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

Program of Study

Although there is a three year minimum residency requirement, four years of full-time graduate study are usually required for the Ph.D. The student is expected to carry four courses per term during residency.


Each student will devote one-quarter of his/her time to research the first term of the entering year. For all subsequent terms, students shall devote a minimum of one-half time to research.

Research Reports

Social Developmental Program
Students will submit reports on their research for the first year, in journal form, by the beginning of the third term. The second project will be submitted by the beginning of the fifth term. Satisfactory completion of the research projects 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 with no formal requirement of a master's degree.

Cognitive Neuroscience Program
First-year students will do two rotations in their first year. Each rotation will last one semester with a rotation report due to the lab director on the last day of the rotation. It is ordinarily expected that one of the rotations be done in the lab of the student's primary research interest. Second-year students will be required to submit a Third Report on Jan. 14 of their second year to be approved by the student's primary supervisor and a second member of the program faculty. Third-year students will be required to submit a Dissertation Proposal by Jan. 14 of their third year. An oral examination of the dissertation proposal will be scheduled within one month of submission of the written proposal.

Training in Brain, Body and Behavior
Students following this curriculum will have dual mentors in a biomedical area as well as in either the Social Developmental or the Cognitive Neuroscience program. Each student will be required to follow the research reporting and other research qualifications described above for the psychology program with which they are most closely affiliated.

Course Requirements

Entering Ph.D. students will take PSYC 210a and two advanced courses in the first term of residence (for social developmental students, one of these courses will be PSYC 211a if not taken prior to entering the graduate program). In the second term, first-year students will take PSYC 210b and the Proseminar in Brain, Body and Behavior (PSYC 300a/302a). Students will take two advanced courses each term in the second year and one each term in the third year.  For brain, body and behavior students two courses must be selected in consultation with the faculty adviser to satisfy a biomedical breadth requirement. During residency, all social developmental students are required to register and attend PSYC 316a. 

Advanced courses should be selected in consultation with the student's adviser. Each term, a student must take at least one graduate-level course or seminar (100-level or above) that is not an independent readings or research course. Only selected 100-level courses, determined by the psychology program, will count as advanced, graduate-level courses. Graduate-level course selection will not be restricted to the psychology program but will be arranged by the student in consultation with the faculty adviser.

Breadth Requirement

All graduate 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,
  2. By completing an undergraduate or graduate course offered in that area at Brandeis,
  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

Group B

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

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 each during both semesters of years 2 and 3; and once during the first semester of year 4. The TF requirement can be reduced to four (4) 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.

Language Requirement

There is no foreign language requirement.

Dissertation and Defense

Following the completion of the required pre-doctoral research reports,the student will prepare a prospectus of the proposed dissertation study including a review of relevant research in consultation with a faculty dissertation adviser. The proposal may be based on the student's preliminary research. Upon approval by the faculty of the program, a dissertation committee of three or more members will be appointed by the program chair, including the dissertation adviser as chair of the committee. The dissertation adviser will be responsible for advising the student throughout the performance of his or her work, in consultation with the remaining members of the committee at appropriate times in the course of the work. From time to time, the committee will report the student's progress to the program faculty.

The 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. Prior to scheduling the dissertation defense, the Psychology Department members of the dissertation committee must approve the adequacy of the student's data analysis. Upon submission to the chair of the program a copy of the dissertation, signed by all members of the dissertation committee and one member from outside of the department or the university, and a successful defense of the dissertation before all members of the program, the award of the Ph.D. will be recommended to the Faculty Council of the Graduate School.