The Decision Sciences PhD curriculum requires a course of study that is designed to fit your research area. You’ll be expected to take all PhD courses offered in the Decision Sciences Academic Area as well as additional courses, identified for you specifically, that span decision theory, operations research, optimization and probability.

Course Requirements

Course schedule is designed based on each student’s academic background, needs, and interests. Students are required to take three PhD courses per semester during the Fall and Spring semesters in their first two years of PhD studies. The sequence of these courses will be tailored to each student’s personal program of study.

Students are expected to take all PhD courses offered in the Decision Sciences Academic Area as well as additional courses that span decision theory, operations research, optimization and probability. Academic Area courses currently include Bayesian Inference and Decision, Convex Optimization, Dynamic Programming and Optimal Control, and Stochastic Models. In addition, students are encouraged to choose electives that match their specific research interests from a wide range of courses offered by other academic areas at Fuqua, as well as at other departments of Duke University, such as the Departments of Computer Science, Economics, Mathematics, and Statistics. Faculty mentors will assist students in identifying appropriate courses.

First and second-year papers

Summer terms after the first and second year of PhD studies are devoted to writing original papers. For the first-year paper, which could be literature review or original research, the student should find a Decision Sciences faculty mentor by the end of the Spring semester of their first year. The paper is due by the end of the first year of the PhD studies, i.e., before the first day of the Fall semester of the student’s second year, and needs approval by the faculty mentor. The student needs to find a Decision Sciences faculty mentor for the second-year paper by the start of Spring semester of their second year. This original research paper is due by the end of the second year of the PhD studies, i.e., before the first day of the Fall semester of the student’s third year.

Qualifying exam

Students are required to present the first-year paper in the Decision Sciences seminar during the Fall semester of the second year. The Decision Sciences Ph.D. Program Progress Committee will examine the first-year paper, the student’s statement, grades, and feedback from the student’s first-year paper faculty mentor, and other faculty who have had the student in class and/or have had the student as a research or teaching assistant.

Research and teaching assistantships

A critical part of the program is forming professional relationships with faculty members and learning about the research and teaching processes. All students are expected to help faculty with research and teaching as needed. Assignments are made by the PhD program coordinator in consultation with DS faculty. (General program requirement is 10 hours per week for students in years two through five, and 4 hours per week during year one. Hours worked above these amounts generally qualify for hourly compensation at pre-specified rates established by Fuqua.)

Preliminary Examination

The preliminary examination in the Decision Sciences PhD program takes place during the Fall semester of the student’s third year. The student is required to present an original research paper, typically a revision and improvement of the second-year paper. The Preliminary Examination Committee will offer comments on the quality of the work as well as the potential of the presented research. In addition, the committee will review the student’s second-year course grades, paying particular attention to essential courses in operations and assess the student’s overall performance in the doctoral program, taking all of this information into account when determining whether the student passes the preliminary examination.

Dissertation Proposal

The student should form a dissertation committee no later than the Fall semester of their fourth year, with the proposal occurring in the Spring semester of the fourth year. Students have until the end of the summer of the fourth year to complete this requirement per graduate school requirements.

Dissertation Defense

The dissertation will be a natural outgrowth of student’s research throughout the PhD program. The dissertation defense (also known as the “final examination”) will be conducted by the end of the fifth year of the student’s PhD studies. At this final milestone, it is assessed whether the student has shown sufficient mastery of methodology and research to submit their dissertation and be granted a PhD from Duke University.

Sample Program Schedule

Year 1

Fall

Spring

Summer

Coursework (3 courses)

Research Exploration

Coursework (3 courses)

Research Exploration

Research
  • First-Year Paper

 

Year 2

Fall

Spring

Summer

Coursework (3 courses)

Research Exploration

Teaching Assistantship

Qualifying Exam*

First-Year Paper Presentation

Coursework (3 courses)

Research Exploration

Teaching Assistantship

Research
  • Second-Year Paper

 

Year 3

Fall

Spring

Summer

Coursework (Optional)

Research

Teaching Assistantship

Preliminary Examination*

  • Original Research Paper
  • Presentation

Coursework (Optional)

Research

Teaching Assistantship

Research

 

Year 4

Fall

Spring

Summer

Research

Teaching Assistantship

Research

Teaching Assistantship

Dissertation Proposal*

Research

 

Year 5

Fall

Spring

Summer

Research

Teaching Assistantship

Research

Teaching Assistantship

Dissertation Defense*

 

Asterisk indicates key milestone (qualifying, preliminary, and final exams