The Duke University Distinguished Lecturer Series was instituted to bring inspiring, accomplished, distinguished lecturers to campus to illuminate progress and future areas of excitement in genetic and genomics. A key feature of the series is to provide a forum in which the students of the University Program in Genetics and Genomics assume a leadership role, with a faculty advisor, in identifying and inviting speakers, in designing the schedule for their visit, and in hosting and introducing the speakers. Students also attend lunches and dinners with the invited guests, who usually spend one to two days on campus also visiting with interested faculty.

Since the series inception in 2002, many distinguished individuals have shared their research and experience with the Duke community. These scholars have included six Nobel Laureates (Eric Wieschaus, Craig Mello, Richard Axel, Mario Capecchi, Carol Greider, and Harold Varmus)(four of whom received the Nobel prize after visiting Duke or being invited to visit Duke), five recipients of the Lasker Award (Mario Capecchi, Carol Greider, Randy Schekman, Matt Meselson, and Harold Varmus), and numerous members of the National Academy of Sciences (Mario Capecchi, Richard Axel, Douglas Wallace, Elliot Meyerowitz, Eric Wieschaus, Eric Lander, David Botstein, Carol Greider, Randy Schekman, Judith Kimble, Joan Brugge, Susan Lindquist, Craig Mello, Bonnie Bassler, Matthew Meselson, Svante Paabo, Joanne Chory, John Doebley, Harold Varmus, Pat Brown, Jeff Gordon, Barbara Meyer, Cynthia Kenyon, Roger Beachy, Eric Olson, and Neil Shubin).

The series is supported by the Dean's office, School of Medicine, the Cancer Center, the Departments of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, Medicine, Cell Biology, Pharmacology and Cancer Biology, Pathology, and Biochemistry.