Undergraduate Research Support Office

The Undergraduate Research Support Office (URS) promotes undergraduate research at Duke through workshops, the annual Visible Thinking Symposium, funding independent research, assistantships and conferences and by providing support for summer research programs. See the complete list of URS programs

Additional research opportunities and support are available directly through the departments and institutes of Duke University. See More Opportunities.   

What is URS?

Information from the What is URS page in an infographic format


Our Team

Dr. Jessica Harrell, Ph.D.

Director of Undergraduate Research Support Office 

Photo of Jessica Harrell in front of a blue background wearing a black blazer and teal shirt


Jessica Harrell is the Undergraduate Research Support (URS) Director.  She came to Duke in 2020 via the Academic Advising Center where she has served as the Director of Academic Engagement (DAE) for Natural and Quantitative Sciences. In this role, Dr. Harrell has helped Duke undergraduates identify and engage in co-curricular opportunities, cultivate relationships with mentors, and apply to fellowships, summer research programs, and post-baccalaureate opportunities.  She is also an adjunct faculty in the Biology department and has co-directed the summer BSURF program.  Prior to this, Dr. Harrell served as the Director of Pre-Doctoral Student Development and Support in the Office of Graduate Education at the UNC School of Medicine. In this capacity, she directed several programs to support the engagement and persistence of students from underrepresented groups in the biomedical sciences and in pursuit of scientific-research career paths, with the express goal of increasing diversity within the scientific enterprise. Beyond her academic appointments, Dr. Harrell is a trained facilitator for the National Research Mentoring Network and has led numerous workshops for faculty and students to improve the mentor-mentee relationship, specifically helping faculty create inclusive lab environments and students to “mentor-up.”  She is a first-generation student and completed her Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry at Louisiana State University and her PhD in Cell and Developmental Biology from UNC-Chapel Hill. A native of Louisiana, you can often find Dr. Harrell rooting for her beloved Tigers, arranging crawfish boils, and enthusiastically preparing for Mardi Gras (no matter the time of year).


Leah Wills, M.Ed.
Leah Wills in front of a nature scene

Program Coordinator


Leah Wills joined our team as the Program Coordinator for Undergraduate Research Support in March of 2023. A native of North Carolina, she completed a Bachelor’s degree in Biology at UNC Wilmington. While at UNCW, Leah became involved on campus, where she directly learned the importance of student support offices. After graduation, Leah worked as a research lab technician at UNC’s Lineberger Cancer Center. There, she saw firsthand the need to support student researchers. This experience led Leah to return to school to receive her Master’s in Higher Education Administration from NC State University. During her time at NC State, she served as a Graduate Assistant for the Women in Science and Engineering Program, as well as the NC State Office of Undergraduate Research. In her free time, Leah enjoys being one with nature, yoga, and is a Succession fanatic.