Duke University Neuroscience Experience

picture of a dune with the words Duke University Neuroscience Experience


The goal of the Duke University Neuroscience Experience (DUNE) program is to provide high school students who are from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds or who belong to underrepresented minority groups in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) with cutting-edge research experience in neuroscience laboratories at Duke University. 




Missionstudents investigate a brain specimen

Program Information

Frequently Asked Questions









Research experiences in high school provide students with the opportunity to explore their interests, enhance their critical thinking and technical skills, and forge meaningful relationships with peers and mentors. They also provide students with insight into the functioning of academic institutions and a competitive advantage on college applications.

Since members of groups overrepresented in STEM tend to have higher incomes, better connections, and better access to information about the academic process, they are more likely to apply successfully to high school internship programs and consequently, to competitive college programs, thus perpetuating the cycle of inequality. DUNE is committed to breaking this cycle by making the program particularly accessible to outstanding students from underrepresented and disadvantaged backgrounds in STEM. We believe that the future of science depends on a diversity of voices and perspectives. We welcome applicants with a variety of backgrounds and experiences.


Program Information

DUNE is an 8-week summer research program for rising juniors and seniors in high schools within the Research Triangle area of North Carolina. Students will be selected based on an application that includes reflections on their interests in science, background in related courses, and two letters of recommendation from teachers or advisors. Accepted students will be matched with participating labs based on their research interests. Mentoring will be volunteer-based and involve any interested graduate students or postdoctoral fellows from labs in Neurobiology and Psychology & Neuroscience. Mentors will receive pre-program training with a focus on implicit bias, how to mentor students from communities that are under-represented in STEM fields, and how to effectively work with high school age mentees.

Students will also participate in professional development activities such as college advising, scientific communication workshops, career sessions, and they will attend lectures by faculty on cutting-edge research on the verge of academia, industry, and medicine. The program will culminate in a poster session.

Frequently Asked Questions

students and faculty look at a brain specimen

Who is the DUNE Summer Research Program for?

Participating students must be either rising juniors (summer after sophomore and before junior year), or rising seniors (summer after junior year and before senior year) who are at least 15 years old by the program’s start date and are attending high school in the research triangle area in North Carolina. Please see our Mission to learn about the overall goals for the DUNE program.

How many students participate in the program?

Our first year, we will have a small cohort of 5 with an intention of steadily growing the number of students over the subsequent years.

Is there a cost to attend the program?

There is no cost to attend the program. All participating students will receive a stipend of up to $2,460.

Is on-campus housing provided?

As this program is virtual for 2021, on-campus housing will not be provided or necessary.

What is the application fee?

There is no application fee: applying to DUNE is completely free.

Can you pick your lab?

If accepted, you will be given a list of faculty who have offered to host students in their labs and their research topics which you will rank.  Please do not contact faculty on your own for the lab placement.

What will the summer be like?

Due to Covid-19, all lab work and DUNE events will be held online in the summer of 2021. The first day there will be an orientation session which includes mandatory safety training. This will be proceeded by an online meeting with your lab mentors. Throughout the summer, you will attend online lectures three times a week in the morning and the rest of the day will be dedicated to your lab work. Most of the summer is reserved for full time lab work. You should expect to work around 30 hours a week during the program (Monday through Friday, no evening or weekend hours). With special lectures and workshops the total weekly commitment is no more than 40 hours per week. During the last week of the program, you will be busy preparing your poster for the poster session.

What is the poster session?

Poster session is the highlight of your summer DUNE work! At the poster session, you will present the results of your work to your peers, parents, and the members of the Duke research community (faculty, students, and staff). The poster session will be held in the evening before the last day of the program. You will be provided with extensive guidance on how to present your work throughout the program.

Who are the mentors?

All day to day mentors are Duke graduate students or post-doctoral fellows who will work closely with each student to carry out a research project in the lab of a faculty member.

Do I have to be there all 8 weeks?

Students should expect to participate in all 8 weeks of the program and are required to attend the online orientation on the first day and all safety sessions. Students will spend approximately 40 hours/week in the program (Monday through Friday, approximately 8 hours/day).  Students should not be working on the weekends or evenings.

What if I don’t live in the Research Triangle Area?

In our first year, we restrict the applicant pool to the Research Triangle schools only. We hope that as the program grows in future years, we will be able to accept students from a broader area.


Interested students can apply to DUNE via this application.