PhD & MD/PhD

The PhD Degree

Debbie Rickard, graduate student

Through advanced coursework and intense research, the PhD program prepares students for careers in academia or industry. Our program provides a customized, flexible educational experience tailored to meet your needs in your chosen sub-discipline within BME.

Ideal candidates for a PhD in biomedical engineering are individuals interested in specialized research. We provide opportunities for students to publish with their faculty adviser, to present research at professional conferences, and to explore their field in a highly collaborative, cross-disciplinary working environment.

Graduates are prepared to pursue careers in academia, industry, or government. Through programs like PhD Plus, students learn essential skills for their professional careers. Professional interests most often are realized through research and technology development careers.

Your Advising Team includes your research adviser, another primary BME faculty member who serves as your departmental adviser, the Director of Graduate Studies, a five-member dissertation committee, and the chair of the department, will mentor you. This team helps guide your career progression from early coursework and experiences that develop breadth to the later years of research and leadership.

Our goal is to create an educational experience that takes into account your previous coursework and personal objectives. We have few prerequisites. From day one, you will work with your mentors and your research group to select classes that will best prepare you for your career. Because our field is diverse and because we recruit only high quality students, we do not have a qualifying examination.

In our program, you will progress over time from introductory graduate classes to more specialized coursework. As you learn more, your focus will gradually shift from coursework to learning important leadership and research skills as you complete your thesis research. We encourage you to review the placement for our graduates.

The MD/PhD Degree

The Medical Scientist Training Program is designed for students who are pursuing a career in the medical sciences, academic medicine, and research. Students admitted into the MD-PhD program may complete their PhD degrees in Biomedical Engineering making ample use of their experiences in the medical basic sciences in their research. You can obtain additional information at the Medical Scientist Training Program website.

Curricular Requirements

For PhD degree

  • Two semesters BME Seminar. New matriculants take BME 7025 (Fall only). Fourth-year students take BME 7015 (Spring only).
  • Life Science course (3 units)
  • Advanced Mathematic course (3 units)
  • Responsible conduct in research (12 contact hours)
  • Total coursework, including transfer credit, is determined by you and your committee. The minimum requirement of coursework is 36 units. The math and life sciences courses and up to one BME 899 class may be used toward this requirement. Ungraded seminars do not count toward this requirement.
  • Two semesters of teaching assistant experience
  • Preliminary examination - Download guidelines (PDF)

Apply to Duke BME

Learn how to apply, get tips on your application and find our feedback schedule.

BME Seminars

As a first-year student, you will participate in a first-year seminar series that introduces you to the breadth of research in the field of Biomedical Engineering. The lead seminar is an orientation to our BME program. Subsequent seminars cover each of the areas of concentration in the Department to give insight into the activities of colleagues and future collaborators. Seminars are lead by faculty and graduate students and vary in depth and breadth to introduce you to new fields of study, to illustrate the content of scientific presentations, and to give you a chance to meet potential interdisciplinary collaborators.

Life Sciences Requirement

To help integrate biology into your engineering experience, we require that you take at least one life science course. You will work with your advisor and your committee to select the course that is most relevant to your career goals. Courses are typically selected from anatomy and physiology, cell and molecular biology, or biophysical chemistry. View courses.

Advanced Mathematics Requirement

You will learn the techniques of advanced mathematics for analysis and manipulation of data and the development and solution of mathematical models by taking an advanced mathematics course. The type of mathematics class you take depends upon your background and BME sub-discipline. Some students take statistical methods, numerical methods, or advanced analytical methods courses. You, your advisors and your committee will determine which classes are best for you. View courses.

Teaching Assistantships

We require that all doctoral students complete a total of two semesters of service as teaching assistants. Master's degree students are not required to serve as TA's but may be eligible after demonstrating a high level of performance in their coursework. For the doctoral students, we require you to complete a total of two semesters of TAing.

The TA experience is an important way to learn if you want to become a teaching faculty member. It also helps you learn leadership and management skills. At the same time, it helps solidify important core BME concepts and gives you an opportunity to work with other students and faculty members.