OBGE COVID-19 Updates

OBGE COVID-19 Return to Work Updates


Published in Working@Duke, Campus, a revision to the outdoor mask mandate based on a significant decrease in the number of COVID cases. 

  • Masks no longer required outdoors except in large gatherings
  • Courses should largely return to in-person instruction
  • Indoor dining remains restricted
  • Other public health measures remain in place


8/30/2021: Duke Administration Email - New Guidance on COVID-19 for the Duke Community

A message from Duke Leadership regarding updated COVID-19 policies and guidance, including the following guidelines in effect starting Monday, August 30, 2021:

  • Masks will now be required on the Duke campus in all indoor and outdoor locations, unless you are exercising alone, eating or drinking, or otherwise not around others. After vaccinations, masks are the best way to prevent the spread of COVID. We have seen this on campus and in our health system.
  • Indoor group seating at Duke Dining facilities will be temporarily suspended. All Duke Dining facilities will transition to grab and go, and more than 25 tents have been erected across the campus to provide outdoor seating for meals and other gatherings.
  • Given the absences in some undergraduate classes due to increased number of students in isolation, faculty teaching undergraduate courses have the option to teach remotely for the next two weeks if they would prefer. This is not a requirement but an accommodation to allow for increased flexibility as needed; those who are able to continue teaching in person should certainly do so.
  • New limitations will be placed on student activities to reduce the possibility of COVID transmissions. Individuals and groups that violate these limitations will face disciplinary consequences. Further information will be provided directly to students.
  • The COVID-19 vaccination will now be required for ALL Duke faculty and staff as a condition of employment. Details will be provided directly to those employees who have not yet submitted proof of vaccination or an approved medical or religious exemption, as well as their deans or vice presidents. As of today, 92% of our 22,136 faculty and staff are fully vaccinated.


8/22/2021: Duke Graduate School Announcement - Fall Semester COVID-19 Policy Plan updates

This message was sent to all Duke graduate and professional students by Helen McAdams with a link to the Graduate and Professional Student COVID-19 Policy Plan as revised for the 2021-2022 academic year and other information about fall campus COVID safety.

Additional links for the following were also provided:

  • video overview of current campus COVID safety planning and information in response to some common questions and concerns about the fall semester, provided by Provost Sally Kornbluth and Duke University School of Medicine Dean Mary Klotman
  • A link to an updated set of frequently asked questions related to fall classes and COVID safety, posted by Duke University
  • An archive of updates from central administration and a list of campus resources, posted on the Duke Coronavirus Response website
  • A link to information curated specifically for Graduate School students on the school’s own COVID updates page


12/28/20: New FAQ for Grad & Professional Students


new set of FAQ for Graduate and Professional students about testing protocols during the Spring 2021 semester has been added to the Duke United website.

Questions cover topics such as:

  • Reporting the results of COVID-19 tests administered outside of Duke
  • Logistics for gateway/entry testing
  • Testing requirements for students not planning to come to campus at all during the semester
  • Where to find contacts for various programs
  • Expectations for surveillance testing during the spring semester


12/21/20: Pre-arrival testing and entry information for graduate/professional students


Dear graduate and professional students,

We hope you are, or will soon be having a safe and restorative Winter Break. It is hard to believe that it is already time to prepare for the spring semester, but we are hard at work preparing to support your Duke experience this spring.

Whether you will remain in the Durham area over the break, or are returning to Durham from elsewhere, there are a few things you will need to do before you arrive in Durham and/or return to campus. 

If you are planning to return to campus or the Durham area this spring, please read in full the important information below on pre-arrival testing, quarantining before returning to campus, entry testing, and other health guidance.

Duke is closely monitoring public health conditions as well as state and local regulations so all of these plans are subject to change on short notice. As you prepare for the spring semester, it is important to plan ahead as much as possible to be prepared should the situation shift.

Spring semester will certainly look different than previous years. But, as President Price shared in his message, we were able to have a successful and safe fall semester thanks to the extraordinary dedication of our students, staff and faculty. Please join us in renewing our shared commitment to protecting the health and wellbeing of the entire Duke community. We look forward to seeing you on campus soon.

Thank you for your attention to this information, and best wishes for a healthy and restorative holiday and winter break.


Jennifer Francis
Executive Vice Provost

Kyle Cavanaugh
Vice President, Administration



If you have travelled somewhere outside of the Durham area, following public health guidance, we are asking that all students traveling to the Durham area observe 10 days of quarantine prior to their travels. During quarantine, you should limit your contact to immediate household members, take care to observe social distancing, wear face coverings if you must be outside the home, and wash your hands frequently. Quarantining is a proven strategy to minimize the likelihood of a widespread outbreak when students return to campus for the spring semester.

Pre-Arrival Testing
Students who are returning to Durham from other locations are STRONGLY encouraged to take a COVID test within five days of your arrival to Durham; check local and state public health resources to find out what might be available in your area. This means if you will arrive in Durham on January 9, you should get tested between January 4-8 and wait to come to campus until you receive your result. Though voluntary, this precaution is one more way to help protect the Duke and Durham communities. Please note that pre-arrival testing for those traveling back to Durham is encouraged in addition to entry testing (also referred to as gateway testing) once you arrive in Durham.

Please report any positive results to Student Health through Duke MyChart and observe isolation protocols BEFORE you return to Durham. If you are in quarantine due to exposure to others with COVID-19, please inform Student Health. YOU SHOULD NOT RETURN TO CAMPUS OR DURHAM UNTIL YOUR QUARANTINE OR ISOLATION PERIOD HAS ENDED AND YOU ARE SYMPTOM-FREE. If you are in isolation and cannot return to campus at the designated time, please email your school or program contact and contact Student Health and your academic dean.
Proof of Previous Diagnosis
If you have tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 3 months (October, November, or December 2020), you must still sign up for an entry testing slot, although you do not need to be tested.  You should bring a hard copy of your test report with you to Penn Pavilion or submit your report through Duke MyChart. You may receive additional instructions from Student Health about your arrival procedure and screening testing if you have previously tested positive for COVID-19. 


