PhD student in Professor George Truskey's lab

PhD

Earn your doctorate in biomedical engineering at Duke

At Duke, you will develop research skills through close collaboration with world-renowned biomedical engineers, physicians and other scientists in our uniquely multidisciplinary environment.

Those considering a PhD in biomedical engineering should be 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.

Highly Ranked

trophy icon#3 biomedical engineering graduate program, U.S. News & World Report

More rankings »

Our PhD students graduate to great things:

  • About 40 percent go on to academic careers at preeminent institutions
  • About 60 percent go on to positions and leadership roles in research and development in the public and private sectors

More about graduate outcomes »

Duke BME PhD graduates looking to found companies are eligible to join our distinctive Entrepreneurial Post-Doctoral Program in BME.

Because our field is diverse and because we recruit only high-quality students, we do not have a qualifying examination

MD-PhD Degree

Duke's Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) trains highly qualified students as physician-scientists—who can earn a medical degree and a PhD in biomedical engineering.

More about MD-PhD »

Degree requirements, detailed below, include:

  • 30 units of coursework
  • 2 semesters of teaching assistant experience
  • Dissertation and defense

Application deadlines:

 

How to apply

 

Muyinatu A. Bell, PhD"Duke was a great place to learn the critical skills I needed to become a successful researcher and effective educator."

MUYINATU A. BELL, PHD '12
Assistant Professor, Johns Hopkins University
Dr. Bell's Story »

The Duke PhD in Biomedical Engineering

Duke BME provides a customized, flexible educational experience tailored to meet student needs in the broad range of subdisciplines that comprise Biomedical Engineering.

Benefits for PhD Students

  • Direct admission to a research group
  • Full funding, plus conference & travel support
  • Dedicated career development, such as our innovative PhD Plus program
  • Membership in BEPSA, our BME PhD Student Association

Degree Requirements

In the BME PhD program, a typical program of study includes advanced graduate classes in the student’s research area, cross-disciplinary courses of various levels to broaden the student’s core knowledge base, and a progression from a coursework emphasis in the first year to a deep focus on research in subsequent years.

Timeline

Milestone 

Timeline 

Preliminary Exam 

Year 2–3 

Thesis Proposal 

Typically year 4+ 

Thesis Defense 

Typically year 5-6 

Coursework

The program of coursework, including the applicability of any transfer credits, is determined by the student, their advisor, and their committee. The minimum required amount of coursework is 30 units.

The advanced math (3 units required) and life science (3 units required) courses and up to one (1) independent study class may be used toward this requirement. See Duke BME's list of potential life science and advanced math courses; however, students are not limited solely to these courses.

Ungraded seminars do not count toward the 30-unit requirement. Students are encouraged to discuss class selection with their advisor upon matriculation and frequently throughout their course of study.

Each committee meeting should include an update on progress towards coursework requirements. The student’s committee retains the power to approve the coursework or request that the student take additional courses. Note: students seeking a master’s degree en route to a PhD must satisfy the degree requirements for the master’s degree. These are not necessarily aligned with the PhD coursework requirements, and so special consideration should be taken. 

Seminars

Two semesters of BME Seminar are required. New matriculants take BME 702s (Fall only). Second-year students take BME 701s (Spring only). 

Teaching Assistantship (TA)

Two (2) semesters are required. Students typically fulfill their Teaching Assistant (TA) assignments in years 2–5. Students must sign up for the TA seminar during the semester in which they TA, and they must also complete a Pratt School of Engineering TA training session. 

Responsible conduct in research (RCR)

One (1) orientation session and 3 workshops are required. More details »


Day One Mentorship

Advising and early introduction to research and to your research community are hallmarks of the Duke BME PhD experience. We believe in mentorship from Day One!

The process of finding your research adviser begins before you are admitted. Once you apply, our faculty may contact you. We then invite the best applicants to interview. You'll meet our faculty and see their labs before a formal offer is made.

Once you are admitted, we help you assemble your Advising Team. Your team will include your research adviser, your departmental adviser, the director of graduate studies, a five-member dissertation committee, and the department chair.


Welcoming, Inclusive Community

By choosing Duke, you join an engaged, diverse and welcoming community that values and supports you. You'll notice the importance we place on faculty-doctoral student interaction. And, you'll be a member of BEPSA, our supportive BME PhD Student Association.


World-Class Research

Duke BME faculty members are engaged in a wide range of efforts to improve human health through research–from creating the world's first real-time, three-dimensional ultrasound diagnostic system to developing the first engineered blood vessels.

See a list of recent notable research by our faculty, published in selected leading journals.

Our faculty engineering researchers work closely and collaboratively with biological scientists and physicians at Duke University Medical Center. Those relationships are enhanced by our Duke-Coulter Translational Medicine Partnership and Duke MEDx programs. This breadth of expertise is reflected in all our research programs listed below. Click to find out more and read researcher biographies.


A Great Location

Our engineering campus is next to one of the nation's leading academic medical centers. Plus, the Duke campus is just miles from Research Triangle Park (RTP), home to 170 major tech companies and a global hub for biotechnology research.

Plus, you'll enjoy a mild climate, acclaimed restaurants, a thriving arts scene and an affordable cost of living. While your Duke degree can take you anywhere in the United States and beyond, many students choose to remain in the areas, which is consistently ranked among the best places to live in the U.S.

Visit Duke's website dedicated to all things Durham.


Admissions Profile

The Pratt School of Engineering requires a minimum GPA of 3.2 from an undergraduate program in order to gain admission to the BME PhD programs. A minimum TOEFL score of 90 on the Internet-based test is also required. Here are average scores of recently admitted applicants:

  • GRE Quantitiative: 165
  • GRE Verbal: 160
  • UGPA: 3.7