributed to Susan Alberts, Duke’s dean of natural sciences, said the closure was a “difficult decision.”

Pryer said faculty were given up to three years to relocate the contents to new homes, which she described as “an impossible task.”

“Nobody has room for the entire collection,” Pryer said. “Even if somebody did, it would take them at least 10 years to build a facility that could accommodate it, to raise the money, to write the grants. That's sort of the message the administration repeats over and over, that ‘we want it to be protected and moved somewhere.’ It's protected now. It's fine now.”

Our ability to continue responsibly hosting such a valuable collection at Duke would require the investment of significant, long-term resources to support both substantial facilities renovations and expert personnel at the expense of other urgent priorities. — Susan Alberts, dean of natural sciences

A matter of money. And priorities.

“Change is hard. That's really the bottom line,” said professor Mohamed Noor, a former dean of natural sciences at Duke.

According to Noor, these funding decisions typically come down to the department and college leadership. The current dean of natural sciences, Susan Alberts, was unavailable for an interview at the time of reporting.

The $25 million figure in projected costs comes from a few places. Noor said the two buildings that house herbarium specimens will need renovations in the coming decades. And, he said herbarium faculty will need to be endowed in the future.

Duke faculty member, Kathleen Pryer, photographed in the Herbarium in the basement of the Phytotron on October 6, 2023. She walks through a long hallway with white fluorescent lights and a greenish floor. Books cover one wall, and what looks like cabinets line the opposite wall.

“Maintaining a herbarium of this size and value would absolutely require that we hire faculty specifically to study its collections, consistently and without any lapses,” Noor said, which he added limits departmental flexibility. “The department could not maintain the facility without losing the freedom to hire other faculty based on new areas of scientific discovery.”

Funding the herbarium positions through an endowment would free up other funding, Noor said, allowing the department to hire faculty in those other desirable areas.

Apart from funding, Noor said the closure is really a matter of priorities.

“We do prioritize natural history,” Noor said. “But deciding what specific sub-areas of natural history that Duke biology will follow up on in the next 100 years can't be locked into what it has been doing in the past 100 years.”

Director Kathleen Pryer disputes that $25 million price tag, as she said herbarium faculty have never been endowed before. As for one of the herbarium's buildings, with almost half a million specimens — “Most institutions would die to have a herbarium that well set up,” Pryer said.

Relocating Duke’s ‘gem’

Relocating the herbarium’s collection may ultimately mean dividing it up, which Pryer said risks specimens being lost. That could be a problem, Pryer said, considering the grants Duke has received from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

“As infrastructure, we're concerned with how long any improvements that we're funding are going to last,” said Reed Beaman, a NSF program director. Its current funding program is called "Capacity: Biological Collections."

“Anyone writing a proposal to the Capacity program is expected to address issues of how the collection will be sustained over time and made available to the community over time,” Beaman added.

Beaman said relocating the contents of Duke's herbarium doesn't violate that sustainability criteria or disqualify Duke from receiving future awards. But Duke does still need to make sure the collection is accessible.

Given the size of Duke's collection, Beaman said relocation is going to be a challenge — one where Duke needs to ensure herbarium contents are properly protected and not lost as a resource.

Former dean Mohamed Noor emphasized that access is a key consideration with all of this.

“Duke isn’t destroying the herbarium,” Noor said. “Duke is not limiting the scientists’ access to the herbarium. We're just moving the collections to other facilities that are more prepared to preserve them for posterity.”

But director Kathleen Pryer said moving the herbarium's collection is ultimately risking Duke's legacy.

“I love Duke,” Pryer said. “What it's doing is a terrible mistake. And it needs to realize that this is a gem that has to stay here. Otherwise, its value will be destroyed.”

Pryer said she's going to continue fighting to keep the herbarium open, stating that its future shouldn’t rest in the biology department, but rather as an entity that reports directly to the provost. Such an entity could fundraise and would no longer compete with departmental interests, according to Pryer.

Meanwhile, an online petition urging Duke to reconsider the closure has garnered over 18,000 signatures.

phd biology duke

Home

Jenna Merenstein, PhD, wins Postdoctoral Award for Professional Development!

Merenstein award image

Congratulations to Jenna Merenstein, PhD, for winning a Postdoctoral Award for Professional Development from the Office of Postdoctoral Services! This award provides reimbursement for activities that support postdocs' professional growth and development. Jenna will be using her award to complete workshops and courses at the Society for Neuroscience International conference. 