Entry Testing
Graduate and professional students who plan to be on campus for any reason and any length of time this spring, even just to pick up library books, are required to participate in entry testing upon their arrival in Durham. Please note that your DukeCard will not be activated until you complete entry testing, unless you have been cleared to continue coming to campus and are currently participating in winter break surveillance testing.

Entry testing for graduate and professional students will take place in Penn Pavilion. You must register for a testing slot in advance. Please be sure to register for your testing slot by WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 30. Students have been assigned to a testing window based on program start date as well as the need to access labs and other campus facilities. We recognize that your assigned window may not be optimal, but we are balancing many student and program needs and we do not have an ability to make changes and exceptions. 

If you are unable to test during your assigned window, it is likely that we will not be not be able to accommodate you until later in January.  You will be required to take classes remotely and not come to campus until baseline testing is complete.

We encourage you to plan your travel around your confirmed testing time; please do NOT just show up to Penn Pavilion without having a confirmed testing slot. Further details on entry testing, including parking details and on-site procedures, will be shared later. In the meantime, questions about testing may be sent to your program contact.

Post-Arrival Sequester Period
After entry testing, all students are required to sequester in their home until they receive a negative COVID-19 test result. Test results will be made available through Duke MyChart, likely 36 – 48 hours after testing. While awaiting your test results, students are expected to limit any unnecessary movement and activity outside of their home, and should avoid other students and staff during this time.

 Any students who test positive will receive isolation instructions under the care of Duke clinicians and will participate in contact tracing, which is used to identify any other potential positive cases. 


While we hope this would not happen, public health conditions may require the university to implement a shelter-in-place status, shift to remote-only instruction, or ask you to isolate or quarantine based on your individual circumstance. We don’t say this to alarm anyone—in fact, just the opposite. Simple steps such as maintaining a stock of non-perishable food and water in your room or apartment, ensuring you have needed course materials with you whether in Durham or elsewhere, and having any important items you may need on hand (such as medications, etc.) enable you to adapt to changing conditions. We urge all students to plan for these types of scenarios.

In addition, we will still have policies this spring that limit gatherings, especially indoors and especially while eating.

Other aspects of fall pandemic life on campus will resume in the spring semester. As was the case in the fall, surveillance testing is required for any graduate or professional student coming to campus for any reason or length of time. Symptom monitoring will continue, with all students filling out their daily symptom monitoring report in order to be cleared to access campus that day. Everyone on campus will be required to wear facemasks and maintain distancing.  And all students will still be united by their commitment to the Duke Compact, and each other.

While Duke Health has begun to vaccinate health care personnel per CDC recommendations, we do not anticipate that the vaccine will be available to most students or university staff this spring. Students with underlying medical conditions that put them at risk for severe COVID-19 illness should contact Student Health to discuss potential eligibility for early vaccination.


11/19/20:  Winter Break Surveillance Testing; DukeCard Access; Travel & Gatherings


This message to graduate and professional students from Executive Vice Provost, Jennifer Francis, provides information regarding COVID surveillance testing during the period November 30 through the end of December, as well as some guidelines for travel and gatherings.


11/6/20: Exit testing from campus/Durham, departure registration, and other end-of-semester updates


This message is was sent to all Duke graduate and professional students re: Exit testing from campus/Durham, departure registration, and other end-of-semester updates


10/30/20: Election Support and Resources for Graduate Students and Faculty


As we near the end of a stressful semester and an election season unlike any other, I want to thank you for your support of our graduate students through this time and share some resources to support their wellbeing and yours.  

With the heightened emotions and tremendous uncertainty surrounding the elections, our students may feel additional stress and anxiety in the coming weeks. The Graduate School has compiled a list of resources and events that they can turn to for support before and after the elections. Some of the resources include:  

  • Virtual drop-in hours with the Office of Graduate Student Affairs on November 3-4
  • A Post-Election Healing Space Series organized by multiple Duke offices to support students
  • A variety of Duke-sponsored post-election events featuring experts in various fields to help contextualize the outcome
  • Mental telehealth support through Blue Devils Care  

We have shared this list with Graduate School students in the message below, which was sent out earlier today. Please remind your students to take advantage of these resources if they need to.  

As a reminder, classes are scheduled to take place on Election Day, November 3. President Price’s recent message noted that faculty have the flexibility to make alternate arrangements regarding coursework and scheduling, and I encourage you to consider doing so to help make it easier for our graduate students to participate in the election.  

Finally, please take care of yourselves as well, as I know you have been under tremendous stress, too. The Office of Faculty Advancement offers videos, best practices, and articles on wellness and support, and the Personal Assistance Service offers faculty and staff free access to licensed professionals who can provide assessment, short-term counseling, and referrals to help resolve a range of personal, work, and family challenges.   

Thank you, as always, for your support of our graduate students! Take care, and have a good weekend.  


Paula D. McClain, Ph.D.
Dean of The Graduate School
Vice Provost for Graduate Education  


10/2/20: COVID-19 surveillance testing for graduate students  


To: School of Medicine PhD students
From: Colin Duckett, PhD, Vice Dean for Basic Science, School of Medicine
As part of our plans to control outbreaks of COVID-19 infections, Duke University is using advanced modeling algorithms to guide surveillance testing of students. In order to provide accurate data, testing must occur within 24-48 hours upon notification. If you receive notification requiring you to take a surveillance test, please be aware that this test is mandatory, and you must comply by arriving at your allocated time. We know that often you are given short notice and realize this may not always be convenient. However, it is an essential component of our mission to reduce our risks as much as we can. Failure to comply with testing instructions may lead to restricted access to your lab buildings. 
Wearing face coverings, practicing physical distancing, avoiding large gatherings, and participating in surveillance testing for COVID-19 are required of all Duke University faculty, staff and students to minimize the spread of the virus. To be clear, all students, including those who are studying in the biomedical sciences and health professions, are expected to adhere to these guidelines whether you are on campus or off campus.
My sincere thanks to all of you for your extraordinary commitment to safety. As the numbers of cases continue to rise statewide and nationally, it is imperative that we keep our standards high to help protect our community. 
Colin Duckett, PhD
Vice Dean for Basic Science


9/24/20: Guidance re: Gatherings during a Pandemic


To: School of Medicine faculty, staff and students
From: Mary E. Klotman, Dean, Duke University School of Medicine
Subject: Guidance re: Gatherings during a Pandemic

Please read carefully the attached message from Provost Sally Kornbluth and Executive Vice Provost Jennifer Francis with important guidance for in-person gatherings. All faculty, staff and students in the School of Medicine should adhere to these instructions.

