Biomedical PhD Programs

Applications to all biomedical PhD programs (except the Medical Scientist Training Program) are submitted through the Graduate School at Duke. On the Program Information tab in the application, choose Intended Degree “Ph.D. (Biomedical Sciences Programs – School of Medicine)” and then select Department/Degree of interest.

Please direct inquiries regarding application fee waivers to Alan Kendrick, PhD, Assistant Dean Graduate Student Development, in The Graduate School.

The following list of programs are administered in the School of Medicine by the Office of Biomedical Graduate Education (OBGE).

Director of Graduate StudiesMeta Kuehn, PhD
PhD Program Administrator: Peggy Wilkison

Program Description
The Biochemistry PhD is research-intensive program with academics tailored to your interests. During your first year, you will rotate through and gain hands-on experiences in 3-4 different labs, then match with a faculty mentor, and immediately begin working on your PhD research project. Some research areas include, Structural and Biophysical Biology, Membrane Biology and Signalling, DNA and RNA Biochemistry, Glycobiology.  You'll take advanced courses in foundational topics such as  enzymology and structural biology, learn  biophysical principles behind analytical techniques, and select from a variety of courses that go in-depth into nucleic acid biochemistry, membrane biology, or hands-on courses in crystallography and NMR.

Throughout your training in Biochemistry, you’ll engage in academic events that bolster and broaden your scientific outlook and social events that bring you into the fold of Duke’s scientific community. Events include: Departmental Seminar Series that bring in world-renowned scientists, including student-invited speakers; monthly Research Forums that highlight current lab accomplishments; monthly Friday happy hour; our Annual Department Retreat with poster sessions, research presentations, awards, and lots of beach time. We will also encourage you to access Duke resources that will start you on your career trajectory, such as leadership instruction, professional development, and future faculty training workshops.  Our Biochemistry graduates leave career-ready for positions in academia, industry, or government.    

Learn more at the Biochemistry PhD Program Website.

Director of Graduate StudiesSean O'Brien, PhD
PhD Program AdministratorTasha Allison

Program Description
The Department of Biostatistics and Bioinformatics offers a Ph.D. degree in Biostatistics to train students to become independent researchers who will advance the field of biostatistics by developing innovative quantitative methods. The program emphasizes methodologies that incorporate the features of health-related problems, effective collaboration and communication with scientists, as well as the ability to teach biostatistics. In order to be successful in this program, students should have studied real analysis (e.g., MATH 531/MATH 631) and linear algebra (e.g., MATH 221) at an advanced level. Before selecting a PhD dissertation advisor in the third year of this program, students are required to have three research rotations with department faculty and pass the PhD theory and applied qualifying exams. Potential students with interest in this program are welcome to discuss program details with the director of graduate studies (DGS) or program staff. For additional information, please feel free to review the program overview or curriculum details.

Learn more at the Biostatistics PhD Program Website.

Director of Graduate StudiesMike Boyce, PhD
PhD Program Administrator: Jodi Belanger  

Program Description
The Cell & Molecular Biology (CMB) Program provides flexible, multidisciplinary training in a research-intensive and highly collegial environment. The Program allows broad exposure to a diversity of research areas before a specific focus is chosen. Prospective students apply for admission to CMB through The Graduate School. In the first year, CMB students take a unique, modular course that provides in-depth exploration of six self-chosen topics in intensive, 2-week segments with faculty experts. First-year students also are required to select and successfully complete three lab rotations before choosing a faculty research mentor. The student then affiliates with a degree-granting department/program for completion of the Ph.D. There are currently 150 training faculty from across the University who are affiliated with the CMB Program and 100 pre-doctoral students. In the first two years of training, students are supported by the CMB Training Grant (NIH T32 GM007184) or by The Graduate School. Financial support for the remainder of graduate training is provided by the research mentor/department, although students are encouraged to secure their own funding through submission of grant proposals.
Learn more at the Program in Cell & Molecular Biology Website.

Director of Graduate StudiesStefano Di Talia
PhD Program AdministratorJodi Belanger

Program Description
The Department of Cell Biology offers a program of study leading to the Ph.D. degree in Cell Biology. The goal of this program is to train students in cell and developmental biology to become independent, innovative, and critical scientists fully prepared for productive careers in academic and other settings. The Department offers strengths in neuronal, molecular, developmental, and stem cell biology. 

We do not accept applications. Students enter Cell Biology through interdepartmental training programs such as Cell & Molecular Biology, University Program in Genetics & Genomics, Molecular Cancer Biology, Department of Molecular Genetics & Microbiology, and Developmental & Stem Cell Biology.

Learn more at the Cell Biology PhD Program Website.

