Master's Project: Adding Pollinator Habitat to Solar Farms
From Minnesota to Maryland, solar developers and farmers are seeing the agricultural and financial benefits of developing solar farms that use pollinator-friendly vegetation. Olivia Eskew (MEM’18) focused on creating a guide to assist the solar industry with developing these habits.
Master's Project: Helping Kids With Asthma Breathe Easier
Gina Daniel’s Master’s Project studied the effects of a high-efficiency indoor air filtration on peak expiratory flow (PEF) with asthmatic children in Shanghai.
Master's Project: San Francisco 2030 District
Eleanor collected and analyzed data on urban energy use for the San Francisco 2030 District. Her findings could help the district reach its 50% reduction goal. They also helped her land a post-graduation job as a program manager for the district.
Types of Master's Projects
The majority of MP topics originate from external partners, faculty, or a combination thereof. In some cases, students seeking an original or applied research experience may develop their own ideas.
All MPs require a workload equivalent to that of 1.5 – 2 classes (i.e., 4-6 credit hours). Depending on the program area, students may choose to participate in one of the following MP approaches:
- Two-semester (2S) project
- Three-semester (3S) project
The 2S MP is a nine-month multidisciplinary collaboration between an external partner, a small team (2-5) of master’s students, and a faculty advisor. Partnering organizations may be private-sector corporations, government agencies, or non-profits, and may be based in the local community, across the country, or even abroad. A final 2S project might result in the formation of management plans, educational curricula, policy analyses, business plans, or other similar deliverables. These projects are mutually beneficial, with our students achieving additional professional growth by collaborating with a real-world organization, and the organization receiving tangible research benefits at no cost.
These projects begin in the first week of the second semester. In collaboration with partnering organizations, faculty and staff assemble a suite of projects available to students shortly before the start of fall semester. Students select their top three choices during the first week of fall classes. Shortly thereafter, students are assigned a project and faulty advisor, who will support the students in completing the project.
Interested in proposing a project for your organization? Project proposals are accepted on a rolling bases through June and are available to students at the start of fall semester. Students groups begin project work in early September.
The 3S MP is intended for students seeking an original or applied research experience. These projects may be individual, but groups are strongly encouraged. During their first year of study, students may propose a topic to a faculty member or apply to a faculty-generated research project, which are typically carved from ongoing faculty research and occasionally involve an external partner. Students wishing to pursue additional schooling or research-based employment after their MEM or MF degree may benefit from this type of MP by receiving tangible research experience.
Project work begins in the second semester and culminates in the students’ final semester. Summer work is expected. Students pursuing a 3S MP are encouraged to connect with a possible faculty advisor in their first semester. At the start of the second semester, students identify an MP advisor and submit a project proposal, which is reviewed by department faculty. Once a proposal is approved, students work with their faculty advisor to draft a scope of work.
For Current Students
MP Process & Timeline
Although the timing of different steps may vary slightly by program areas, the following explains the major steps in formulating, executing, and completing a master's project.
A. Identification of a project advisor (3S MP students only)
Students pursuing a 3S MP are encouraged to begin to develop an original project idea and connect with a potential faculty advisor. MP advisors will have a Duke faculty appointment (Lecturers, Assistant, Associate or Full Professors, Professors of the Practice, Adjunct Professors, or Visiting Professors), and can also be Duke faculty outside of the Nicholas School.
B. Publishing of faculty-generated (3S MP projects only)
A menu of faculty-generated 3S MP topics will be available online to students pursuing a 3S MP at the start of the Spring semester of their first year. Interested students are expected to reach out to the faculty advisor.
C. Submission of project proposal (3S MP students only)
Once students pursuing a 3S MP have identified an MP advisor, students must submit a project proposal, which is reviewed and approved by department faculty.
Students pursuing a 3S MP are expected to conduct project work over the summer. Students are expected to maintain communication with their MP advisor during the during the summer. Research or other commitments may cause faculty members to be away from campus during the summer. Students are expected to make arrangements with their advisor for this beforehand.
