Third Year and Beyond

After successful completion of the Qualifying Preliminary Examination, students will engage in full-time independent research under the direction of their mentor. The Thesis Advisory Committee provides added guidance to the student and their mentor. The student is also expected to participate in scholarly activities at the department and university level and to contribute to fostering an equitable and inclusive environment that promotes scientific discourse.


Fall Semester

  • IMMUNOL 732S: Immunology Seminars
  • IMMUNOL 735: Current Topics in Immunology

Spring Semester

  • IMMUNOL 732S Immunology Seminar
  • IMMUNOL 736 Current Topics in Immunology

During the third year and beyond, students are required to take additional BIOTRAIN RCR courses and workshops

Annual Committee Meetings

Students should schedule their first committee meeting within the first year of completion of the Qualifying Preliminary Examination. Thereafter, the committee should meet at least yearly, or more frequently if required, to review the progress towards completion of the thesis work. 

We use the online Duke T3 system to track progress towards completion of the degree. The online T3 system has multiple resources that students should use, including the Instructions for Research Progress Report & Professional Development Summary. Students should upload all supporting documents on Duke T3 at least one week before the meeting.

Annual Committee Meetings typically last 1.5 hours to ensure sufficient time to discuss progress towards completion of the dissertation and the student’s professional development. At the beginning of the meeting, the student will be excused briefly and the mentor will have the opportunity to provide context to the student's progress to date. At the end of the meeting, the mentor will be excused so the student has an opportunity to discuss the mentoring relationship with the committee. The student can also meet privately with the committee chair or any committee member at any time. 

In addition to the structured feedback provided through Duke T3, the committee chair will submit an Annual Committee Meeting Report summarizing the discussions to the student, the committee members, and the DGSA. This report is specific to the Immunology Graduate Training Program.



To complete the requirements for PhD from the Immunology Graduate Training Program, the student will write a dissertation. The doctoral work will be presented as a one hour seminar that is open to the public. The seminar will be followed by a private defense of the written dissertation and oral presentation to the thesis committee. The dissertation should embody the results of significant original research and scholarly work. It is expected that the submitted work has been extensively edited and is almost ready for publication. 

The dissertation should be presented and accepted within four calendar years after admission to doctoral candidacy. The student may petition, with the thesis committee’s endorsement, to the Dean of Graduate School for an extension of up to one year. If the dissertation is not submitted and accepted by the new deadline, the student will be dropped from PhD candidacy. The student will then have to retake the Qualifying Preliminary Examination. In such cases, the time limit for submitting the dissertation will be determined by the Dean of the Graduate School and the candidate's committee. Students should contact the DGS and the DGSA immediately if they think that they will need to petition the Graduate School for an extension.

Basic requirements for preparing and defending the dissertation are as prescribed in The Graduate School’s Theses and Dissertations section of their site. Students should consult with the DGSA to ensure that the deadlines for submitting all materials to the Graduate School are met. It is the student’s responsibility to ensure that the most current guidelines are followed. Failure to do so may require the student to enroll for an additional semester, delaying the awarding of the degree.

For a useful list of graduation requirements, download the Graduation Checklist.

The Role of the Thesis Advisory Committee

The Thesis Advisory Committee evaluates the scientific quality and importance of the student’s work and to decide at what point the student will receive permission to write the dissertation. In general, adequate dissertation work should result in at least two significant bodies of work for which the student is the primary contributor. Minimally, one of these must be published or accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. In circumstances where this standard is not or cannot be met, the Thesis Advisory Committee retains the authority to approve the dissertation for defense; however, the final Committee report must include a written justification. In this circumstance, the Committee chair will share the report with the DGS, and permission to graduate will require approval of the DGS. 

Formal permission to write the thesis implies that all of the data to be included in this document have been reviewed by the Thesis Advisory Committee and met with their approval. Upon receiving official permission to write, the candidate must complete the dissertation within six months. 

The completed dissertation must be submitted to all members of the Thesis Advisory Committee at least two weeks in advance of the scheduled defense to allow time for review. If any member of the Advisory Committee finds the written dissertation unsuitable for defense, they should notify the candidate's mentor in writing at least five (5) days before the defense date.