Register for Short Courses in the 2019 Duke Doctoral Academy

Duke Doctoral Academy 2019.

Together Duke is pleased to announce the 2019 Duke Doctoral Academy (DDA), which offers week-long short courses that introduce doctoral students to skills, tools, and knowledge that augment their regular coursework/research. These short courses help emerging scholars prepare for high-level research, innovative teaching, leadership, and/or public engagement.

Courses in the Duke Doctoral Academy cover topics not typically included in a doctoral curriculum, or that provide an intensive introduction for doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows who might not have the time or inclination to pursue a full course in a subject. Instructors are Duke faculty members as well as highly trained Duke staff members.

The Doctoral Academy welcomes all doctoral students at any stage of their studies and all postdoctoral fellows. There are no prerequisites for any of the courses.

Course Details

Each course meets for three hours a day for five consecutive days. Space permitting, participants may choose up to two courses.

Courses are not for credit, but will appear on Duke doctoral student transcripts. None of the offerings require prerequisites or assume areas of knowledge. Instructors will emphasize interactive discussion and group activities/projects to maintain a high level of student engagement.

Program dates for the 2019 Doctoral Academy are:

  • Monday, May 20 – Friday, May 24, 2019
  • Tuesday, May 28 – Saturday, June 1, 2019

Morning sessions run from 8:30 – 11:30 a.m.
Afternoon sessions run from 1:30 – 4:30 p.m.

A complete list of this year’s courses is available here, along with brief a description of each course. Or, click on the graphic below and access the course descriptions for each course separately.

Duke Doctoral Academy 2019 courses.


Duke Students: Courses will be offered to Duke doctoral students and Duke postdoctoral fellows at no charge.

Non-Duke Students: Non-Duke students and Non-Duke postdoctoral fellows will be charged at the following rates:

  • One course: $500
  • Two courses: $750
  • Cancellation fee: $100

A cancellation fee of $100 will be charged if the request is received on or before 11:59 p.m. on April 30, 2019. If the request to cancel is received after 11:59 p.m. on April 30, no refunds will be provided.

Location and Parking

All Doctoral Academy classes meet on Duke’s campus. Most classes meet at the Fuqua School of Business; a few classes meet elsewhere on campus. Individual class locations are noted on the course list here.

Parking permits are available at an additional cost of $40 per week.


Duke Doctoral Students and Postdoctoral Fellows: Registration begins on January 28, 2019 and closes at 11:59 p.m. on May 5, 2019.

Non-Duke Doctoral Students and Postdoctoral Fellows: Registration begins March 11, 2019 and closes at 11:59 p.m. on May 5, 2019.

Participation, Eligibility, and Enrollment

We will initially open the program to Duke doctoral students, Duke law and medical students, and postdocs, with slots filled on a first-come, first-served basis. After the initial registration period, the courses will be opened on a space-available basis to doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows at other universities. Non-Duke doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows must provide a website address/URL showing institutional affiliation.

All participants will receive a course certificate upon completion. Course participation will also appear on Duke doctoral students’ transcripts. We will not provide transcripts for non-Duke students.

Most classes will enroll about 30 students, although some classes may be smaller or larger. Classes with fewer than 8 enrolled students will be canceled.

Group Events

We will hold a social event each week to encourage participants to broaden their peer networks across disciplinary and school lines. In addition, we are offering the following lunchtime (11:45 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.) workshops during the Doctoral Academy, to highlight resources available to doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows at Duke. All workshops will be held in the Fuqua School of Business, Jenkins Room A&B, with one exception, noted below.

Contacts and Additional Information

For questions regarding the Duke Doctoral Academy please contact Carolyn Mackman at

See answers to frequently asked questions. Reflections from past participants are available here, here, and here.

Photo courtesy of Versatile Humanists at Duke (Nora Nunn, center, discusses “wicked problems” in higher ed with her team)

The Value of Time Away from the Bench

Rossie Clark-Cotton

By Rossie Clark-Cotton, Fifth-year Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Cell Biology, Duke University

I love graduate school. I use genetics and cell biology to study the mechanisms by which cells change their shape in response to chemical cues. In any given day, I might delete a gene to learn more about its function, make time-lapse movies of growing cells, analyze patterns of protein localization, teach a new technique to an undergraduate student, discuss a paper with my advisor, or summarize data into a presentation for a departmental seminar. It’s slow and detailed work, but it’s also a good fit for my personality.

It’s also extremely hard. There are many reasons for this, but I want to highlight two. First, graduate students in the biomedical sciences encounter lots and lots of failure. Biological systems are notoriously variable, and so some experiments never work consistently. Those that do work must be repeated several times before we can be confident of a result. And, of course, sometimes we discover, after lots of time at the bench, that our hypothesis was incorrect. That’s a useful outcome, but it rarely leads to a publication, which we all need to graduate. Complicating this further, during our first few years in graduate school, most of us are surrounded by people whose skills are far more advanced than our own – experienced lab technicians, senior graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and, of course, our own advisors. The fitful nature of progress in science, coupled with our junior status, can shatter our self-confidence and lead us to wonder if getting a Ph.D. was really a good idea after all. And the slow pace of the work (and often, the example of our mentors and lab mates) can lead us to feel that we need to be constantly at the bench.

Last spring, I found an opportunity that sounded interesting: spend three hours a day learning about a new topic for one or two weeks over the summer through Duke’s new Summer Doctoral Academy initiative. I’d long been curious about science policy, and I thought that understanding how policymakers make decisions about science (including funding) might be valuable, especially if I stay in academia. I’d considered taking a class, but I was hesitant to commit to an entire semester-long course outside my specific discipline. I thought a Doctoral Academy class might be a low-risk way to try out something new: it would meet for only three hours a day, which would leave me plenty of time in the lab. Importantly, my advisor supports my exploring topics that I find interesting or otherwise valuable, even if they aren’t directly related to my thesis research. So I signed up for two classes – “Science Policy” during the first week and “Effective Presentations” during the second.

The courses themselves were great: I got a solid introduction to each topic, insight into resources at Duke if I want to explore anything more deeply, and a larger professional and social network (including both course instructors and other graduate students). But the best value was one I could not have predicted: the Doctoral Academy allowed me, for a few hours, to step away from the bench and its demands to see how much I’ve developed intellectually as a graduate student. I was gratified to recognize those nebulous-sounding “transferable skills” in critical thinking, problem-solving, and effective communication in my class participation. My focus on my dissertation research had made it impossible for me to notice how much I had gained. For perhaps the first time, I began to see the value of the Ph.D. outside of the very narrow contribution that I hope to make to the scientific literature.

Far from being a distraction from my work, my experience with the Doctoral Academy has clarified the value of graduate school and increased my enthusiasm for it. I would encourage any Ph.D. student who is curious about a course to participate. You will certainly learn something about a new topic, but you might also, like me, learn something new about yourself.