Getting Ready to the Start the First Year

Before you arrive

  • North Carolina Law requires that show proof of vaccination. The rules and necessary forms are here.
  • International students are provided with the necessary papers to obtain a visa before the beginning of the academic year. For more information, see Duke Visa Services or Duke International House.
  • International students will also need to register for the English Proficiency Exams given during Orientation Week. More information.
  • In June you will be assigned a mentor. Communicate with them by July 1 to decide on what you will take. The information is needed to be able to assign you a lab TA section.
  • The off campus housing web site or can help you find housing. Many students live somewhere near Duke's East Campus (e.g., Trinity Park, Trinity Heights, Walltown, Old West Durham, Burch Avenue, etc.)

Things to do after you arrive

Come to the Front Office in Room 117 to take care of

  • (Re)introduce yourself to Laurie Triggiano (Assistant to the Director of Graduate Studies).  She will give you yor 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.
  • You will need to fill out the Duke Mathematics Department computer account page, in order to set up your Duke Mathematics email and webpage. You need to set up a Duke Mathematics Department computer account in order for us to list you in the grad student section of the Duke Mathematics website. Please be aware that your login name followed by "" will also serve as your email address.
  • Each of you will need to get a Duke Card to confirm your identity, allow access to facilities and services, and facilitate dining and purchases.
  • If you want to park your car on campus, most likely at a lot on East Campus, you need to get a parking permit. Once you have your Duke NetId you can apply online.

Stop by the office of the Director of Graduate Studies and (re)-introduce yourself: she is looking forward to welcoming you to Duke.

Training Week

This is the week before classes begin. In 2019 it is August 19-25.

  • The main event 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.

Your first paycheck

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

Academic mentor

  • Incoming graduate students are assigned faculty Mentors.  This person will be your primary academic advisor during the first two years 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, 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 your take your first two years will lay a broad and deep foundation for your thesis work.  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 pages 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 strongly recommended for most 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.  If you wish to skip the course: schedule a time to stop by the instructors office for a short 30-60 minute oral exam on the course.  If you pass, ask them to write a short email to that effect to Laurie (; she will add a waiver to your file.
  • 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.)

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
  • Laurie also handles payroll.
  • Kristen Gerondelis (Physics 117) is the Department Program Coordinator: if you need any assistance with an issue not directly related to the graduate program (eg. problem with your office, where to find chalk, et cetera) she will either be able to handle the issue (most likely) or direct you to the person best able to help.
  • 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 (Dr. Schretter and Dr. Yu) at
  • 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)
    Professor Tori Akin, Dr. Brian Fitzpatrick (your Math 771 Instructors).