Local and state health guidelines around COVID-19 continue to evolve, but everyone should continue to follow Duke policies and instructions, which may be more restrictive than state or local policies.

For example, meetings and activities at Duke including educational or student-related social events outside of classes should be limited to no more than 10 people (socially distanced and masked).  Faculty, staff and students in the School of Medicine who are considering holding an on-campus event (10 person limit) that is outside of required educational classes must request approval from the Dean’s Office. The request should be first approved by your chair, center/institute director, or educational program leader and then sent to SOMBuildingCoordination@duke.edu.  

Limiting in-person gatherings, masking and physical distancing have been important measures that have enabled Duke to reduce the spread of COVID-19 among our faculty, staff and students. We must not let down our guard. Please continue to be diligent in adhering to these guidelines.

Thank you to everyone for your commitment to the health and wellbeing of those in our Duke community and beyond.


9/18/20: Duke University PhD Student COVID-19 Policy Plan (Effective Date: Aug. 17)

The Duke University PhD Student COVID-19 Policy Plan (“Duke PhD COVID-19 Plan” or “Plan”) applies to any PhD student who, at any point in the Fall semester, attends in-person courses on campus and/or utilizes resources, facilities, or services physically on campus, such as laboratories or libraries. 


8/20/20: Duke COVID Testing Tracker


The Duke COVID Testing Tracker is updated every Monday.


8/20/20: FAQ for SoM PhD Programs - Fall 20 (Updated, 8/20/20)


This update includes information on building access process for students rotating in labs outside the SoM. FAQ for SoM PhD Programs - Fall 20 (Updated, 8/20/20) - (.pdf)


8/20/20: New FAQ for Grad and Professional Students from Provost


This document was created by the Provost Office and includes guidance for Duke Compact, Policy documents, and travel. New FAQ for Grad and Professional Students  - (.pdf)


8/20/20: President Price welcomes new graduate and professional students to Duke (Video)


President Price welcomes new graduate and professional students to Duke. View here.


8/12/20: The Duke Compact - Duke United




8/10/20: FAQ for SoM PhD Programs - Fall 20 (Updated, 8/10/20)


FAQ for SoM PhD Programs - Fall 20 (Updated, 8/10/20) - (.pdf)


08/08/20:  COVID-19 Arrival Testing, Continuing Student Surveillance Testing, and Daily Symptom Monitoring


COVID-19 Arrival Testing, Continuing Student Surveillance Testing, and Daily Symptom Monitoring - (.pdf)


8/5/20: Updates to Student COVID-19 testing, access to campus, and other Fall information


Updates to Student COVID-19 testing, access to campus, and other Fall information - (.pdf)


7/31/20: Ph.D. student COVID-19 testing information

TO: School of Medicine PhD students, DGSs, DGSAs and graduate faculty mentors

FROM: Colin Duckett, PhD, Vice Dean for Basic Science; Beth Sullivan, PhD, Associate Dean for Research Training

Subject: Ph.D. student COVID-19 testing information

President Price and Provost Kornbluth recently announced that we will be performing COVID-19 testing of all Duke graduate students. The testing schedule is still being developed, but in the meantime we are able to share the following details with you:

  • All Ph.D. students will be tested on a priority schedule that will begin on or shortly after August 17. 
  • Incoming first-year Ph.D. students must be tested and cleared to come to campus before their ID badges will be activated, and only at that time will they be granted access to buildings. 
  • Current Ph.D. students (i.e., second year students onwards) will also be tested according to a timetable that is still being developed; more details will be provided soon.
  • There will be no interruption of building access for current Ph.D. students while this surveillance testing program is being developed or while awaiting the results of their surveillance tests. 

Thank you for partnering with us to do everything we can to reduce the risks to the Duke community. 


7/29/20: FAQ for SoM PhD Programs - Fall 20


FAQ for SoM PhD Programs - Fall 20 (updated 7/29/20) - (.pdf)


7/28/20: Lab reopening - a progress report

I’m writing to give you a brief update on the ramp-up of the research laboratories in the School of Medicine. As I’m sure you’ll recall, in mid-March we initiated a rapid reduction of activities, and after what probably felt to all of you like an eternity but was a matter of weeks during which we undertook a careful analysis of our buildings, safety protocols and supply chains, we began a phased return to the labs in early May.

I want to express my gratitude to you all for your patience and flexibility as we’ve all worked together to combat these unprecedented challenges. Here's where we are today:

  • Essentially all of our lab personnel are back at work, albeit at a reduced density. On any given day, the number coming to work is around 2,000, but in a single week, we see 3,000 different people in our lab buildings. 
  • Limiting and monitoring lab access to authorized users has allowed us to check our assumptions of personnel density, evaluate our supply chains of PPE and handwashing solution and, on the occasions in which we’ve had a COVID incident, for contact tracing. 
  • Since we began collecting data in March, we’ve had fewer than 10 COVID-positive cases in the 25 buildings that house our ~3000 School of Medicine lab researchers. There has been no concentration in any building, and no obvious pattern in terms of frequency; so far, we’ve seen no cases of workplace transmission in the research labs - all cases have been community-acquired.
  • The online symptom screening tool has been really helpful. It is required if you’re coming to campus or to a workplace facility. The new iPhone/Android app (SymMon) is very convenient. Please take a look at this article. For DUHS employees, there is an equivalent smartphone app for you, HealthCheck. Regardless of which app you use, symptom screening should become a part of your daily routine.
  • Our supply chains look good, and our assumptions appear to have been accurate. 
  • You will likely have seen recent communications from President Price about our testing program, including an announcement about testing of incoming students: our pooled surveillance testing program is also moving forward, and more information about this will be forthcoming. 

