Getting Ready to the Start the First Year

Before you arrive

  • Carefully read the instructions on the Graduate School Checklist, and be sure that you complete the necessary forms by the specified deadlines.  You will find information here on many topics, including: housing and transportation, applying for a visa, and immunizations and health requirements.
  • Visa questions should be directed to Duke Visa Services.
  • Duke International House has many resources for admitted international students.
  • By June you will be assigned a faculty mentor. Email them no later than July 01 to discuss the courses you will take in the Fall.  (Your class schedule will be needed to assign you a lab TA section.)
  • Request a Duke Math computer account.  Use the following inputs when completing the application: Classification = Grad; Account Duration = 2025; Notes = Incoming graduate student.  Once your have an account, you will be able to set up your email and department webpage.  (Your email address will be your log-in name followed by
  • Send your Duke math e-mail address to the DGSA (  Be sure to check the account regularly to ensure that you do not miss any important emails from the university.

After you arrive

Come to the Front Office in Room 117:

  • (Re)introduce yourself to Laurie Triggiano (Assistant to the Director of Graduate Studies).  She will give you your office keys.
  • You will be added to Duke University payroll by our Payroll Representative. If you are a U.S. citizen, please be sure to bring your U.S. passport OR a driver's license and social security card (or a copy of it). If you are an international student, make sure you have your passport with you.
  • Stop by the office of the Director of Graduate Studies and (re)introduce yourself: she is looking forward to welcoming you to Duke.


The Fall 2020 Bootcamp for Incoming Students will run August 12-15.  The program will

  • Introduce you to the Duke math department research community and resources.
  • Outline how to finish in five years with a strong thesis and a good understanding of the various career opportunities in academia, industry and government.
  • Provide intensive mini-course review of undergraduate material that professors will assume you have good working knowledge of (with the aim of minimizing time that you will need to spending reviewing the material during the term).

The organizers will be in contact with you as the date of the bootcamp approaches.

Training week

This is the week before classes begin. In 2020 it is August 17-21.

  • The main activity is training graduate students to teach. All new graduate students are required to attend. The schedule will not be finalized until about a week before it starts; to get a rough idea of the approximate schedule, see last year's schedule at the Training for Teaching Assistants page. 
  • The Graduate School requires that international students whose first language is not English demonstrate proficiency in academic English by taking oral and written exams upon their arrival at Duke. In 2017 our students will take this exam on August 18. If, based on the results of this testing, you are required to take one or more English classes, you should take one course per semester until they have been completed.
  • All entering students are required to attend an orientation on Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) (Natural Sciences/Engineering track, during orientation week). University Ph.D. graduation requirements involve taking 6 more credit-hours of RCR courses. This is usually the Friday of training week.

Academic mentor

  • Incoming graduate students are assigned faculty Mentors.  This person will be your primary academic advisor during the first year or two of the program (until you select your PhD Thesis Supervisor).  
  • Ideally you will touch base with your mentor a few times a semester (this can be informal, stopping by their office, touching base at a department tea, or over lunch or coffee).  At the very least you need to meet with them once a semester (before registering for the following semester) to discuss your academic plans for the following term. You are responsible for remaining in touch with your mentor and scheduling these meetings.
  • Stop by your mentor’s office when you arrive and introduce yourself.

Selecting courses

  • The courses you take your first two years will lay a broad and deep foundation for your thesis work and early career research program.  In the Fall, in addition to Math 771 (Teaching College Math), incoming students enroll in three courses.   Select the "Courses" menu at the top of this page for a list of classes.   The graduate courses are the 500-, 600- and 790-level courses.  (Most of the other 700-level courses are for students outside math.  One exception is Math 771.)
  • Course recommendations by research interests.  Math 555, 601 and 631 are recommended for many students.
  • Consult with your mentor (see above) about the courses that you are thinking of taking.  Your mentor may recommend a class with a title and syllabus similar to one you have taken before.  This does not mean you should skip it. (We’ve sometimes found that the content and rigor of those previous courses are inadequate.)  Discuss this with your mentor.  
  • The 790s are special topics courses and mini-courses.  They provide the venue to cover material that is not part of the regular curriculum.  Many faculty present recent mathematical advances related to their research interests.  Others cover more specialized material that they would like their PhD students to know.  Some cover material that they are interested in for their own research.  The lectures are often attended by a mix of students, post-docs and faculty, making them a good forum to interact with the larger department community.  The mini-courses are short: just 9 lectures (4.5 week).  The required work depends on the instructor, but is typically low.   (The mini-courses do not count as part of your foundational course work - these are the semester long courses - and are usually taken in addition to, not in place of, those classes.)

Peer community

The department has four research cohorts of graduate students.  The cohorts began as a framework for peer mentoring, and have evolved to community-as-resource.  Each student listed there is willing to answer questions and provide advice/perspective on their research community - feel free to reach out to them.  You will meet many of these people at the Bootcamp.  (And let the DGS know if/when you would like to be added to a cohort.)

Your graduate program team

  • The Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) is responsible for the academic and professional development aspects of the program; the DGS Assistant (DGSA) will be  your primary resource for administrative issues related to your graduate studies.  Feel free to stop by their offices anytime (or email for an appointment).  You should check-in with the DGSA (at least) once a semester to touch base on your progress through the program and identify any administrative chores (a.k.a. forms) that require completing.

    DGS: Colleen Robles 
    Physics 023

    DGSA: Laurie Triggiano 
    Physics 117

    It is often most efficient to email both the DGS and DGSA any questions or concerns.

  • Dr. Audrey Chang is the Director of Partnerships and Professional Development.  Reach out to her when you have questions about career planning and preparation, internship opportunities, et cetera.
  • Any of the following faculty would be happy to talk with you about any teaching related issues/questions:
    Professor Clark Bray (Supervisor of First-Year Instruction)
    Professors Jack Bookman and Shira Viel (your Math 771 Instructors).
  • You will find information on computing at Duke at the "Computing" link at the top of this page.  Any issues/questions about computer/internet access/printing should be directed to the department's computer gurus (Andrew Schretter and Dr. Yu) at

Your first paycheck

Incoming first-year graduate students receive their first monthly paycheck August 30.