To read more about Jenna and this year's other award winners, visit  Postdoctoral Awards for Professional Development | Duke Research & Innovation  

Image from:  https://scholars.duke.edu/person/jenna.merenstein&nbsp ;

Secondary Menu

4 duke cs students receive 2024 nsf graduate research fellowships, april 10, 2024.

4 Duke CS Students Receive 2024 NSF Graduate Research Fellowships

Four Duke CS students received NSF Graduate Research Fellowships :

  • Jonathan Donnelly , who worked with Cynthia Rudin and will pursue a PhD in Machine Learning at Duke.
  • Jabari Kwesi worked with Pardis Emami-Naeini and will pursue a PhD in Human Computer Interaction at Duke.
  • Megan Richards is a recent Duke ECE-CS grad who plans to pursue a PhD in ML. She worked with Mark Sendak at DIHI and Ricardo Henao of Duke ECE.
  • Ruoyu (Roy) Xie worked with Bhuwan Dhingra and will pursue a PhD in Natural Language Processing at Duke.

Congratulations to all!

Related Articles

AiiCE's Nicki Washington and Shaundra Daily are Creating Inclusivity in Computing

  • CS 50th Anniversary
  • Computing Resources
  • Event Archive
  • Location & Directions
  • AI for Social Good
  • Computational Social Choice
  • Computer Vision
  • Machine Learning
  • Natural Language Processing (NLP)
  • Reinforcement Learning
  • Search and Optimization
  • Computational Biochemistry and Drug Design
  • Computational Genomics
  • Computational Imaging
  • DNA and Molecular Computing
  • Algorithmic Game Theory
  • Social Choice
  • Computational Journalism
  • Broadening Participation in Computing
  • CS1/CS2 Learning, Pedagogy, and Curricula
  • Education Technology
  • Practical and Ethical Approaches to Software and Computing
  • Interdisciplinary Research in Data Science
  • Security & Privacy
  • Architecture
  • Computer Networks
  • Distributed Systems
  • High Performance Computing
  • Operating Systems
  • Quantum Computing
  • Approximation and Online Algorithms
  • Coding and Information Theory
  • Computational Complexity
  • Geometric Computing
  • Graph Algorithms
  • Numerical Analysis
  • Programming Languages
  • Why Duke Computer Science?
  • BS Concentration in Software Systems
  • BS Concentration in Data Science
  • BS Concentration in AI and Machine Learning
  • BA Requirements
  • Minors in Computer Science
  • 4+1 Program for Duke Undergraduates
  • IDM in Math + CS on Data Science
  • IDM in Linguistics + CS
  • IDM in Statistics + CS on Data Science
  • IDM in Visual & Media Studies (VMS) + CS
  • Graduation with Distinction
  • Independent Study
  • Identity in Computing Research
  • CS+ Summer Program
  • CS Related Student Organizations
  • Undergraduate Teaching Assistant (UTA) Information
  • Your Background
  • Schedule a Visit
  • All Prospective CS Undergrads
  • Admitted or Declared 1st Majors
  • First Course in CS
  • Duties and Commitment
  • Compensation
  • Trinity Ambassadors
  • Mentoring for CS Graduate Students
  • MSEC Requirements
  • Master's Options
  • Financial Support
  • MS Requirements
  • Concurrent Master's for Non-CS PhDs
  • Admission & Enrollment Statistics
  • PhD Course Requirements
  • Conference Travel
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Additional Graduate Student Resources
  • Graduate Awards
  • Undergraduate Courses
  • Graduate Courses
  • Spring 2024 Classes
  • Fall 2023 Classes
  • Spring 2023 Classes
  • Course Substitutions for Majors & Minors
  • Course Bulletin
  • Course Registration Logistics
  • Assisting Duke Students
  • For Current Students
  • Alumni Lectures - Spring 2024
  • News - Alumni
  • Primary Faculty
  • Secondary Faculty
  • Adjunct and Visiting Faculty
  • Emeriti - In Memoriam
  • Postdoctoral Fellows
  • Ph.D. Program
  • Masters in Computer Science
  • Masters in Economics and Computation
  • Affiliated Graduate Students

Inclusive Mentorship with High School Scholars: The Duke University Neuroscience Experience

Share this post.

Science belongs to everyone, and as a senior graduate student, one of my goals as a rising mentor is to share access to my field. I am a recent co-chair of the Duke University Neuroscience Experience (DUNE) , an annual summer program designed to serve science-oriented high school students in the Triangle area. I am additionally a current mentor to Duke undergraduate students. Learning how to identify and meet my trainees where they are relative to our shared projects is an ongoing process, but it is one in which I keep the goals of inclusive mentoring at the front of my mind. DUNE provides trainings for their team members and mentors, which heavily influenced my own approach to mentorship. These trainings and the DUNE community have been incredibly formative in my development as an academic researcher and mentor.  Programs like the DUNE mentor trainings are vital to the development of mentorship skills that will build a more accessible and inclusive STEM culture.