In summary, so far, our precautions seem to be paying off: wear face coverings, complete the online symptom screen, wash your hands, and keep your distance. This is not the time to let down our guard; we must all continue to follow these steps, as well as instructions provided by University leadership and by local officials
Thank you for your remarkable commitment to our institution and your support of the Duke/Durham community. 
Colin S. Duckett, Ph.D.
Vice Dean for Basic Science
Professor, Department of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology
Duke University School of Medicine
DUMC 2927
Durham, NC 27710

7/8/20: Update on Duke Travel Restrictions


TO: Vice Presidents, Vice Provosts, Deans, Directors, Department Heads, and Managers
FROM: Sally Kornbluth, Provost; Kyle Cavanaugh, Vice President, Administration; Eric Mlyn, Chair, Global Travel Advisory Committee 

As we see some borders opening and airline carriers resuming operations, we wish to clarify issues pertaining to the suspension of Duke-supported travel and provide additional resources for top-level managers on the process for requesting an exception. 

In March, Duke suspended all non-essential Duke-funded/supported travel, both domestic and international. Essential travel was allowed in certain circumstances with appropriate approval. An addendum to this policy now clarifies the definition of “Essential Travel” and provides instructions for how faculty, staff and graduate/professional students can request an exception. Undergraduates are not currently eligible for an exemption to the policy. 

The addendum also makes clear that Duke support includes financial and logistical support, academic approval, granting of credit for activity or work completed based on the travel, mentorship or any kind of material role for Duke in the travel.

Local travel, that which begins and ends in the same location during the same day, is not regulated by this policy. 

For more information about the  policy or the addendum, please visit the Global Administrative and Travel Support website or contact Christy Parish, the Duke Travel Policy Administrator, at christy.parrish@duke.edu. Thank you.  

6/30/20: Fall ’20 Plans and Best Practices for Returning to Campus and Labs

Duke University and School of Medicine leadership have been monitoring health system data, local and national trends, and consulting with leading infectious disease experts, and now we are slowly returning to research lab activities under a controlled model of density coupled with heightened safety and hygiene practices. Guidelines for lab re-opening and returning to campus can be found here: https://returnto.duke.edu/.


Most PhD training coursework will transition to online delivery, with some courses being offered in a hybrid format (partly face-to-face/F2F and partly online) and a small fraction being F2F. The semester will officially start on August 17th and end on November 23rd. Classrooms will be reconfigured to accommodate physical distancing. In addition, the course catalog must be rebuilt to reflect new start/end class times so that cleaning can occur between F2F classes. This means that continuing students who already registered for Fall courses will need to re-register when the new course registration system is completed. Your DGS and DGSA will help you navigate the re-registration process so please anticipate emails from them in late July.


Most seminars will be offered virtually for Fall ’20 and delivered by Zoom in the regular seminar series times. Announcements will be shared by email and contain relevant speaker information and Zoom links to join the virtual seminars.


Our incoming 1st year PhD students will be doing rotations, however the rotation schedule has been modified to minimize risk to them and to other trainees and staff in the labs. Two 6-week rotations will occur in the Fall (Aug 31-Oct 9 and Oct 12-Nov 20), and rotation students will be included in the lab plans that PIs must have approved by departmental leadership. New students should arrive in Durham two weeks prior to the start of classes and closely monitor their health during this period.


Soon the University will share expectations of behavior and compliance with regard to safety as the Fall semester approaches and the density of individuals on the campus increases. In the SoM, masks are to be worn in all buildings and a physical distance of 6 feet or more will be maintained within labs and classrooms. If it is necessary to demonstrate a technique or cooperatively participate in the lab, there are provisions that must be adopted based on advice from our Safety Office. These involve one or both masked individuals wearing a face shield. It is important to remember that the risk remains low if individuals follow safety and hygiene protocols and routinely complete the Symptoms Survey Screen at the beginning and end of each day. Individuals who do not feel well or exhibit any symptoms should not come to work and should use the symptom survey screen as a way to discuss their situation with a health professional. By taking these sensible precautions, those who do interact in labs practicing physical distancing should be healthy and are less likely to spread disease.


Duke SoM expects trainees, staff, and faculty to comply with guidelines and policies for returning to campus and working in labs. If you see something, say something - you can report a concern anonymously through the Duke Speak Up Program.


4/29/20: New Webinar Series for the NIGMS Training Community

NIH NIGMS is pleased to announce a new webinar series for students, postdocs, and faculty. Each hour-long webinar will include a 10- to 15-minute presentation by the speaker followed by a moderated question and answer session. Our hope is that these webinars will enhance our trainees’ ongoing learning experiences.  The webinar series kicks off next Monday, May 4, and a tentative list of dates and speakers is below. As plans are finalized, additional details will be posted on our website.

We strongly encourage our sponsored trainees and other interested students, postdocs, and faculty to participate in these webinars. Participants requiring sign language interpretation should email info@nigms.nih.gov at least 3 days prior to the event. Recordings will be posted on the NIGMS website following each webinar.

Mon, May 4, 2-3 pm
Entrepreneurship and Careers in the Biotechnology Industry
Dr. John Younger, University City Science Center

Tues May 5, 1-2 pm
Moving Away from the Scientific Pack in Your Research
Dr. Alejandro Sánchez Alvarado, Stowers Institute for Medical Research

Mon May 11, 4-5 pm
Infectious Disease Modeling and MIDAS
Dr. Wilbert van Panhuis, University of Pittsburgh

Tues May 12, 3-4 pm
Virtual Teaching and Learning (for current and aspiring educators and mentors)
Dr. Erin L. Dolan, University of Georgia

Weds May 13, 2:3 pm
Computational Biology and Biomedical Data Science
Dr. Susan Gregurick, NIH Office of Data Science Strategy

Thurs May 14, 3-4 pm
Cryo-EM: Present and Future
Dr. Bridget Carragher, New York Structural Biology Center

