Research and Courses

Please visit the research page for a description of faculty research interests and courses for course descriptions.

Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

The requirements listed here override the Bulletin, if there is a discrepancy, unless students entered the program in the fall of 2013 or earlier, when different requirements were in effect. Please see the University Bulletin webpage to review previous bulletins if you entered before 2014.

Program of Study

There is a three-year minimum residency requirement, though five years of full-time graduate study are usually required for the PhD degree. Students are expected to carry four courses per term during residency, including required research courses and seminar series. In addition, students are required to register for and attend the Psychology Research Seminar (PSYC 316a) until they graduate. Students have the option of customizing their curriculum to meet the requirements of our Brain, Body, and Behavior training track.


Each student shall devote one quarter to one half of their time to research during the first two years, and three quarter time to research during the third year. For all subsequent terms, students shall devote full time to research.

Research Reports

First year research project: First year students will work on a first year research project under the supervision of their primary advisor. The first year research proposal is due to the advisor and an outside reader on the last day of the first semester final exam period, and the signed form indicating proposal acceptance is due January 31st of the first year; a final report on this research in journal form is due by August 31st of the second year, and the signed acceptance form is due September 30th of the second year. Satisfactory completion of the research project is required for continuation in the program. Students who have satisfactorily completed the research requirements will be permitted to continue their work toward the doctorate degree with no formal requirement of a master's degree.

Second year lab rotation report: Second year students will complete a laboratory rotation, normally for the fall semester.  Detailed guidelines about the purpose and requirements of the rotation are provided under the Lab Rotation Guidelines. Students initiate the process by submitting their proposed rotation lab and goals with the other progress/planning materials they provide for the spring graduate review meeting (usually during spring finals week).   Students doing fall rotations must submit a report for approval to their primary advisor and their rotation advisor by January 15th of the second year. (In some cases, the second year rotation may be postponed until the second semester, in which case the statement of goals will be due by January 15th of the second year and the final report on the 1st day of classes in the 3rd year).

National Research Service Award (NRSA) Proposal: Second year students will prepare an NRSA proposal that builds on their first year research project and their second year lab rotation to develop a proposed program of research and training. The proposal must be submitted for approval to their primary advisor and their lab rotation advisor by the last day of finals in their 4th semester with the goal of submitting a final proposal by the August National Institutes of Health deadline. For more information about the NRSA, see:

Dissertation and Defense:

Overview.  Following the completion of the required pre-doctoral research reports, the student will prepare a prospectus of the proposed dissertation study including the student’s preliminary research and a review of relevant research in consultation with a faculty dissertation advisor, as well as a research proposal that includes a detailed description of methods and a brief description of planned analyses.

Dissertation Proposal Defense.  The Dissertation Proposal must be submitted by January 15th of the student’s third year. An oral examination of the Dissertation Proposal must be successfully completed by May 31st of the third year, at the latest. The written Dissertation Proposal and its oral defense must be approved by a committee of three Brandeis Psychology faculty members selected in advance by the student in consultation with his/her research mentor(s) and formally appointed by the Director of Graduate Studies. An additional committee member from outside the department or university will also be appointed either to participate at this stage of proposal approval or later in the process, as deemed appropriate by the Brandeis committee members. The dissertation advisor will serve as chair of the committee and will be responsible for advising the student throughout the performance of his or her work, in consultation with the remaining members of the committee, and annually reviewing progress of the work and reporting to the program faculty. The proposed dissertation should provide evidence of originality, scholarship and research ability. It should be a contribution to knowledge, ordinarily an experimental investigation, but not necessarily so.

Statistics Defense.   The student must submit a written version of the Introduction, Methods and Results at least two weeks prior to a scheduled Statistics Defense meeting with the committee. At that meeting, the committee will discuss with the student the adequacy of the student's data analysis and/or modeling. The committee member from outside the department does not typically participate at this meeting, but may do so if his or her statistical or modeling expertise is deemed critical. After the Statistics Defense, the student will complete a summary of any additional analyses and edits to the Results section deemed necessary. Committee members will indicate their approval of this summary by signing a document indicating that the student has successfully completed the Statistics Defense. This document can be found on the Psychology Department’s Forms for Current Students page. After the mentor has verified that the agreed-upon edits to the Results section have been incorporated into the final version of the dissertation, the final defense may be scheduled.

Dissertation Defense.  The final dissertation must be submitted to the committee, including the outside member, at least one month in advance of the scheduled Dissertation Defense unless the committee members all agree to a shorter lead time. The committee members must all approve the dissertation as eligible for a defense at least two weeks before the scheduled defense, at which time the dissertation must be deposited in the program office, where it will be available for inspection by all interested members of the faculty for at least two weeks prior to the final oral examination. After the Dissertation Defense, signatures of approval by all members of the dissertation committee, attesting both an acceptable written dissertation and a successful oral defense of the dissertation must be provided to the Department Chair together with a copy of the dissertation. The Chair will then recommend to the Faculty Council of the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences award of the Ph.D. degree to the student.

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Course Requirements

Entering PhD students will take Advanced Psychological Statistics I (PSYC 210a), Graduate Research Methods (PSYC 211a) and one elective course in the first term of residence. In the second term, first-year students will take Advanced Psychological Statistics II (PSYC 210b), a Proseminar in Brain, Body, and Behavior (PSYC 300a or 302a), and Ethical Practice in Health Related Sciences (CONT 300b). This non-credit course on ethics must be repeated in the 5th year for students on NIH fellowships. In the second year, students will take two elective courses in the first term and one elective plus the other Proseminar in Brain, Body, and Behavior (PSYC 300a or 302a) and PSYC 250a for their NRSA proposal preparation in the second term. One elective course is required each term in the third year. One of the aforementioned six elective courses must be an advanced methods course or a third statistics course (in addition to PSYC 210a and PSYC 210b). These six graduate-level elective seminars must not be independent readings or research courses. Only those 100-level courses that have been approved by the psychology program will count. Students should select seminars from the approved list in consultation with their advisor. Graduate-level courses in other departments or universities may satisfy Psychology requirements if selected in consultation with a faculty advisor.

