Duke vs UNC: Which is the better science research school?

in Opinion by

As a high school junior, it would be only appropriate to tour at least one college over my spring break. I had the privilege of touring the two Southern Ivies with the most intense rivalry: the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University. 

I will be comparing the two while touching on their scientific strengths as they are both competitive science research schools. But make no mistake, this is no silly football game that ends with roaring cheers — this is the ultimate evaluation of the Tar Heels versus the Blue Devils.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill:

To start off, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) is right in the heart of the city. On campus, school spirit is abundant as students can be seeen  wearing the stunning signature Carolina Blue on their shirts, shoes, hats and whatever other merch they can get their hands on. Aside from the attire, UNC also values tradition because they were the first ever public university to be established in the U.S. in 1795. Some of those traditions include the preservation of the David Poplar tree named after the founder of the university. Along with this, students also gather in long lines before each semester to drink from the famous “Old Well” that is now a small drinking water fountain which is said to grant them straight A’s. Finally, for their most popular tradition, whenever UNC beats Duke in any major game, students will run through Franklin Street and celebrate together.
However tradition isn’t the only thing UNC is big on, as social science is one of the most popular areas of study for them. Carolina is even ranked first in the nation for federally funded social and behavioral science research.

UNC’s Gillings School of Global Public Health, which was ranked the top public school of public health in the nation by U.S. News, annually awards top students a scholarship of up to $1,000. Groundbreaking research is made each year on their campus. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers from the Renaissance Computing Institute (RENCI) put together an algorithm to predict the occurrence of new communicable diseases to catch them early and it outperformed the current algorithm used. 

Overall, UNC provides a hearty home to some of the brightest and most innovative minds in the country.


Duke University

As for the Blue Devils, Duke University is best known for dominating the college basketball scene and enduring regular battles with its neighboring UNC rival. However, I want to focus on the heart of Duke – past the athletics.

For starters, one of my main draws to Duke is its food selection. Granted, I am a big foodie and where I go to school is largely dependent on whether or not getting quality, diverse food is accessible. Thankfully, at Duke, they have been ranked as the “Best College for Food in North Carolina” by Niche and it’s no surprise when you walk into the West Union dining hall and find fire-oven baked pizza, handmade sushi, spicy Indian dishes and more. 

But aside from their cuisine, Duke also provides lots of research opportunities available to those with all types of experience levels. Even freshmen can participate in undergraduate research which is incentivized by awarding grants. One grant program in particular, the “Duke University Libraries Summer Research grants for LIFE Students” awards up to $4500 in aid to student researchers that show demonstrated need. 

Duke holds over 17,000 students and they try to make each student feel connected with their teachers, employing a specialized currency called “Flunch” points. With Flunch, students are allotted $70 per semester that students can use to take faculty out to lunch to get to know them better and discuss coursework.

With these two very short descriptions, I don’t expect students or myself to come to a conclusion as to which school is “better.” What I truly want to emphasize with these brief introductions is that each school offers something unique, and finding your best fit relies on seeing whether these traits fit with you.

Despite the ongoing century of rivalry between Duke University and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, college freshmen have a one time chance to figure out which one wins their heart over. (Photo/Flickr with edits from Lauren Wong)

Now a current junior, this is Lauren’s first year writing for the Patriot Post, and she couldn’t be more excited to get started. She enjoys anything and everything science related, playing Papa’s Sushiria, and critiquing movies like it’s her job. She can’t wait to stretch out her horizons and try new forms of writing!