Culturally Aware Practices for Virtual Mentoring, Teaching, and Learning  (for current and aspiring educators and mentors)
Dr. Sherilynn Black, Duke University and Dr. Angela Byars-Winston, University of Wisconsin

Behavioral Research in Biomedicine
Dr. William T. Riley, NIH Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research


4/16/20: Wellness & Resilience Workshops for Trainees - NIH (Pre-recorded)

Information on workshops for trainees can be found at https://www.training.nih.gov/virtual_nih_activities_for_trainees_outside_the_nih

Strategies and Tools for Dealing with Stress During the Coronavirus Pandemic (Laurie Chaikind McNulty, LCSW-C)

Managing the Stress and Anxiety around COVID-19 (Kelly Donahue, PhD)

Becoming A Resilient Scientist: Setting Reasonable Expectations And Healthy Boundaries For Ourselves And With Our Supervisors (Sharon Milgram, PhD, Director, NIH Office of Intramural Training & Education)

Stress Management and Self-Care for Scientists: During COVID-19 and Beyond (Michael Sheridan, PhD)


4/8/2020: SoM Follow-Up on Duke Student Assistance Fund

TO: SoM Graduate Students​

FROM: Colin Duckett, Vice Dean for Basic Science; Beth Sullivan, Assoc Dean for Research Training; Johnna Frierson, Asst Dean for Graduate and Postdoctoral Diversity and Inclusion
We are writing to ensure that all of you received the message from Provost Kornbluth earlier this week describing the Duke student assistance fund to provide resources for undergraduate, graduate, and professional students in need. We care deeply about your well-being and encourage you to reach out to your faculty mentors and departmental/program leadership to let them know how you are doing. Please also be aware of bluedevilscare.duke.edu, where you can receive mental telehealth support as often as needed. Register once using the service key DUKE2020 to access the service. We hope you are taking care of yourselves and each other during these challenging times.


4/6/2020: Duke Student Assistance Fund Now Open for Applications

TO: Duke Students

FROM: Sally Kornbluth, Ph.D., Provost 

Today we are opening up applications for funding from the Duke Student Assistance Fund which has been established to assist undergraduate, graduate and professional students with unexpected and extraordinary expenses related to the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Students may now submit applications for grants using your Net ID at https://studentassistance.duke.edu.  All applications will be reviewed individually by the Duke Student Assistance Fund team, which includes Student Affairs professionals who have experience with the many unique experiences of our students. 

While the Duke Student Assistance Fund has been established with funds from the university, we are also receiving contributions from generous alumni and donors who want to help in providing relief to our students.  The university has also created and funded similar relief efforts for patients at our hospitals and for the Durham community. 

We know this is a challenging time for every member of our community, but at the same time we are all a source of inspiration and resilience for each other.  Duke is committed to providing support for all of our community, particularly those members who have the most urgent and compelling needs, and we will continue to do so for the duration of this crisis and beyond. 


4/2/2020: Expanded mental telehealth support for students

TO: Undergraduates, Graduate, and Professional Students

FROM: Mary Pat McMahon, Vice Provost/Vice President of Student Affairs

The leadership team in Student Affairs is pleased to offer a new, additional service to all undergraduate, graduate and professional students at Duke in order to enhance the resources available to students, particularly at this time when so many students are away from the Durham campus. 

Blue Devils Care builds upon current remote offerings from CAPS and Student Health and offers expanded, 24/7 mental telehealth support to all students at no cost. Beginning today, April 1, all Duke degree-seeking students now have access to Blue Devils Care.

To get started, visit BlueDevilsCare.duke.edu. Register once using your @duke.edu email address and Service Key DUKE2020—then you’ll be ready to use the service whenever you need it.


4/1/2010: Video Recording of 3/26 SoM Leadership Trainee Town Hall for Graduate Students & Postdocs

TO: SoM Biomedical PhD Students & Postdocs

Duke SoM leadership held a Trainee Town Hall on Thursday, March 26th to answer pre-submitted questions from graduate students and postdocs about Duke’s COVID-19 response and the impact on research and training. A video recording of the town hall is now available; it picks up just after the introduction of the panelists that included Mary Klotman (Dean of the School of Medicine), Colin Duckett (Vice Dean for Basic Science), Johnna Frierson (Assistant Dean for Graduate and Postdoctoral Diversity and Inclusion), Molly Starback (Director of Office of Postdoctoral Services), and Beth Sullivan (Associate Dean for Research Training).


3/31/2020: Guidelines for Remote Dissertation Defenses

TO: SoM PhD Program Directors of Graduate Studies and Directors of Graduate Studies Administrators

FROM: Colin Duckett, Vice Dean for Basic Science; Beth Sullivan, Associate Dean for Research Training

In light of recent events involving “zoombombing” of PhD thesis defenses, we are providing instructions and best practices for scheduling remote teleconferencing for upcoming dissertation defenses.

Students and faculty mentors should coordinate the scheduling of remote presentations via Zoom or Webex. Secure settings that include a required passcode and that restrict audio (mute on entry) and video access (off) of all participants except the student and thesis committee should be used. Instructions and help for scheduling a secure Webex or Zoom meeting are available through Duke OIT.

The student and faculty mentor should send the Zoom or Webex meeting information to the committee and DGSA. The DGSA should share the meeting ID, link, and passcode with the department and/or program along with a reminder to keep the information within the Duke community.

The PhD dissertation defense is an important milestone for students, and during the public event, students should be focused on presenting their thesis research. A committee member or the DGSA should assume hosting (or co-hosting) privileges of the meeting so that they can monitor the crowd and remove anyone who intrudes or interrupts the presentation. The committee-only session of the defense can be held within the same meeting after removing all non-committee participants or by starting a new secure meeting.

We appreciate your cooperation and ongoing support of Duke SoM graduate training.


3/30/2020: Keep Teaching Update - Prevent Zoombombing​

Daily Focus: Prevent Zoombombing

“Zoombombing” is making headlines as the latest remote teaching challenge. This week, Zoom took an important precaution for education users to set screen sharing to "hosts only" as a default. This can be changed by users, yet it may help prevent the more egregious examples of inappropriate screen sharing. 