Director of Graduate StudiesGregory Samanez-Larkin, PhD
PhD Program Administrator: Tiffany Scotton

Program Description
The Cognitive Neuroscience Admitting Program is designed for students interested in an approach to cognitive neuroscience that integrates ideas and techniques across different aspects of this rapidly growing field. Students apply directly to this admitting program however the Ph.D. is granted from one of the participating departments. The key feature of the training program is that after two years of course work and laboratory rotations that provide a general training in cognitive neuroscience, students select a department and two advisors for their thesis research who have expertise in the different subdisciplines that best define their interests. 

Students enrolled in the cognitive neuroscience program (both the admitting and the certificate program) will gain a thorough understanding of the intellectual issues that drive this rapidly growing field, as well as expertise in the major methods for cognitive brain research. The overarching aim of the program is to train students in innovative approaches to research on higher human brain functions, including, but not limited to, perception, attention, memory, language, emotion, motor control, executive functions, consciousness and the evolution of mental processes. A variety of disciplines and techniques are poised to make significant progress in understanding these aspects of brain function; training a new generation of thinkers capable of applying the breadth of the relevant conceptual and technical approaches will illuminate higher human brain functions in both normal individuals and those afflicted by neurological or mental diseases. By its nature, the training program cuts across departmental boundaries, with faculty from neurobiology, psychology & neuroscience, radiology, psychiatry, biomedical engineering, evolutionary anthropology, neurology, biology, and philosophy. Thus, the program explicitly involves collaboration between multiple departments of the Schools of Arts & Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

Learn more at the Cognitive Neuroscience Admitting Program Website.

Director of Graduate Studies: Raluca Gordan
PhD Program Administrator: Monica Franklin

Program Description
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.

CBB students work with an Advisory Committee of distinguished faculty with diverse expertise and their own research advisors to design a customized curriculum of coursework adapted to their particular backgrounds and research interests. During the first year, a sequence of three core courses ensures students obtain core competence in the field before choosing a research advisor. In addition, students complete three research rotations to gain experience in both biological and computational labs. Formal coursework is supplemented by training in responsible conduct of research and reproducible data analysis, teaching experiences, and a broad range of professional development opportunities.

Learn more at the Computational Biology & Bioinformatics PhD Program Website.

Director of Graduate Studies: Terry Lechler
PhD Program Administrator: Jodi Belanger 

Program Description
Duke’s graduate training program in Developmental & Stem Cell Biology (DSCB) is the culmination of a long tradition of excellence in training developmental biologists at the University. Recent technological and conceptual advances have ushered in an era of unprecedented opportunities to penetrate key mechanisms of embryogenesis, stem cell biology, regeneration and other developmental phenomena. The 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. Each of the commonly used animal models is investigated, as well as plant developmental models. Researchers from the departments of Biochemistry, Immunology, Neurobiology, Pharmacology and Cancer Biology, Pediatrics, Surgery, Biology, Cell Biology and Molecular Genetics and Microbiology participate.

Learn more at the Developmental & Stem Cell Biology (DSCB) Program Website.

Director of Graduate StudiesMari Shinohara, PhD
PhD Program Administrator: Houda Wiliamson

Program Description
In the Duke University Graduate Program in Immunology, the faculty provides PhD students with opportunities for study in a range of areas of contemporary immunological research, for example: mechanisms of lymphocyte development and function, including lymphoid lineage commitment, V(D)J recombination, lymphocyte signaling, effector cell development, homeostasis and tolerance; mechanisms of innate immunity and inflammation, including macrophage, dendritic cell, neutrophil, mast cell and complement function; pattern-recognition receptor signaling, mechanisms of host defense against microbial pathogens; the development of autoimmune and immunodeficiency diseases, anti-tumor immunity; and neuroimmunology. The training faculty consists of immunologists who have primary or secondary appointments in the Department of Immunology. Because many program faculty hold primary appointments in other departments, including Medicine, Pediatrics, Surgery, Pharmacology, Pathology, Ophthalmology, and Biostatistics and Bioinformatics, the program provides students with an interactive and collaborative environment that spans basic and clinical sciences at Duke.

Learn more at the Immunology PhD Program Website.

Director of Graduate StudiesJoel Meyer, PhD
PhD Program AdministratorAlexis Sharp

Program Description
The Duke University Integrated Toxicology & Environmental Health Program (ITEHP) is the only training program at Duke that fully prepares students for research careers in Environmental Health and Toxicology. Interdepartmental and multidisciplinary, a PhD degree is awarded by one of several participating Duke departments with the ITEHP certification granted by the Program upon graduation. Upon completion of doctoral studies, these students are experienced in the design, execution and interpretation of current research in environmental health and toxicology. Completion of this training at the doctoral level provides career opportunities in academia, industry, and government, including positions involved in research, risk assessment and policy.

