Program Expectations

Program Expectations


Duke Biochemistry Research

Minimum Coursework. Maximum Research

The Biochemistry PhD is a year-round, research-intensive degree that’s supplemented with minimal classroom study and is tailored to your interests. Foundational coursework is completed in your first year and electives are taken in your second. Also in your first year you will rotate through three different labs, and at their conclusion, match with a faculty mentor on a mutually agreed upon research project. 

Each biochemistry PhD student must produce an independent body of original, high-quality, scientific work. Though circumstances may vary, typically this means authorship on two peer-reviewed publications, including at least one where you are the first author. Authorship should happen prior to or soon after graduation.


In our collaborative environment, we encourage knowledge sharing, giving you opportunities to continuously learn from other students, our research associates, and faculty through presentations and lively Q&A at intradepartmental seminars and our annual retreat. So if you don’t know how to get the answer to a research question, you can always find someone in the department or school who does!

- Meta Kuehn, Biochemistry DGS


Timeline to Your PhD

Year 1

Attend new student orientation in the department and Duke Community
Travel to the Off-Campus Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR)* Ethics Retreat Weekend
Take recommended coursework in foundational areas of biochemistry (fall semester), elective coursework (spring semester)
Rotate though 3-4 labs in diverse research areas, each 7-8 weeks in duration—before choosing final lab

Year 2

Conduct research
Take elective coursework
Complete required one-semester teaching assistantship during fall, spring, or summer semester
Select supervisory committee and initiate initial “pre-prelim” meeting to discuss research direction

Year 3

Conduct research
Take required preliminary (qualifying) examination for advancement to PhD candidacy during fall semester
Develop Individual Development Plan (IDP) which includes short- and long-term training milestones, initial career objectives and goals, skills assessment, and competencies

Year 4 +

Conduct research and meet annually with dissertation supervisory committee
Report research outcomes in peer-reviewed, scientific journals
Present research at national and/or international conferences (often subsidized by Duke Graduate School and the Biochemistry Department Travel Awards)
Take required RCR training refresher and career planning workshop
Update IDP and participate in career development seminars, round-tables, and activities
Prepare approved PhD dissertation document
Formally present dissertation in public and defend before dissertation supervisory committee

More in-depth timelines and requirements for the PhD Degree in Biochemistry can be found in the Biochemistry Graduate Student Handbook.


Applications for the 2019-2020 academic year are currently being accepted and we've extended the deadline to December 15th, 2018. All application materials must be submitted through the Graduate School Apply Now website.  Select applicants will be invited to interview during on-campus recruiting weekends in January or February.

A Note About the GREs

The Admissions Committee of the Graduate Program in Biochemistry evaluates all candidates on the basis of academic performance, laboratory research experience, letters of recommendation, and a personal statement. Although GRE scores are required by the Duke University Graduate School to complete your application to the Graduate Program in Biochemistry, our department takes a holistic approach when reviewing applicants that includes attention to evidence of curiosity, creativity, persistence, motivation, resilience, and problem-solving abilities.

Apply Now


*Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR):We expect that every doctoral candidate can address the growing ethical challenges that arise when teaching or conducting research. Therefore, our graduates must attend our initial inter-departmental ethics training retreat and refresher seminars throughout their graduate training period. The completed RCR course will be noted on the student’s transcript.