Here are some additional steps you can take to protect your classes from being Zoombombed:

  • Follow OIT’s recommendations for security and privacy in your Zoom meetings. 
  • Meeting links for class should not be shared publicly by students or teachers. Use Sakai announcements, direct email, or other methods to communicate students' obligation to not share course links.
  • Avoid using your Personal Meeting ID (PMI) to host your class sessions. Learn about meeting IDs and how to generate a random meeting ID (at the 0:27 mark) in this video tutorial.
  • This article from Zoom provides information on how you can utilize the waiting room feature, restrict screen sharing, and manage participants to prevent Zoombombing.
  • Hosts of public facing events should not share Zoom links through social media without first considering the previously listed settings - if you can immediately join a meeting, so can Zoombomber. You can also take precautions like enabling registration and the waiting room.
  • For smaller courses, once all participants have joined your Zoom meeting, you can lock your meeting to prevent new participants from joining. This setting can be changed by clicking Manage participants > More > Lock Meeting. You can unlock the meeting at any time if you need to allow someone to join your meeting.
  • Should a user disrupt your Zoom meeting, you have the power to remove them: select the More option for the user, then select Remove. If the user continues to rejoin your meeting, go to your Zoom settings and disable the option Allow removed participants to rejoin.

Zoombombing is a concern but in the past week at Duke there were only a handful of incidents reported out of over 21,000 Zoom meetings. With a little precaution, you can secure your Zoom sessions and keep your students focused. 


3/29/20202: Well-being and Safety of Our Trainees

TO: SoM Biomedical Graduate Students

FROM: Colin Duckett, Vice Dean for Basic Science; Beth Sullivan, Associate Dean for Research Training; Johnna Frierson, Assistant Dean for Graduate and Postdoctoral Diversity and Inclusion

We are reaching out to you regarding the email you received earlier from Provost Kornbluth and President Price regarding the tragic losses of two Duke undergraduate students. These are stressful times, especially given the separation from campus, friends, and faculty. We are also adjusting to unusual circumstances due to the shift to remote classes, prelim exams and thesis defenses, research lab ramp downs, and social distancing measures.

We, along with your department and program leaders, DGSs, and DGSAs, care deeply about your well-being. Below we have listed a number of key resources for navigating the uncertainty and stress of this period. It is crucial that we remain emotionally and virtually close to one another, despite the necessity for social distancing. Please reach out if you need help.

  • DukeReach: 919-681-2455 or dukereach@duke.edu
  • Duke CAPS: 919-660-1000; after 5PM on-call mental health support service: 919-966-3820
  • National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 800-273-8255
  • National Crisis Text Line: text START to 741-741
  • OBGE Health and Wellness Coach: schedule a meeting
  • IDEALS Office: contact us
  • Success over Stress: learn more
  • Maintaining Your Well-being: learn more


3/29/2020 - Support for the Duke Community

TO: Duke Faculty, Staff & Students

Duke is keeping a running list of emotional and mental well-being resources at the “Support for the Duke Community” page.


3/27/2020 - Additional Resources for Setting up Zoom Meetings

TO: SoM PhD Programs

FROM: Beth Sullivan, PhD, Assoc Dean for Research Training

I was appalled to learn of the unacceptable interference from external sources that occurred during a student's thesis defense this afternoon. Our students and faculty are doing a wonderful job holding remote prelims, committee meetings, and thesis defenses and should not have to encounter this sort of unpleasantness, especially at an important professional milestone.

John Zhu from TGS has shared resources (below) for our students and their mentors to more securely use zoom. Additionally, the attached document outlines my own step-by-step instructions for setting up a zoom meeting that restricts audio and video of participants of everyone except the student and the committee. These instructions mirror the settings I used for hosting the SoM Trainee Town hall held yesterday. I hope it might be helpful, but if there are still questions or confusion, I am happy to (virtually) show trainees and/or faculty how to set up secure presentations.

  • 3/27/2020 - Dear colleagues, recently a PhD student’s remote dissertation defense was interrupted by a group of uninvited people that jumped into the Zoom session and shouted abusive language at the presenter. This has been an unfortunate problem for many organizations as increased Zoom usage has created opportunities for abuse by internet trolls. OIT has a good list of security tips for preventing such abuse: https://oit.duke.edu/help/articles/zoom-meetings-security-and-privacy-your-meetings. Please share these with your students and colleagues, especially students who are preparing for upcoming remote defenses via Zoom. Let us know if you or your students have questions or concerns.
    John Zhu
    Director of Communications
    The Graduate School
    Duke University


3/26/2020: Coping with COVID-19 Online Conversation for Postdocs & Graduate Students (Zoom, April 1, 10 am)

WHEN: Weds Apr 1, 10 am

WHERE: Join via Zoom: https://duke.zoom.us/j/943322608

Many postdocs and graduate students have attended mentoring and communication workshops led by Melissa Segal, who is a licensed social worker and a Duke business manager. Please join her for an hour-long Zoom session to discuss whatever's on your mind – how to cope with stress during the coronavirus pandemic; how to navigate communication and relationships; and how to (try to) maintain a normal-ish schedule under abnormal circumstances. Even if you don’t have specific questions, this session is a great opportunity to hang out with others and to know you're not alone.

This session is meant to be a virtual "safe space" for postdocs and graduate students. Therefore, we ask that only postdocs and graduate students join the call.

Facilitator: Melissa Segal, LCSW, is a licensed clinical social worker who has provided individual, couples, and family counseling; facilitated a variety of support and educational groups; and implemented professional development and training. She is currently the Senior Business Manager of Duke Neurobiology and its Diversity & Inclusion Leader.

