How to Apply

Ph.D. Application Process

Duke's Biology Graduate program ranks among the very top in the country.

We admit students for the fall semester only, and our goal is provide a collegial, intimate, and intellectually vibrant learning environment. Your GPA, GRE scores, faculty recommendations and personal statement are viewed and assessed by several professors in our department, including persons knowledgeable in your area of interest.

Each year we matriculate ten to twelve new candidates to our doctoral program. You can apply to our Ph.D. program through the Duke Graduate School. See the Graduate School websites for procedures and deadlines.

Application Instructions Tips

To ensure that your application gets noticed by a suitable advisor, we strongly recommend that prospective applicants reach out to potential mentors and advisors prior to submitting applications to discuss possible research ideas. That’s as easy as emailing them. If you are interested in one or more research labs in Duke Biology for your graduate studies, please clearly indicate this in your application and statement of purpose. This helps us to ensure that your application will get reviewed by everyone you might be interested in working with.

Before applying to Biology, please be sure it is the department of the labs you are interested in. Some labs related to Biology are actually in a different department, e.g., Neurobiology. For example, if you are interested in Dr. Jane Doe’s lab, but she is in Duke’s Department of Neurobiology, and you apply to Duke Biology, your application will get misdirected. If in doubt, please communicate with us directly first:

Applicants to the Duke Biology Ph.D. program will be evaluated on the basis of the following information provided in your application:

      * Your undergraduate grade point average

      * Your Statement of Purpose

      * Your research experience

      * Your letters of recommendation

       * The match of your research interests to the expertise of faculty in the department

  • Application Fee

The Graduate School provides a limited number of application fee waivers for the purpose of promoting a diverse applicant pool.  All fee waiver requests are reviewed by the Assistant Dean for Graduate Student Development in the Office of Graduate Student Affairs.  Please contact Dean Alan Kendrick ( for instructions when applying.

In addition, all U.S. applicants from under-represented groups and anyone with a demonstrated financial need for whom the application fee would present a financial burden are encouraged to contact the Co-Director of Graduate Studies, William Morris (  The Biology Department will hep defray the cost of the application fee.

  • GPA

The Duke Graduate School requires that you submit your undergraduate grade point average (UGPA) with your application. Duke does not have a cut-off point for UGPA when considering applicants, and neither does the Biology Graduate Admissions Committee. Every application gets reviewed in a holistic way in which all parts of the application package are considered in making a decision.

  • GRE

Both the general GRE and the GRE Biology subject test are optional for applicants to the Duke Biology Ph.D. program.  Not having taken these tests will in no way disadvantage your application.

Duke Graduate School GRE Requirements


Please include information about your previous research experience, work ethic and perseverance toward goals, your preparedness and motivation for graduate study, your academic plans, and future career aspirations. In your statement, be sure to mention which faculty members you are interested in working with, as common interests are considered.

We recognize that every application is more than just the sum of quantitative measures like GRE scores and GPAs, and the Biology Graduate Admissions Committee aims to implement a holistic review process that takes into account not only your academic credentials, but the student as a whole. You are encouraged to include examples of educational, cultural, or other life opportunities or challenges you have experienced, and how these are likely to contribute to your overall success in our graduate program and beyond. 


Applications are due 1 December. The Biology Graduate Admissions Committee will contact those applicants who qualify for on-site interviews (applicants already in the US) or Skype-interviews (international applicants) by mid-January. Interviews are usually scheduled for February, and final decisions are made in March.


We also encourage you to review our Frequently Asked Questions page to review the average academic profile of our students with respect to GPA, GRE and TOEFL scores.  Doctoral student applications are reviewed by our Graduate Admissions Committee (GAC) in early February. We invite select candidates to visit the Duke campus for one of two planned weekends in February to meet our faculty and graduate students.  After the interview weekends, our faculty and the Graduate Admissions Committee (GAC) will confer and will then begin to offer admission to those deemed best suited to our program.