New Students

Project Search

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Pre-Orientation Announcement

Due to concerns related to COVID-19, Project Search 2020 will be virtual. 

Should you have any questions, please contact the Office of New Student Programs at: studentorientation@duke.edu 

Learn More About Project Search 

Welcome! Here, you can learn about Project Search, the best way to get a jumpstart on your four years at Duke. pSearch is designed as an introduction to undergraduate research. Over two weeks, participants will be introduced to the discoveries at this high-powered research university and gain the basic skill set to start their own experience, all before their classmates arrive to campus! Incoming students can choose from two research tracks. In the sciences track, students will learn valuable lab techniques through the completion of a metagenomics project. In the humanities track, students will use humanistic inquiry to develop their own research projects in an area of their choosing. Whether you are curious about history, art, literature, music, economics, law, politics, global health or a different topic, you will have the chance to explore your interests by performing an independent research project.

picture of Project Search students

Day in the Life of a pSearcher:

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The alarm clock goes off at 8:00 am and you head to breakfast with the other pSearch participants. You’ll eat in the Broadhead Center, which has lots of breakfast options! After breakfast, we head to either the lab or the library.

If you are a sciences track student, you’ll head to a lab in the Biological Sciences building to work with Dr. Spana—an avid Star Wars and Harry Potter fan who also happens to be a Biology Professor at Duke. You’ll spend the morning going through a procedure to extract and purify DNA from a soil sample.

If you are a humanities track student, you’ll head to the library to work with Dr. Stern, a History Professor who has a passion for cartography. You’ll listen to a speaker discuss their research on topics ranging from economics to art history to political science or you’ll explore the depths of the library’s archives that have amazing materials covering Duke’s entire history.

p search students in lab

For lunch, each track takes a break to eat a catered lunch while listening to a professor speak about their research. The speakers come from a variety of disciplines, allowing you to explore many exciting research areas.  After a lunch break, you head back to the lab or the library to keep working! Science participants continue to purify DNA, while humanities students begin to develop their own project—they formulate a question and then work with resources in the library as well as Dr. Stern to answer this unique question.

At the end of the day, the two tracks convene for dinner. You’ll usually walk to dinner in downtown Durham to explore the local cuisine. After dinner, you’ll have a night full of activities, from board games to a water balloon fight. Finally, after staying up late to talk with your new friends, you fall into bed, satisfied with your busy day.

pSearchers will:

  • Learn basic biology lab skills through a metagenomic analysis of micro-environments around Duke campus (Sciences Track)
  • Engage with various resources available for study at Duke through visits to The Edge, the Nasher Museum of Art, the Rubenstein Rare Book Library, and more (Humanities Track)
  • Discover a wide variety of life sciences and humanities fields through daily lunch talks by research faculty, catered by different Durham restaurants
  • Explore Duke and Durham, one of America's foodiest small towns, by exploring local restaurants and visiting local sites
  • Catch the last rays of summer with a day trip to the beach and a barbeque on East Campus.
  • Connect with upperclass student mentors and develop a group of close friends before New Student Orientation week begins.

Why you should do pSearch:

students in lab

If you want to become acquainted with Duke and Durham before other students arrive,    meet Duke faculty one-on-one and get a head-start on your own research, consider applying for pSearch. We are looking for students who are interested in gaining exposure  to research, especially those who have not had formal research experience in high school. We look forward to hearing from you and cannot wait to see what you can discover in your four years at Duke.

Additionally, please know that need-based financial aid is available to participants who apply for pSearch, along with all of Duke's Pre-Orientation programs. If you have any questions, please contact the Office of New Student Programs.

Welcome to the Duke family! 

Testimonials from pSearchers: 

student with magnifying glass

“From the moment I stepped out onto Chapel Drive, Project Search gave me immediate access to a tight-knit group of mentors and friends, thus easing much of my anxiety about starting college. It also gave me a firsthand look into what real academic labs and research are like. P-Search helped guide my budding scientific passions at Duke.” - Connor King, Class of 2019

“P-Search gave me the opportunity to learn about the world-class resources at Duke and get to know the city (and food) of Durham. More importantly, P-Search gave me a community that, years later, is still like family.” - Amanda Conti, Class of 2020

2020 Program Directors

Executive Director: Alexa Putka

Humanities Track: Coming soon!

Sciences Track: Lexy Markunas

Follow pSearch on Instagram: @psearchduke

2020 Program Dates

July 31 - August 2

*All program dates are subject to change due to implications of COVID-19. Please continue to check this page and Duke University's Coronavirus Response website for the most current information.

Questions or Concerns?

If you have any questions, please contact the Office of New Student Programs at studentorientation@duke.edu or 919-684-3511