This workshop is part of the Mentoring and Communication Series, sponsored by the Office of Postdoctoral Services, the IDEALS (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Advancement, and Leadership in the Sciences) Office, and the Graduate School. Questions? Email Molly Starback, Director of Duke Postdoctoral Services, at molly.starback@duke.edu


3/25/2020: Dealing with Stress during the Coronavirus Webinar hosted by the NIH OITE for trainees at your institutions (COVID-19)

TO: SoM Trainees

FROM: Office of Biomedical Graduate Education (OBGE)

OBGE wanted to make you aware of an upcoming webinar hosted by the NIH Office of Intramural Training and Education that is focused on dealing with stress during the current COVID-19 situation. This webinar will be capped at 3000 participants, so register early. This will be the first of several weekly webinars offered by NIH OITE that we will continue to share with you.​​

Strategies and Tools for Dealing with Stress During The Coronavirus
Friday, March 27th

Use this link to register for this online session: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/640637452789607693
Join us to discuss strategies for building resilience in this time of stress and uncertainty. Topics covered include shifting and rebuilding routines, dealing with loneliness and distance from our support networks, balancing demands of family and work, news coverage overload, and handling uncertainty and worry about our science, educational and career goals.


3/25/2020: Durham Stay-at-Home Order

TO: To All Duke students, faculty and staff

The City of Durham has enacted a Stay-at-Home order for all residents and businesses effective Thursday, March 26 at 6:00 pm.  This order is consistent with the actions and policies that Duke has undertaken over the past several weeks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our community and protect our health care workers, hospitals and clinics so they can continue their vital service.  We expect to see similar orders from Wake County and other parts of the region in the next several days. READ MORE.


3/25/2020: Statement Regarding Volunteering

TO: SoM PhD Students

FROM: SoM Leadership

It speaks to the Duke spirit that so many of you are seeking opportunities to volunteer at this crucial time, and we encourage you to find ways to make contributions in your own time while ensuring that you take steps to minimize the risks to yourself and others. If you decide to pursue a volunteer opportunity that might expose you to the COVID-19 virus, such as working in a testing laboratory or any direct community work, please seriously consider your responsibilities and communicate to your colleagues, fellow students and mentors. If you develop symptoms, refer to https://keepworking.duke.edu/faqs/staffing/ and follow the directions contained there.

Finally, please be aware that any future instructions from the state and federal governments, for example regarding sheltering in place, take precedence over the guidance above.


3/24/2020: School of Medicine Trainee Town Hall - March 26 at 1pm

TO: SoM Graduate Students and Postdoctoral Researchers

FROM: Beth Sullivan, Associate Dean for Research Training; Johnna Frierson, Assistant Dean for Graduate Student & Postdoctoral Diversity and Inclusion; Molly Starback, Director, Office of Postdoctoral Services

Re: Informational forum with School of Medicine (SoM) Leaders

A town hall forum for SoM graduate students and postdocs has been scheduled for Thursday, March 26th at 1 PM. This is an opportunity to hear from Associate Dean Beth Sullivan, Assistant Dean Johnna Frierson, and Office of Postdoctoral Services Director Molly Starback. Dean Mary Klotman and Vice Dean Colin Duckett will try to attend if their schedules permit. We will provide updates on current Duke operations during the COVID-19 response and answers to some of your questions.

Due to the potentially high volume of participants joining the forum we will only answer questions submitted beforehand. Please submit your questions (anonymously) using this link: https://duke.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_5ap5n4QfDajJy6x.

If you are not in the SoM but still have a question, please feel free to submit it either anonymously or note that you are a non-SoM trainee, and we will try to answer it.

To join the town hall, please click here https://duke.zoom.us/j/706722415. If you are denied access, please try again at or after 1pm.


3/23/2020: Donation of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

TO: School of Medicine Faculty and Staff

FROM: Colin Duckett, PhD, Vice Dean for Basic Science

We have been gratified by the number of offers we have received to donate PPE to our colleagues in the Health System. The Procurement Office is currently focused on the following items:

  • N95 masks
  • Face masks including ear-loop masks
  • Latex-free gloves (all sizes)
  • Face shields

We are working with the NIH to determine how to manage these donations if the supplies were purchased using grant funds. Further instructions to your grant managers will be forthcoming; until then, simply take an inventory of the items donated and provide that list to your department business manager.

We would greatly prefer that you bring the PPE to the central collection site at Classroom 3 on the 3rd floor of Trent Semans. This building – like all Duke Health buildings at this time – requires badge access for entry. If the classroom is locked, please deposit your supplies outside the classroom. The area is monitored by video to ensure that your donations are secure, and Procurement staff collect donations multiple times each day. If you are unable to move the PPE yourself and need assistance, please email researchprocurement@duke.edu or elizabeth.norwood@duke.edu to make alternative plans.


3/19/2020: Change in grading policy for graduate courses, Spring 2020

TO: Duke Graduate & Professional Students

FROM: Sally Kornbluth, Provost; Jennifer Francis, Executive Vice Provost; Paula McClain, Dean of the Graduate School

Read FULL TEXT of important changes in grading policy for graduate courses due to impacts of COVID-19.


3/18/2020: COVID-19: Laboratory-based Research Curtailed

TO: Duke Faculty & Staff

FROM: Larry Carin, Vice President for Research for Duke University

We recently asked PIs of Duke research laboratories to develop contingency plans in the event of a campus shutdown as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. This message is to inform you that we must now implement these plans, which will severely curtail laboratory research activities on Duke’s campus and in our leased facilities.

Due to the rapidly deteriorating conditions, only hands-on activity essential to preserve the future viability of research programs will be permitted in most laboratories. All laboratory PIs should begin to activate their wind-down plans effective now, 3/17/2020. All non-laboratory research in Duke facilities that requires direct person-to-person contact must also cease at this time.

This directive does not apply to essential clinical research studies involving human subjects, clinical research that may be done remotely or laboratories actively supporting direct ongoing clinical care, which will be addressed in a separate communication. In addition, research work directed towards vaccination against, treatment or diagnosis of COVID-19 is exempt from this directive, but must be approved in advance by your Dean and communicated to me. READ MORE.


3/16/2020: OBGE Health and Wellness Coaching Initiative - Remote Sessions Available

TO: SoM PhD Students

FROM: Beth Sullivan, Associate Dean for Research Training

Dear Trainees: I am writing to confirm that the OBGE Health and Wellness Coaching Initiative continues to be available remotely during Duke's current response to COVID-19. If you schedule an appointment through the calendar, Kristin Thole will provide a Zoom meeting link for your coaching session. Learn more about this Wellness Initiative and how to schedule an appointment here.


