Pharmacology Overview

The Department of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology at Duke University is consistently ranked as having one of the top pharmacology graduate programs in the nation. Its focus is to prepare qualified individuals for a career in independent research. Pharmacology is the science of drug action on biological systems. It encompasses the study of targets of drug action, the mechanisms by which drugs act, the therapeutic and toxic effects of drugs, as well as the development of new therapeutic agents. As the study of pharmacology is interdisciplinary, the graduate program in pharmacology is diverse and flexible. Graduate positions in the program are fully funded providing for payment of tuition, fees, and an annual stipend for the first two years. After the first two years, students are supported by the faculty member with whom they are doing their thesis research. The average time to completion of a Ph.D. is 5.5 years.

The Department currently has 24 primary faculty and 23 secondary faculty with primary appointments in departments such as molecular genetic and microbiology, cell biology, cardiology, medicine, and neurobiology. The collaborative and collegial atmosphere between faculty and students provides a wide diversity of research opportunities. Upon arrival and in consultation with Director of Graduate Studies, students determine laboratory rotations. Rotational research provides students with experience in a range of experimental systems. Students can then narrow down their interests; and by the end of their first year to year and a half, select a lab to do their thesis research. In the summer of their second year, students take a preliminary examination. Upon completion of the exam, a thesis committee is formed and student work full time on their thesis research. With approval of the committee, students will write a dissertation and take a final oral exam upon this dissertation.