Program Requirements

The Duke Graduate School Website is a good source of information for requirements, formation of committees, thesis preparation and responsible conduct of research training (required). From their home site, you can navigate to information for current students and then to academic regulations to find the requirements for a Ph.D.

RECOMMENDED ELECTIVES for PHARM include MOLCAN 761, 762 & 763 – Cellular Signaling Modules, PHARM 710 – Grant Writing, CMB 551 – Cell and Molecular Biology Modules, PATH 725 – Pathology. The Department of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology requires that Pharmacology and Molecular Cancer Biology students have a minimum of 30 graded units to obtain a degree.

PHARM Course Requirements
PHARM 780 – Seminar – 4 Semesters
PHARM 533 – Essentials of Pharmacology/Toxicology
PHARM 835 – Innovations in Drug Development
PHARM 733 – Experimental Design and Biostatistics for Basic Biomedical Scientists (Note that this required course does not have to be taken before the preliminary exam).

MSTP/PHARM Course Requirements
Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) students joining the PHARM program are expected to complete the following courses prior to their Prelim exam:
PHARM 780 – Seminar – 2 Semesters
PHARM 835 – Innovations in Drug Development
PHARM 733 – Experimental Design and Biostatistics for Basic Biomedical Scientists (Note that this required course does not have to be taken before the preliminary exam).

CMB/DSCB/PHARM Course Requirements
Cellular and Molecular Biology (CMB), Developmental and Stem Cell Biology (DSCB) and other non-degree granting programs students joining the PHARM program are expected to complete the following courses prior to their Prelim exam:
PHARM 780 – Seminar – 2 Semesters
PHARM 533 – Essentials of Pharmacology/Toxicology
PHARM 835 – Innovations in Drug Development
PHARM 733 – Experimental Design and Biostatistics for Basic Biomedical Scientists (Note that this required course does not have to be taken before the preliminary exam).

** For a full list of departmental courses, please refer to the Office of Biomedical Graduate Education website.

Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) Training Requirement (18 hours total)
Additional details can be found here.

Basic Medical Science Track (18 hours total)
RCR Orientation – Grandover Resort, Greensboro (12 hours)
Graduate School or departmental RCR Forums (2 hours)
School of Medicine, 4-hour course, Year 3-4 (4 hours)

Laboratory Research
Students complete 3 rotations with different faculty members to select an advisor. These rotations serve to:

  1. 1. identify potential mentors
  2. 2. offer exposure to research experience outside the student’s intended area of study
  3. 3. provide initial faculty evaluation of students’ research competence

Once the rotations are completed, students select an advisor with whom they will work on a thesis project. Thesis research is guided by the advisor and Thesis Committee.

Preliminary Exam
The preliminary exam is usually taken in the months of May and June of the second year, but must be successfully completed by the end of the third year. Successful completion of this exam is required to formally accept a student as a candidate for a Ph.D. degree. This exam is presided over by a committee comprised of two members from the standing Oral Prelim Exam Committee and two faculty members who will follow the student through their work and preside on their thesis exam committee (see Formation of the Thesis Committee below). For information on the preliminary exam format and timetable, please review the “Preliminary Examination Guidelines” found under Graduate Programs Forms.

Formation of the Thesis Committee
Within six (6) months of completing the prelim exam, students must form their Thesis Committee.
Thesis Committee Chair: The chair of the thesis committee must be a primary faculty member in Pharmacology and Cancer Biology (PCB) and may not be the student’s thesis advisor.
Thesis Committee Composition: You should have at least four (five preferred) graduate faculty members on your thesis committee. A committee must have a majority of members from the student’s major research area. At least two members of the committee, including the chair, must have primary or secondary faculty appointments in the department or program in which the degree is sought. You can search the Duke Graduate Faculty list here.

Thesis Requirements
The Advisor in conjunction with the Thesis Committee will determine when the student is ready to write their thesis dissertation. The declaration of intention presents the title of the thesis or specifies alternative academic exercises on which the degree candidate will be examined. The declaration must have the approval of both the Director of Graduate Studies in the major department and the student’s advisory committee. More information on dissertation submission requirements and deadlines can be found on the Duke University Graduate School website,