Research directed by ITEHP faculty centers on environmental and occupational exposures, and effects on reproduction and development, neurodevelopment and function, pulmonary health, and carcinogenesis. These research programs include studies focused on both human and ecological health, and interconnections between the two. The elucidation of mechanisms underlying toxicities and adverse health outcomes is central to many studies in ITEHP laboratories. Exposures of particular concern currently include nanomaterials, pesticides, metals and metalloids, aromatic hydrocarbons, flame retardants, pharmaceuticals, tobacco smoke, and endocrine disruptors. How such exposures intersect with other factors such as diet, lifestyle and socioeconomic variables to affect health are also of interest.

Learn more at the Integrated Toxicology and Environmental Health Program (ITEHP) Website.

Director of Graduate StudiesDean Darnell, PhD
PhD Program AdministratorOlga Baranova, PhD

Program Description
The Medical Physics Graduate Program is an interdisciplinary program sponsored by five departments: radiology, radiation oncology, physics, biomedical engineering, and occupational and environmental safety (health physics). Four academic tracks are offered: diagnostic imaging physics, radiation oncology physics, nuclear medicine physics, and health physics. There are currently 51 faculty members associated with the program, and many of these are internationally recognized experts in their fields of study. 

The program has 5,000 square feet of dedicated educational space in the Hock Plaza Building and access to  state-of-the-art imaging and radiation therapy equipment in the clinical departments. The program is accredited by the Council on Accreditation of Medical Physics Educational Programs (CAMPEP).

Learn more at the Medical Physics PhD Program Website.

Director of Graduate Studies: Christopher Kontos
Program Administrator: Andrea Liu

*applicants interested in MSTP should adhere to application procedures/deadlines outlined here.

Program Description: The Duke Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP), conducted under the auspices of the Duke University Graduate School and the Duke University School of Medicine, trains highly qualified students as physician-scientists, equipping them for solving problems in human disease using the approaches and techniques of the basic biomedical and social sciences. The program, which leads to both the MD and PhD degrees and typically takes seven to eight years for completion, combines graduate education in a basic biomedical science with the full clinical curriculum of the School of Medicine. One of forty-six such programs funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Duke MSTP was the fourth such program established by the NIH in 1966 and is widely regarded as one of the best. Learn more about the strengths of the Duke program.

Learn more at the MSTP Website.

Director of Graduate StudiesAnn Marie Pendergast, PhD
PhD Program AdministratorJamie Baize-Smith

Program Description
Molecular cancer biologists at Duke University seek to understand the complex regulatory mechanisms that govern mammalian cell growth and differentiation, discern how these mechanisms are perturbed in malignant cells, and how our knowledge of these regulatory mechanisms might lead to improved anti-cancer therapy. This research covers the boundaries of disciplines such as pMCB Student Andrea Walensharmacology, biochemistry, molecular biology, genetics, genomics, and cell biology, which together are leading to greater understanding of the basic mechanisms underlying growth regulation and their alterations during tumor progression and metastasis.

The Program in Molecular Cancer Biology (MCB) includes faculty from multiple participating departments and centers across Duke University and Duke School of Medicine. Program scientists are actively engaged in dissecting the regulatory networks that control the processes of growth and development at the cellular and molecular levels, and identifying the defects that lead to oncogenic transformation. The approaches used by the investigators include genomics, genetics, cell biology, molecular biology and protein biochemistry. An ultimate goal is to identify novel candidates for therapeutic intervention in the treatment of cancer. Graduate training in this program is greatly enhanced by the collaborative interactions among investigators across the University and the School of Medicine.

Learn more at the Molecular Cancer Biology PhD Program Website.

Director of Graduate StudiesDavid Tobin, PhD
PhD Program AdministratorKera Allen

Program Description
In the Department of Molecular Genetics & Microbiology, graduate training leading to the Ph.D. is available in laboratories of faculty of the department. Also, in addition to formal course work, students participate in a variety of activities that enhance their training and facilitate interaction with other students, post-doctoral fellows, and faculty. These include participation in the monthly Departmental Research in Progress meeting; participation in activities organized by the Centers of Microbial Pathogenesis, RNA Biology, Virology, Experimental Genetics, and Genomics of Microbial Systems; and attendance at an annual departmental retreat. The program is committed to training young researchers to solve fundamental problems in microbiology and genetics.

Learn more at the Molecular Genetics & Microbiology PhD Program Website.

Director of Graduate StudiesJorg Grandl, PhD
PhD Program Administrator: LaDonna Huseman

Program Description
Duke’s Neurobiology Graduate Training Program is an interdepartmental program for students with training in a variety of fields to pursue a Ph.D. in Neurobiology. Our program is designed to prepare students to succeed in research-oriented institutions. We strive to train Ph.D. students for careers that will further knowledge about how the brain works, and/or develop treatments and cures for neurological, neuropsychiatric, and developmental disorders.