Students are required to register for and attend the Psychology Research Seminar (PSYC 316a) every semester until their dissertation is defended. However, although they are strongly encouraged to attend as many as they are able, once their dissertation proposal is defended students are only required to attend ten (10) seminars throughout the academic year. Students are required to make a presentation of their research once per year until they graduate, with the exception that students do not have to present in the semester they are scheduled to defend their dissertation. Exceptions can also be made for advanced students with permission of the head of the graduate program.

In addition to the courses described in the preceding paragraphs, students are required to take one research course each semester from the PSYC 200a-245a series taught by their primary advisor until their dissertation proposal has been accepted, after which they must register for PSYC 400d. In the first semester of year 2, students should additionally register for an independent research course using the course number assigned to their lab rotation advisor.

Course requirements broken down by semester are shown in the Graduate Program Checklist, which can be found on our Forms for Current Students page.

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Breadth Requirement

All PhD students must demonstrate breadth in the field of psychology. This breadth requirement is fulfilled by demonstrating competence in at least six of the nine areas listed below. The requirements may be satisfied in any of three ways:

  1. By having completed an undergraduate or graduate course in that area (equivalent to Brandeis 100-level or above),
  2. By completing an undergraduate or graduate course offered in that area at Brandeis (100-level or above),
  3. By successfully passing the equivalent of any undergraduate final examination for that course.

Of the six courses, a minimum of two should be taken from areas in Group A and a minimum of two from Group B.

Group A

  1. Physiological/Sensory Processes
  2. Perception
  3. Learning/Comparative
  4. Cognition/Memory
  5. Cognitive Science/Linguistics

Group B

  1. Developmental
  2. Social
  3. Personality
  4. Abnormal

Group C (BBB Students Only): Brain, Body and Behavior students have an additional requirement of 2 courses from a group of biomedical topics.  The topics that satisfy the Group C breadth requirement include:

Brain Imaging
Behavioral Genomics, Transcriptomics, Metabolomics
Computational Neural Modeling
System Control Theory
General Principles of Neuroscience
Non-linear dynamics
Genetics:  Cellular & Molecular
Developmental Biology
Genetics & Human Heredity
Human Disease
Other approved topic.        

Current Brandeis graduate level courses that satisfy this breadth requirement that are:

BIOL 42a Physiology
BIOL 46a Biomechanics
BIOL 62a Genes and Human Evolution
BIOL 75b Infectious Disease
BIOL 101a Molecular Biotechnology
BIOL 123b Population Genetics/Genomics
BIOL 124b Epigenetics
BIOL 125a Immunology
BIOL 128a Human Genetics
BIOL 160b Human Reproductive and Developmental Biology
NBIO 136b Computational Neuroscience
NBIO 140b Principles of Neuroscience
NBIO 143 Developmental Neurobiology
NBIO145b Systems Neuroscience
NBIO 146a Neurobiology of Human Disease
NBIO 147b Neurogenetics
NBIO 161a Cellular and Network Mechanisms of Memory
BIOL 202a Introduction to Genetic Counseling
BIOL 203a Molecular Basis of Genetic Diseases
NPHY115a Dynamical Systems, Chaos, and Fractals
BIOT 200a Biotechnology Proseminar
BIOT 201b Business of Biotechnology
HSSP 100b Introduction to Epidemiology, Biostatistics, and Population Health
HSSP 102a Global Perspectives on Health
HSSP 107b Health Care Technology: Evaluating Emerging Medical Services, Drugs and Devices
HSSP 114b Racial/Ethnic and Gender Inequalities in Health and Health Care
HSSP 115b Perspectives on Behavioral Health: Alcohol, Drugs, and Mental Health
HSSP 128a Disability Policy

Students may also enroll in a course outside Brandeis, as long as it is approved by the BBB director and is eligible for credit under a consortium agreement.

As an option, BBB students can replace one of the above courses with participation in a journal club, biomedical seminar, or colloquium series approved by the BBB director. The later would not count as an advanced course in the general department Ph.D. requirements. Currently approved Brandeis venues include: Topics in Molecular Genetics and Development (BIOL 305), Topics in Neurobiology (NBIO 306), Systems/Computational Neuroscience Journal Club (NBIO 340), and Neuroscience Proseminar (NBIO 250). For more information, please see the Breadth Requirement Form

All students must complete the Breadth Requirement From before submitting their dissertation proposal, usually in the third year. The form can be found on the Psychology Department’s Forms for Current Students page.

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Teaching Fellowship Requirements

As an integral part of the graduate training program, all students are normally required to serve as teaching fellows six (6) times according to the following schedule:

  • Once during the second semester of year 1
  • Once during both semesters of years 2 and 3, and
  • Once during year 4.

The TF requirement can be reduced for students appointed to qualifying research training grants, with the schedule depending on the period of appointment. All teaching fellows work closely with course instructors and receive guidance in all aspects of course preparation, teaching, and grading. Through exposure to different professors' styles, varied course formats, and presentations on teaching skills throughout their graduate training, teaching fellows come away with a wide range of experiences, providing them with invaluable preparation for academic positions. The workload varies according to the course and the time of the semester, but will average no more than 10 hours per week.

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Language Requirement

There is no foreign language requirement.

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