I have worked with DUNE since its founding in 2020 by Kirill Chesnov and Divya Subramanian, Ph.D.’22. As a fifth-year Neurobiology Ph.D. candidate, I have studied and worked in three different research institutions over the last eleven years. For that reason, I am deeply enmeshed in the implicit professional expectations of academic culture, as well as the nuances of my own research project. Communicating with new trainees, therefore, is a persistent work in progress as I try to shed the jargon and unnecessary technical details that obscure important concepts. As I serve as a research mentor to Duke undergraduate students, I aim to develop mentorship skills that embody the values of DUNE in my work with these future scientists and doctors.

The Duke University Neuroscience Experience

Early research experience is important in the educational paths of students who seek STEM careers. The primary goal of DUNE is to contribute to an inclusive STEM future by building an early on-ramp for students from historically marginalized backgrounds into science. The DUNE program provides practical exposure to the day-to-day work of academic research. For this reason, it’s critical that

DUNE students poster session

DUNE builds an inclusive learning environment by providing its scholars with an explicit introduction to the “hidden curriculum” of academia—the unspoken expectations that are intrinsic to academic cultures—and by fostering strong interpersonal rapport between mentors and scholars.

To accomplish the goals of teaching the hidden curriculum and fostering strong interpersonal relationships, DUNE applied for and won a Professional Development Grant from The Graduate School. This funding supports mentor training sessions focused on practices of inclusive mentoring—teaching scientific concepts and protocols in a way that is personalized and flexible to accommodate trainees’ diverse backgrounds and prior academic experiences. These concepts are especially critical when working with high school students, who are typically in a research lab for the first time in their lives during the DUNE program. Training sessions are attended by members of DUNE leadership, including myself, as well as the graduate students, technicians, and postdocs who directly mentor DUNE scholars.

Preparing to Teach the Hidden Curriculum of Academia

Education about the hidden curriculum of academia comes from careful forethought about how a trainee will experience a research project and the professional expectations that the mentor will set. To this end, our training in Research Project Management is taught by Dr. John Pearson , Assistant Professor of Neurobiology.  Dr. Pearson guides mentors through discussions about building an eight-week summer project and communicating with students to evaluate progress in these plans over time. Practices that may be habitual in a lab, like sharing the results of an experiment with a mentor within the same day or week, or answering emails in a timely fashion, should be explicitly discussed with new trainees. This attention to setting expectations facilitates integration into the lab culture and progression with a project. Therefore, with my own summer students, I generate a shared Google Doc with modifiable goals for each week of the summer, which helps me to keep project expectations clearly stated and in conversation. We sit down together each week to assess how our plan is progressing. Should we do another joint experiment? Do we have all the tools ready for the next week? Does the student feel comfortable doing the next experiment independently? We amend our mutual plans accordingly.

pullquote

Prioritizing Practices of Inclusive Mentoring

Tailoring science education to the needs of individual trainees depends on intentional development of the mentor-mentee relationship. This is the focus of the three-part Inclusive Mentorship orientations directed by Dr. Nicole Schramm-Sapyta , Associate Director of the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences . Her core principles include getting to know trainees, identifying shared goals for a training experience, meeting students where they are with scientific concepts, and practicing honest and open discourse. The sessions are accompanied by peer activities to practice asking open-ended questions and active listening, as well as readings that promote discussion about how racism and bias in personal, institutional, and cultural domains can impact an individual’s learning experience. This training provides a strong backbone to the start of the summer program, fostering mentor-mentee relationships that are gradually tailored to the individual DUNE scholar.

I also bring the core values of these trainings to my own mentees. I take time between protocol steps to chat about classes, hobbies, and personal histories. This rapport improves my understanding of the personal context in which research concepts are internalized. Furthermore, my lab has a long history of effective mentorship via one-on-one journal clubs, as modeled by my own mentor, Dr. Jörg Grandl . I meet individually with my mentees early in their time in the lab, to jointly review the papers that form the basis of their project. I apply the approaches of asking open-ended questions and active listening in these sessions. My mentees describe, in their own words, the central focus of the study as well as the questions asked, and evidence found in each figure. I ask them to explain specific graphs that relate to their experimental work in further detail. These conversations help me to identify where my mentees are in their comprehension of core concepts, and provide clarification when relevant.