D. Publishing of 2S MP topics
A menu of external partner-based group MP topics will be available online to students pursuing a 2S MP before the start of the fall semester of their second year. Students will have two weeks to rank their preferences via an online form.
E. Project team assignments (2S MP students only)
Students will be assigned to group MPs by a committee of program chairs and administrative staff. Project teams are assigned based on a combination of student interests, experience, and skillsets.Students are not guaranteed their first choice of project, but very often are matched with one of their top priorities. Students expected to meet with their project team and advisor and begin work immediately.
F. Work plan submission (2S MP students only)
Once assigned, student groups begin drafting a scope of work and developing a project plan for their MP. 2S MP work plans are due to project advisors approximately one month after MP assignments are made. The format of the MP work plan may be found here. Groups will submit one single report together.
G. Presentation of status report
During the first month of the fall semester, students pursuing a 3S MP are expected to provide a brief project status presentation during program area seminar. In the weeks leading up to final exams for the fall semester, students pursuing a 2S MP are expected to provide a brief project status presentation during program area seminar.
I. Submission of Final Report (Draft)
A complete draft of the final report must be submitted to the advisor by the beginning of the 7th week of their final semester. Students should keep in mind that advisors typically need 10-14 days to edit each draft and revisions may take longer than expected. Thus, students must observe submission deadlines to ensure on-time graduation. Guidelines for preparation of the Final Report are described online here.
J. Submission of Final Report (Revised Draft)
A revised draft incorporating the advisor’s comments is due to the student’s advisor by the beginning of the 10th week of the semester. Within 10 days, students will receive approval from their advisor to present their project in the upcoming MP symposium and graduate on time. Note: the standard for such approval is (a) no need for additional collection of raw data, (b) no need for major re-analysis, and (c) the advisor is confident the student can accomplish any additional analysis and re-writing successfully before the final deadline at the end of the semester. The purpose of this standard is to avoid last-minute discovery that the MP is not adequate for graduation.
K. Presentation of Final Project
Each student will present his/her MP individually or with his/her group in an oral presentation during the winter or spring MP symposium. These presentations are of professional and defensible quality, and are live-streamed and open to the public. Programs may hold formal or informal practice sessions to help students prepare their presentations. During the symposium, presentations are evaluated by advisors and other faculty. Satisfactory evaluation is necessary to receive a passing grade for the MP seminar (ENVIRON 898.xx). 10-line abstracts should be submitted at least 2 weeks in advance of the first day of the MP Symposium.
L. Submission of Final Report
Students will submit their final report in four steps, all by the Friday of reading week:
- By scanning the Final Report through iThenticate, to check for plagiarism (directions found here);
- By submitting a copy of the executive summary signed by the advisor, to Student Services via Duke Box here;
- By uploading the final product to DukeSpace (directions found here); and
- By sending the Final Report to the advisor.
If the research is to be submitted to a journal for publication, students are expected to follow the guidelines of the particular journal concerning style and format of the manuscript, which may differ from NSOE’s requirements.
Exceptions to Traditional Timeline
Concurrent and Non-Traditional Degree Students
Concurrent degree students, or other students who are not following the usual 4-semester sequence, are on slightly modified schedules. December graduates who want to participate in group MPs with other students graduating in May will need to follow the deadlines for a May graduation. MEM/MBA students have different MP requirements entirely, which can be found here. All concurrent students should pay close attention to their specific timeline, since sometimes they will be required to submit deliverables during a semester when they are taking all or part of their courses in another school. These students should verify with their advisor and/or program chair their specific deadlines.
Delayed Master's Project Completion
All work, including MPs, must be completed within 5 years of matriculation. This includes successfully presenting their master's projects in the April or December MP symposium and submitting approved copies of all the above deliverables in order to graduate. During each academic semester until all of these requirements are satisfied, students must be registered either for course credits or for continuation/completion. They must pay either flat-rate tuition (if minimum semesters of tuition have not yet been paid), per-credit tuition (if minimum semesters of flat-rate tuition have been met), or the continuation/completion fee for every academic semester (fall or spring) until all requirements for graduation are satisfied.