About the Program

The Rachel Carson Scholars Program provides Duke University undergraduate students with direct research experience in marine science and conservation. Named in honor of Rachel Carson—a marine biologist, author, and conservationist whose work advanced the global environmental movement—scholars will acquire the necessary skills to be the next generation of marine conservation leaders.

Scholars are trained through small seminar experiences, experiential learning, enhanced faculty-student mentorship, scientific research, and professional development. All scholars spend at least one semester at the Duke University Marine Laboratory (DUML) and have funding available for research, travel to professional conferences, and DUML travel courses. In addition to the training that they receive, a community of scholars will be developed both within each cohort of scholars and among alumni of the program.

Program Components

Marine Lab Research

The Duke University Marine Lab part of the program involves two components: course work and directed research with a faculty mentor.

  • Scholars will enroll in courses based on their specific interests; these courses will provide depth of knowledge and experience in a specific area of marine science and conservation.
  • Scholars will be expected to be an active part of their faculty mentor's lab group. Scholars will carry out scientific research at DUML as a research independent study with their faculty mentor. We expect that each project will culminate with an honors thesis and ultimately result in a publication.

Scholars will spend at least one semester at DUML campus, although we encourage scholars to spend as much time as they would like at DUML campus.

Funding Opportunities

Rachel Carson Scholars will be eligible to apply for:

  • Research funding (up to $2,500)
  • Conference funding to participate in a professional scientific meeting (up to $1,500)
  • Travel course funding (up to $1,500; funds can be used for research funding if not used for travel course)

Professional Development

During the fall semester of their senior year back in Durham, Rachel Carson Scholars will meet bi-weekly as a cohort for seminars, professional development workshops, and networking events. Scholars will benefit from workshops on writing skills, science communication, graduate education, and career opportunities. Senior scholars will also be involved with mentoring the new class of scholars in Durham to prepare them for their Rachel Carson Scholar Program experience and research at DUML.

Graduation with Distinction

In the spring semester of their senior year in Durham, scholars will write up their research projects as an honors thesis for Graduation with Distinction. The ultimate goal is for publication of their research results in a peer-reviewed journal. Scholars will participate in writing workshops during the semester and will also share their research results by presenting to other scholars.

Participation Timeline

Sample timeline for Rachel Carson Scholars accepted in their sophomore year:

  • October of sophomore fall: apply
  • Sophomore spring or later: courses and research at the marine lab (at least one semester of research)
  • Senior fall: professional development in Durham (CVs, networking, graduate school, etc.)
  • Senior spring: write honors thesis for Graduation with Distinction