Developing as a Mentor in the DUNE Community

An implicit feature of participating in the DUNE mentorship trainings is the opportunity to learn from and work with highly experienced, thoughtful, and compassionate mentors—both the faculty

students with DIBS sign

instructors and fellow DUNE mentors. The collective mentoring experience of the DUNE team is a rich resource for mentoring early-stage trainees, a benefit to both the scholars in the program and participating graduate students like myself. The document that I make for my summer interns is based on versions other DUNE participants shared with me, and how I ask open-ended questions of my trainees is shaped directly by how I watch DUNE mentors engage with their scholars. DUNE participants comprise a vibrant, cross-department community of scientists who support and inform each other’s approaches to mentoring and science education.

Preparations for DUNE 2024 are underway, and a new cohort of Duke trainees will participate in mentor orientation. Speaking from my personal experience as a mentor, dedicating time to deep learning and consideration about mentorship yields a more positive and effective training experience for both the mentor and the mentee. I highly recommend workshops like the DUNE mentor trainings as a critical supplement to graduate education.

Marie Cronin headshot

Marie Cronin

Ph.D. candidate, Neurobiology

Marie Cronin is a fifth-year graduate student in the Department of Neurobiology and former co-chair of the Duke University Neuroscience Experience (DUNE) program. Prior to studying at Duke, Marie completed her B.A. at the College of the Holy Cross and a postbaccalaureate fellowship at the National Institutes of Health.

IMAGES

  1. Why Study Biology at Duke?

    phd biology duke

  2. About The Department

    phd biology duke

  3. So Young Kim, PhD, Has Been Named Director of the Microbiome Core

    phd biology duke

  4. Biology Faculty

    phd biology duke

  5. Biology Careers

    phd biology duke

  6. PhD

    phd biology duke

VIDEO

  1. NTS 273 Anne West 11 09 2023

  2. PhD Admission 2024 PhD Entrance Exam Updates Shivaji University Kolhapur

  3. Why Duke-PhD application in biostatistics

  4. Provost Sally Kornbluth, PhD

  5. CGSB XI Symposium

  6. How Duke’s Immunology PhD training will help me achieve my academic and professional goals

COMMENTS

  1. Graduate Program

    Graduate Program. Duke Biology offers diverse training opportunities for students seeking a Ph.D. degree in biological sciences. Our program is highly flexible, allowing students to design the path that best fits their professional needs. Our students spend the majority of their time engaged in innovative research, and have the opportunity to ...

  2. G-BIO-PHD

    Overview. The Department of Biology offers a variety of training opportunities leading to the PhD in biology. Students in the department may specialize in a wide variety of areas including anatomy; behavior; physiology; cellular and molecular biology; community, ecosystem, physiological, and population ecology; evolution; functional morphology; developmental, ecological, molecular, organelle ...

  3. Front Page

    About Us. Duke Biology is one of the few broad Biology Departments in the country, providing students, faculty, and staff with the opportunity to learn and perform research in a highly integrative and interactive setting. Our department hosts over 50 faculty, studying areas spanning developmental biology, cell biology, molecular biology ...

  4. Program in Cell and Molecular Biology

    Mission: Cell and Molecular Biology (CMB) is an interdisciplinary Ph.D. program at Duke University that empowers diverse students to become rigorous, responsible, independent scientists, equipped with the technical, operational and professional skills needed to thrive in the modern biomedical workforce.

  5. Developmental & Stem Cell Biology Program

    Our PhD training program in Developmental and Stem Cell Biology (DSCB) is the culmination of a long tradition of excellence in training developmental biologists at Duke University. Recent technological and conceptual advances have ushered in an era of unprecedented opportunities to uncover key mechanisms of embryogenesis, stem cell biology, regeneration and other developmental phenomena.

  6. Ph.D. in Computational Biology and Bioinformatics

    Ph.D. in Computational Biology and Bioinformatics - The Graduate School. Ph.D. in Computational Biology and Bioinformatics - The Graduate School ... Monica Franklin Program Coordinator CBB Graduate Program Duke University Box 90090 Durham, NC 27708. Phone: 919-668-1049. Email: [email protected].

  7. Computational Biology and Bioinformatics Program

    Computational Biology and Bioinformatics (CBB) at Duke University is an integrative, multi-disciplinary Ph.D. program that trains future leaders at the interdisciplinary intersection of quantitative and biomedical sciences. CBB brings together 55 faculty from 18 departments—including computer science, statistics, mathematics, physics ...