3/15/2020: Online/Remote Teaching Options - Zoom Available to SoM Faculty (COVID-19)

TO: SoM PhD Programs Directors of Graduate Studies and Program Administrators​

FROM: Beth Sullivan, Associate Dean for Research Training

Please share with your departments that SoM faculty are not limited to Webex for online/remote teaching. Zoom is also now available to SoM faculty. For those of you not familiar with this app, Zoom is more intuitive and can embed in Sakai which makes invites and recordings easier.

Don't forget that you can visit the Duke Keep Teaching support page (https://keepteaching.duke.edu/) where you can find help with remote teaching strategies via links or upcoming webinars. You will also find information about creating a zoom account (https://duke.zoom.us/)

Thank you for continuing Duke's teaching and educational mission during this challenging time.


3/13/2020: Important Updated Guidance for Graduate Lab Research (COVID-19)

TO: SoM PhD Students & Postdocs

FROM: Colin Duckett, Vice Dean for Basic Sciences & Beth Sullivan, Associate Dean for Research Training

Re: Important updated link at Duke Coronavirus (COVID-19) Research-Related FAQ Webpage

We are writing to inform you that a new dropdown menu called “Guidance for Graduate Lab Research” with detailed instructions for graduate students doing lab work has been added to the Duke FAQ Coronavirus (COVID-19) Research Related Updated webpage: https://research.duke.edu/coronavirus-research-FAQ.

Please share this email with faculty, students, postdocs, and staff in your departments and programs and encourage them to thoroughly read the updated information. Do not hesitate to reach out if you have questions.


3/13/2020: Important Updated Guidance for Graduate Lab Research (COVID-19)

TO: SoM PhD Programs Directors of Graduate Studies and Program Administrators

FROM: Colin Duckett, Vice Dean for Basic Sciences & Beth Sullivan, Associate Dean for Research Training

Re: Important updated link at Duke Coronavirus (COVID-19) Research-Related FAQ Webpage

We are writing to inform you that a new dropdown menu called “Guidance for Graduate Lab Research” with detailed instructions for graduate students doing lab work has been added to the Duke FAQ Coronavirus (COVID-19) Research Related Updated webpage: https://research.duke.edu/coronavirus-research-FAQ.

Please share this email with faculty, students, postdocs, and staff in your departments and programs and encourage them to thoroughly read the updated information. Do not hesitate to reach out if you have questions.


3/12/2020: Additional Guidelines for Faculty (COVID-19)

TO: Duke Faculty

FROM: Sally Kornluth, PhD - Provost and Jo Rae Wright Professor

As expressed in my message to you yesterday, I am writing today to share a set of guidelines, recommendations, technical advice and an FAQ to aid in converting your course to different forms of remote delivery. Keep Teaching includes specific guidance for getting started, alternative options for both every day and technology-enhanced strategies, communicating with students, distributing course materials, assignments and assessments, class meetings online, and building an engaged online learning community, should you opt for digital delivery. 

I want to underscore again that we recognize that teaching under these circumstances will take many different forms, from independent reading and writing to synchronous and online lectures and discussions.  Multiple forms of remote delivery are possible for meeting your course objectives.  You will be the best guide for your students as to the most appropriate ways to carry on intellectual life under difficult circumstances. 

In addition to School and department-specific support for teaching and learning, we will offer two university-wide services:

  • Interactive Webinars on various forms of remote delivery including both every day and technology-enhanced strategies, how to moderate an engaging live session, different forms of assessment, group projects, and online alternatives to hands-on activities such as labs and performances. Please check the Keep Teaching website for upcoming programs which will be continually updated with additional resources and programming. 
  • Consultations for teaching and learning: please email keepteaching@duke.edu. (For immediate technical assistance contact the OIT Service Desk through the web, at help@oit.duke.edu or by phone at (919) 684-2200.)

We will also be launching a website for students – Keep Learning – that you will be able to access.


3/12/2020 UPDATE: SoM Graduate Courses Resuming March 23rd (COVID-19)

TO: SoM PhD Programs Directors of Graduate Studies and Program Administrators

FROM: Colin Duckett, Vice Dean for Basic Sciences & Beth Sullivan, Associate Dean for Research Training

We are writing to provide additional guidance on the suspension of all in-person classes and the move to distance/remote/virtual classes taught within SoM graduate programs. To give faculty, course directors, and lecturers more time to transition their lectures for remote delivery, all SoM PhD programs graduate courses will resume on March 23rd.

The university has provided a web page with tools for remotely conducting classes and communicating within groups: https://coronavirus.duke.edu/quick-start-guide-to-working-remotely/

Please share this email with faculty in your departments and programs who are currently directing and/or teaching Spring SoM graduate courses. We also encourage you to reach out directly to Beth Sullivan and/or OBGE if you have questions or concerns about moving classes to an online or remote format.


3/11/2020 - Information for SoM Faculty and Programs Regarding Graduate Teaching (COVID-19)

TO: SoM PhD Programs Directors of Graduate Studies and Program Administrators

FROM: Colin Duckett, Vice Dean for Basic Sciences & Beth Sullivan, Associate Dean for Research Training

Dear Colleagues:

Until further notice the university is suspending all in-person classes and moving to distance and other remote learning options. This includes SoM graduate classes. Courses, including lectures, assignments, and examinations, should be delivered remotely or online for the remainder of the semester.

As mentioned by Provost Kornbluth, Duke will provide a set of guidelines, recommendations, technical advice and an FAQ at a continually updated website later this week. The website will include specific guidance for communicating with students, distributing courses materials, assignments and assessments, and resources for establishing online class meetings. Alternative suggestions and examples for teaching your classes will also be provided.

Please share this email with faculty in your departments and programs who are currently directing and/or teaching Spring graduate courses. We also encourage you to reach out to Beth Sullivan or the Office of Biomedical Graduate Education (OBGE) if you have questions or concerns about moving classes to an online or remote format.