Learn more at the Neurobiology PhD Program Website.

Director of Graduate StudiesSoman Abraham, PhD
PhD Program Administrator: (vacant)

Program Description
The mission of the Department of Pathology Graduate Program is to develop our students into independent scientists prepared to pursue a diversity of careers. The end goal is for our graduates to be capable of elucidating the mechanisms and origins of human disease at the molecular and/or organismal level. Additionally, the Graduate Program will provide students the opportunity to translate mechanistic insights gained at the bench to clinically relevant applications. Robust collaborations with faculty from Pathology and other disciplines as well as other graduate students and alumni allow us to keep the Pathology Graduate Program at the forefront of the continuously evolving biomedical sciences.

Pathology is the only clinical department at Duke with a PhD program and we have offered research faculty from other clinical departments to join our graduate faculty, thus our graduate faculty originate not only from Pathology but also from the Departments of Surgery, Medicine, Neurosurgery, Pediatrics, Ophthalmology, Radiation Oncology, etc. As a result, our students are exposed to research targeting a broad range of human diseases at the molecular, cellular, tissue, or organismic levels. Research topics covered include cancer biology, vascular biology, genomics, host-pathogen interactions, inflammation, immunology, signal transduction, immunotherapy, and vaccine design. Our program leads to the Doctor of Philosophy degree in Pathology and offers outstanding and comprehensive graduate level training in a wide range of topics related to human disease, which could be basic, clinical or translational in scope.

Learn more at the Pathology PhD Program Website.

Director of Graduate StudiesDavid MacAlpine, PhD
PhD Program AdministratorJamie Baize-Smith

Program Description
The Department of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology at Duke University is consistently ranked as having one of 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 for 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.

The Department currently has 21 primary faculty and 32 secondary faculty with primary appointments in departments such as molecular genetic and microbiology, cell biology, cardiology, medicine, and neurobiology. The collaborative and collegial atmosphere between faculty and students provides a wide diversity of research opportunities. Upon arrival and in consultation with Director of Graduate Studies, students determine laboratory rotations. Rotational research provides students with experience in a range of experimental systems. Students can then narrow down their interests; and by the end of their first year to year and a half, select a lab to do their thesis research. In the summer of their second year, students take a preliminary examination. Upon completion of the exam, a thesis committee is formed and student work full time on their thesis research. With approval of the committee, students will write a dissertation and take a final oral exam upon this dissertation.

Learn more at the Pharmacology PhD Program Website.

Director of Graduate Studies: Asheley Skinner, PhD
Associate Director Of Education: Mary Medlin
PhD Program Administrator: Sarah Miller

The Department of Population Health Sciences (DPHS) has designed a PhD program to prepare researchers who can formulate the next important research questions, design studies to answer them, organize resources to carry out relevant studies, and analyze the results to contribute scientific and policy insights. Successful applicants will find a close fit with potential faculty mentors in the department and their own research interests. The department can assist potential applicants to learn more about faculty research and to find appropriate matches.

The mission of the Population Health Sciences PhD program is to develop critically-thinking, creative, and collaborative scientists and leaders through our coursework, experimental learning, and professional development so that they will enhance population health in diverse setting. DPHS strives for the program to be a nationally recognized leader in enhancing population health by eliminating inequities and ensuring high quality, accessible, and person-centered care and programs for the benefit of local and global communities.

The doctoral program will equip students with the knowledge and tools they will need to drive science through their research and to work alongside health systems, government agencies, non-profits, industry, and others pursuing improved health of populations. The first two years of study involve coursework in required population health sciences core competencies and in a chosen concentration in health measurement or health services research and implementation science. The department, the School of Medicine, Duke University, Duke Health, and one of North Carolina’s largest counties offer PhD candidates a unique and rich setting in which to acquire that foundation and then use it complete their dissertation research:

Proximity to Duke Health, which provides most of the health care in Durham County, and the Durham Veterans Administration Medical Center and ADAPT Center offers availability of electronic health records for primary data collection, opportunities to test potential interventions, and access to clinical partners for dissertation committees.

Director of Graduate Studies: Don Fox
PhD Program Administrator: Amanda Shipp

Program Description
The Duke University Program in Genetics & Genomics (UPGG) is an umbrella graduate training program that spans basic science and clinical departments, and bridges the Duke School of Medicine and the College of Arts and Sciences. Founded in 1967 and supported by a continuous NIH training grant (Genetics Training Grant 5T32GM007754) for more than 30 years and running, the UPGG consists of nearly 100 faculty and adjunct faculty and more than 70 students. The UPGG provides training and education in genetics and genomics at the intersection of the basic science that use illustrative model systems and translational science that uses population genetics disease outcome research to improve the human condition.

Learn more at the University Program in Genetics & Genomics (UPGG) PhD Program Website.