  8. Program Requirements

    DSCB is a PhD admitting umbrella program held together by common interests in developmental and stem cell biology. Once students choose a mentor, they affiliate with the department/program of their mentor, which becomes their degree-granting home. The class requirements are designed to overlap with those of most Duke departments.

  9. About the CBB Program

    The Duke CBB program is one of the first Ph.D. programs dedicated to computational biology in the country. Ph.D. students in the CBB program receive a broad foundation in quantitative theory and methods, focused training in a specific biological domain, and immersion in a diverse range of research approaches.

  10. Ph.D. in Biology

    Ph.D. in Biology - The Graduate School. Ph.D. in Biology - The Graduate School. Skip to content. Menu Close. Action menu. Make A Gift; Utility menu. Applicants; Students; Alumni; ... Director of Graduate Studies Department of Biology Duke University Box 90338 Durham, NC 27708-0338 . Phone: (919) 684-3649. Email: [email protected].

  11. Molecular Cancer Biology PhD Program

    The Duke University program in Molecular Cancer Biology is designed to generate independent scholars who are interested in augmenting current knowledge on the basic mechanisms underlying cell growth, differentiation, and development, and discerning how these processes are perturbed in cancer cells with the goal of identifying novel candidates for therapeutic intervention in the treatment of ...

  12. Why DSCB and Duke?

    The Duke Development and Stem Cell Biology (DSCB) Program is a broad, interdepartmental consortium of students and faculty doing developmental stem cell, and regenerative biology research at the molecular, cellular, genetic, evolutionary, and systems levels. ... DSCB is one of many PhD programs offered under the purview of the Office of ...

  13. Pharmacology PhD Program

    The Pharmacology program at Duke is consistently ranked among the top pharmacology graduate programs in the nation. Its focus is to prepare qualified individuals for a career in independent research. Pharmacology is the science of drug action on biological systems. It encompasses the study of targets of drug action, the mechanisms by which drugs act, the therapeutic and toxic effects of drugs ...

  14. James White, PhD

    Meteorin-like (or METRNL) is a cytokine that is secreted by inflammatory immune cells during the early stages of the regenerative process. Our lab published evidence in Nature Metabolism in 2020 of the necessity of METRNL during muscle regeneration. We are actively expanding upon these findings by investigating chronic disease states that present with insufficient levels of METRNL in response ...

  15. 2023-24 PFF Fellows

    Fellow Status Dept Host Mentor Chainey Boroski PhD Environment Elon Dr. Kelsey Bitting Cora Bright PhD Genetics and Genomics Guilford Dr. Alek Babic Emily Cannistraci PhD 2023-24 PFF Fellows | The Graduate School

  16. Three PhD Students Awarded Three-Year Graduate Research Fellowships

    Biochemistry PhD students Violet Beaty, Porter Ellis and Celeste Marin have been awarded prestigious three-year Graduate Research Fellowships from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and join classmate, Dalal Azzam, who matriculated to Duke Biochemistry with an NSF Graduate Fellowship in 2022. This award financially supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported STEM disciplines.

  17. One herbarium's thorny future: Duke to close century-old 'gem' of

    Duke's collection of more than 800,000 specimens of fungi, plants and algae makes the herbarium one of the largest in the country. The move to close it has drawn criticism from faculty and ...

  18. Jenna Merenstein, PhD, wins Postdoctoral Award for Professional

    Congratulations to Jenna Merenstein, PhD, for winning a Postdoctoral Award for Professional Development from the Office of Postdoctoral Services! This award provides reimbursement for activities that support postdocs' professional growth and development. Jenna will be using her award to complete workshops and courses at the Society for Neuroscience International conference.

  19. 4 Duke CS Students Receive 2024 NSF Graduate Research Fellowships

    Four Duke CS students received NSF Graduate Research Fellowships:. Jonathan Donnelly, who worked with Cynthia Rudin and will pursue a PhD in Machine Learning at Duke.; Jabari Kwesi worked with Pardis Emami-Naeini and will pursue a PhD in Human Computer Interaction at Duke.; Megan Richards is a recent Duke ECE-CS grad who plans to pursue a PhD in ML. She worked with Mark Sendak at DIHI and ...

  20. Inclusive Mentorship with High School Scholars: The Duke University

    Science belongs to everyone, and as a senior graduate student, one of my goals as a rising mentor is to share access to my field. I am a recent co-chair of the Duke University Neuroscience Experience (DUNE), an annual summer program designed to serve science-oriented high school students in the Triangle area.I am additionally a current mentor to Duke undergraduate students.