Advising and Mentoring

Mentorship and early introduction to research and your research community are key hallmarks of the Duke University graduate engineering experience.

The process of finding the best fit between you and your research adviser begins even before you are admitted. Once you apply, faculty who are interested in you may contact you. We then invite the best applicants to interview with Duke MEMS and a group of our research advisers that have identified you as a potential graduate student. You meet them and see their labs before a formal offer of acceptance into the program is made. Because we recruit talented, focused, high-impact students, we have found that most new students have chosen the right adviser and earn their degree with that adviser.

Sometimes, after learning more about Duke MEMS for a year, students may want to switch advisers. In those rare situations, the Director of Graduate Studies will work with you to secure a new research adviser and funding. Some students want to 'look around' before picking a research laboratory. If you are one those students, the Director of Graduate Studies will be your adviser while you find a research area.

As a new student you will meet the Director of Graduate Studies, who acts as your advocate, during orientation week. That same first week, you will meet with your research adviser and together you will pick out your classes and begin the long conversation that will lead to your degree. During the first semester, as you get settled in, you and your research adviser will identify your departmental adviser. Your departmental adviser will be on your Dissertation committee and will meet with you during the fall and spring to review and help you assess your progress toward your degree.

Over the years, our students have found that this system enables a smooth transition from undergraduate life to Duke graduate life, and the world of research. Our day one matching of students with research advisers and our mentorship program helps to keep the time to Ph.D. at an average of 4.5 to 5 years.

The M.S. and Ph.D. Supervisory Committee

During the second year of enrollment, once you know more about Duke MEMS and your research interests, you will complete the composition of your committee. This committee will be made of faculty that you and your adviser pick. You will pick a committee of faculty who can be the most help to you in your research, in assessing your progress, in selecting classes, and many other aspects of your graduate experience.

Masters students choose a committee with three members: at least two from MEMS. Ph.D. students choose a committee of at least five members; at least three from MEMS. Your committee is a very important resource for you. They have authority over your program, including the number and selection of courses. The committee also conducts the preliminary exam and the dissertation exam. The composition of the committee can be changed as necessary with permission of the DGS.