FeATURES · 01 / 03
Using Molecular Techniques to Study Oyster Reef Communities
Laura Givens, a PhD candidate in the Duke University Program in Marine Science and Conservation, uses cutting edge molecular techniques to study oyster reef communities at the Duke Marine Lab.
FeATURES · 02 / 03
Anjali Boyd: Elevating Voices
What motivates the next generation of environmental leaders? For doctoral student Anjali Boyd, it’s the drive to elevate the voices of youth, women and people of color in environmental decision making and bring broader perspectives to conservation.
FeATURES · 03 / 03
Finding the Gaps in Plastic Pollution Prevention
Zoie Diana MEM'16 talks about returning to Duke to pursue a PhD, and her research on gaps in plastic pollution mitigation efforts across sectors such as biology, policy, law and industry.
Applicants to the PhD in MSC will be assessed by faculty in the Division of Marine Science and Conservation. The faculty will evaluate application materials using the criteria listed below before providing recommendations to the Graduate School of Duke University.
- Research and/or other relevant work experience, including publications
- Contribution to diversity and inclusion
- Intellectual fit
- Personal statement
- Recommendation letters
- Prior education (degrees and coursework)
- Prior academic performance
- Commitment to society
How to Apply
Before applying to the MSC Doctoral program it is critical to identify one or a few professors you would like to work with who can discuss program options and direct you to the appropriate program. No student will be admitted, no matter how good his or her credentials, unless a member of the faculty has the interest and ability to mentor (and in some cases fund) the student. For further information, contact Jim Hench, the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS), Rachel Lo Piccolo, the assistant to the Director of Graduate Studies (DGSA), or one of the professors who mentor in the MSC program.
See the Duke Graduate School and follow the links above for the specific PhD programs for details about admission and degree requirements.
For Current & Admitted Students
Please consult the Graduate School website for most information. We cannot recapitulate all of the information from the graduate school here; it is your responsibility to familiarize yourself with this website, and consult it as needed. However, some key information is listed below. We (the DGS and DGSA) are happy to help clarify any questions that arise.
Preliminary Exam/Thesis Process
The certification meeting
The certification meeting is an in-person meeting of the student and the proposed thesis committee. It should typically occur in the second year of study. The purpose of the certification meeting is to officially form the thesis committee. This meeting must occur at least 30 days prior to the prelim. Please check the Graduate School website for the specific paperwork that you need to submit and requirements for thesis committee composition; in addition, please fill out a MSC specific certification meeting form have it signed, and turn it in to the DGSA. Additional paperwork is typically required ahead of time in order to include committee members who are not full Duke faculty.
The preliminary exam is an examination that lasts up to (but no more than) 3 hours and is intended to test the students’ preparation to carry out dissertation research. It should occur at the end of the second year or beginning of the third year, and must occur by the end of the 3rd year, unless an exception is requested of and granted by the Graduate School. The format of the exam varies from research group to research group within MSC, but is generally an oral examination (and written for social science track students) that includes evaluation of the students’ general intellectual preparation (ie, broad knowledge of the field of study) as well as evaluation of a written PhD research proposal sent by the student to the committee at least two weeks prior to the prelim. The prelim is conducted by the PhD thesis committee, and all committee members must be present. Note that the rules governing this exam are set by the Graduate School. After passing this exam, students are officially “PhD candidates.” Please check the Graduate School website for the specific paperwork that you need to submit. Additional paperwork is required ahead of time in order to have remote participation. A short description of the prelim is here.
You should have a meeting with your thesis committee at least once per year after passing your prelim. If this does not occur, you and your advisor will need to explain why.
The defense and thesis
You are ready to defend! This should normally occur by the end of your 5th year. The defense includes a public presentation (normally no more than an hour including questions) and a closed examination, conducted by the PhD thesis committee. (note that the rules governing this exam are set by the Graduate School). Please check the Graduate School website for the specific paperwork that you need to submit.
PhD students are funded from various sources that likely will change during the course of their program. Funding sources include (and are not limited to): Research Assistantships funded by their mentor’s research funding, Teaching Assistantships, Students own research grants or fellowships or internal fellowships.
When students’ or mentors’ research or fellowship is partial and must be supplemented by NSOE, additional TA service may be required. Students in good standing and making good academic progress will have access to 5 years of funding from Duke from the date of matriculation, even if you and your advisor are unable to obtain other forms of funding (grants, fellowships, etc). However, note that obtaining outside funding during the 5 years does not extend the 5-year timeline.
Please note that additional funding is available from The Graduate School at Duke, as are other forms of support such as child care subsidies. Applying for grant is a very useful experience, and if you get one, it will be good for both you and your mentor!
Per Graduate School rules, you must fill out an annual self-evaluation at the end of the academic year. We will contact you to request this form.
Travel and conference funding
A once-a-year conference travel award is available for five years to enrolled MSC PhD students ($500 annually; contact the DGSA for details). Additionally, for students who have passed their preliminary exams, additional Graduate School travel and conference funding is available. In both cases you must apply ahead of time for the funding.
Committee travel funding
Due to our remote location of Beaufort, N.C., $750 is allotted for committee member travel for each student’s preliminary and defense exams.
'PhDeep': Demystifying PhD Life at Duke
In the PhDeep series of the Seas the Day podcast, we hope to inform and inspire audiences as we talk to doctoral students about their experiences raising families, doing community outreach, and missing home while pursuing one of the highest achievement of their lives.
October 6, 2023 | Ecology & Conservation, Wetlands
May 25, 2023 | Economics, Policy & Governance, Oceans
August 25, 2022 | Oceans