Rachel Carson Scholars Program (Duke undergraduates)

The Opportunity
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.

Each fall, DUML will select Rachel Carson Scholars for the upcoming academic year. Frehsmen, sophomores, and juniors are eligible to apply. To see a list of current Rachel Carson Scholars, please click here.

The Durham Experience
Newly selected Rachel Carson Scholars will meet bi-weekly in Durham in November and December of their first fall semester as scholars. These meetings will provide scholars with the opportunity to learn about the marine research at DUML and to begin to develop their research plans. The program will host a “meet and great” event with DUML faculty to give scholars the chance to develop relationships with potential research mentors. Scholars will also receive training on the scientific method and how to conduct scientific research. This phase of the program will be important for new scholars for cohort-building and will allow students with common interests to form lasting connections at an early stage in their undergraduate experience.

The Marine Lab Experience
The DUML 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.

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 and Graduation with Distinction
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.

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.

Application Process 
The application process includes submitting a one-page (12-pt font, 1-inch margins) statement describing how the student will benefit from the Rachel Carson Scholars Program and how this program will help them reach their academic and career goals. The application statement should include research ideas or preferences of DUML faculty with whom to carry out research. It is beneficial to reach out to faculty who you are interested in working with prior to wiriting your application statement. Each applicant is also required to submit a one-page resume.

All application materials should be emailed to the Rachel Carson Scholars Program Director, Dr. Meagan Dunphy-Daly (meagan.dunphy-daly@duke.edu) by the deadline. Applications with statements or resumes exceeding the one page length limit will not be considered. Semi-finalists will be selected from the pool of applicants for interviews with the Program Director. Scholars will be announced in late November.

Applications for the 2018/2019 academic year will be accepted through Friday, October 19, 2018. 

Sample timeline for Rachel Carson Scholars accepted in their sophomore year:
October of sophomore fall: apply
November-December of sophomore fall (continue into sophomore spring): cohort-building in Durham, visits from and contact with DUML faculty, seminars on the scientific method and how to conduct research
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

For additional information, please contact Program Director, Dr. Meagan Dunphy-Daly (meagan.dunphy-daly@duke.edu).