Early Start

Early Start

Graduate Scholars who apply and are accepted to BioCoRE can elect to participate in the Early Start Bridge program. As an early start participant, scholars are granted a monetary bonus in their first paycheck from the Duke University School of Medicine. 

Historically, Early Start kicks off with the Annual North Carolina Biosciences Collaborative Symposium (early August), where the new BioCoRE Scholars are introduced to the scientific community. Scholars then engage in laboratory research, community-building activities, and career development activities to facilitate a smooth transition to Graduate School. BioCoRE works closely with all involved graduate programs to make sure we complement orientation and other activities of the graduate programs.

Finding a research lab for Early Start

Many departments/programs utilize rotations in the first year – in this case, you will communicate with your Director of Graduate Studies as you find a lab of interest. As a BioCoRE Graduate Scholar, you will either do an extended first rotation (early August through part of the fall semester) or a separate rotation only for August. If you apply to enter a specific lab, you will need permission from the lab mentor to begin in early August.

What do students do in Early Start? 

To get an idea of the programming Early Start entails, see below. Exciting changes are abound in 2024! Once the schedule is finalized, you will find the draft here.

Early Start is comprised of many workshops, events, and activities led by our director and Duke faculty and staff. The goal of Early Start is simple; help incoming BioCoRE scholars prepare for life as a graduate student at Duke University. 


Early Start 2024 will last one week (plus the symposium day in the week prior). Students will receive rotation and class advising, attend workshops, take tours, meet faculty and senior scholars, and become immersed in the culture of Duke and Durham in the week before The Graduate School and OBGE's orientation events.

Prelude week begins on a Wednesday or Thursday. Though not a full week, students are welcomed by their peer mentors and participate in several social and enrichment activities.


Prelude week activities include:

  • Assistance with documents and other essentials vital to getting started at Duke
  • Welcome reception with BioCoRE Peer Mentors
  • The Early Start Poster Symposium and BioCoRE alumni keynote
  • Social outing in the RTP area
  • Overlapping programming/activities with the Duke Sloan Scholars

See BioCoRE Cohort 10 on the first day of Early Start 2022!

group of scholars on the first day of Early Start 2022

After a series of activities in prelude week, BioCoRE Scholars begin to work on building stronger relationships with each other and other members of their new community at Duke. Through a series of workshops and service activities, the cohort learns the values of self-introspection, mindfulness, honoring values, and respecting differences they may have from each other. They also get to learn more about the city of Durham through community service. 

Topics covered include:

  • Wellbeing (with Duke CAPS)
  • Identity & Intersectionality
  • Concept activity

See cohort 10 work through identity activities in Duke Gardens!

Cohort 10 in Duke Gardens


In week 2, the scholars hear from Duke faculty and senior BioCoRE students about things they should expect in the first year and beyond. They learn more about how to align expectations with their new faculty mentors along with other topics.


Topics covered include:

  • Aligning expectations
  • Expectations for the first year
  • Rotation Etiquette

See Drs. Valdivia, Wingler, and Tobin share their thoughts on what makes a good rotation student!

Drs. Valdivia, Wingler, and Tobin share their thoughts on what makes a good rotation student


Early Start scholars learn about resources at Duke and beyond that will help them tailor their training experience to their future goals. Scholars hear from senior scholars, staff in the Duke Career Center, and student affinity groups. They also learn about internal and external scientific fellowships they can apply for as graduate students and where to get help with their applications. 


Topics covered include:

  • Academic $cience
  • Career resources discussion (with Duke Career Center staff)
  • Senior Student Led Journal Clubs
  • Panel discussions

See BioCoRE 10 learn more about student affinity groups at Duke at the first 'Getting Involved' expo!

students crowd around table to speak to afifnity group representatives

To round out Early Start, scholars will learn from senior scholars about their experiences at Duke thus far via interactive panels. Scholars will also have the chance to have 1-on-1 advising with the program director and work on their cohort meeting schedule. On the final day of Early Start, scholars will be asked to serve the Durham community for a day of outreach in the community. 

Topics covered include:

  • Scholar panels
  • Academic and rotation advising
  • Cohort meeting scheduling
  • Fun outing in Durham
  • Outreach

See BioCoRE Cohort 11 and Sloan Cohort 6 Team up to help Habitat for Humanity Orange County!

BioCoRE 11 and Sloan 6 join forces to help with a habitat for humanity build in Chapel Hill.