PhD Degree Requirements

This webpage provides a quick overview of the requirements for our PhD program. More detailed information can be found in the Psychology Graduate Guide . This webpage and the Graduate Guide supplement the Psychology PhD requirements defined in the Stanford Bulletin and the policies for all Stanford graduate education as defined in the Graduate Academic Policies and Procedures Handbook . 

The most important component of our PhD program is engaging in scientific research. Students in our PhD program conduct in-depth research in at least one of five areas of study: Affective , Cognitive , Developmental , Neuroscience , or Social Psychology. All students are expected to spend at least half of their time engaged in research. Each quarter, students should register for 8 - 10 research units (PSYCH207: Graduate Research) and take no more than 10 units of coursework.

The sections below outline program requirements regarding coursework and teaching, as well as key milestones towards a PhD degree.

Course Requirements

  • Teaching Requirements  
  • Key Program Milestones

Core Courses, Statistics/Methods Courses, and Advanced Units must be taken for a letter grade and passed with a grade of B- or higher. Click each requirement to open the relevant sections in the Graduate Guide.  

Professional Seminar 

All incoming students are required to take PSYCH207 in the first quarter (Year 1 Autumn). This is a course taught by the Department Chair with guest lectures from faculty across all areas, and serves to introduce the first-year students to the Department. 

  • PSYCH 207: Professional Seminar for First-Year Ph.D Students

As a part of PSYCH 207, first-year students are also expected to meet with their advisor(s) early in the fall quarter of the first year to discuss mentorship expectations. 

Core Courses

Students are required to complete 4 of the following Core Courses by the end of Yr 3.

  • PSYCH 202: Cognitive Neuroscience
  • PSYCH 205: Foundations of Cognition
  • PSYCH 211: Developmental Psychology
  • PSYCH 213: Affective Science
  • PSYCH 215: Mind, Culture, and Society

Statistics / Methods Courses

Students must complete PSYCH 251 and one additional statistics/methods courses by the end of Year 2. At least one of the two courses must be taken in the first year. 

  • PSYCH 251: Experimental Methods (Required) 
  • PSYCH 249: Large-Scale Neural Network Modeling for Neuroscience
  • PSYCH 252: Statistical Methods for Behavioral and Social Sciences
  • PSYCH 253: Measurement and the Study of Change in Social Science Research
  • PSYCH 289: Longitudinal Data Analysis in Social Science Research

Some students may wish to take advanced courses in Statistics or CS not listed above; please consult with your advisor and send an inquiry to the Student Services Manager. These requests may be reviewed by the DGS and/or the GPC.

Advanced Units / PhD Minor  

Students must complete 12 units of advanced graduate coursework (“Advanced Units”, or AU), or complete a PhD Minor by the end of Year 4.  

Students and their advisor(s) should discuss the course requirements and create a plan together for completing the Advanced Units. To this end, rising 2nd year students must submit an Advanced Courses Form by the first Monday in October (usually the first Monday of the Fall Quarter) of the 2nd year. 

Terminal Graduate Registration (TGR) Statu s

Students should apply for Terminal Graduate Registration (TGR) status once they have accumulated 135 units of residency and have filed a Dissertation Reading Committee form . Students in TGR status should register for PSYCH 802: TGR Dissertation (0 units) and take no more than 3 units of coursework per quarter. Typically, students transition to TGR in the Winter quarter of 5th year. 

For more information about Course Requirements, consult the Graduate Guide and the Stanford Graduate Academic Policies and Procedures Handbook .

Teaching Requirements

All students serve as teaching assistants for at least 5 Psychology courses during their graduate study, regardless of the source of their financial support. Of these 5 TAships, students must apply for 2 of their TAships to be in one of the two tracks: 

  • PSYCH 1 Track (2 quarters of Introduction to Psychology)  
  • STATS Track (2 quarters of core statistics/methods course: PSYCH 10, PSYCH 251, PSYCH 252, PSYCH 253).  

Students can review the Department's complete  TA policy  for more details. Questions about TA assignments or TA policy should be directed to the Student Services Manager. 

Program Requirements and Milestones

Year 1: First Year Project (FYP)

At the end of their first year of graduate study, students must submit a written report of their first-year research activities, called the First Year Project (FYP) by June 1 The FYP is submitted to their advisor, second FYP reader (another faculty), and the students’ services manager. Students are also expected to present the results of their FYP in their area seminar. 

Year 2: Admission to Candidacy

In our department, a student’s application for candidacy must be filed as soon as all requirements for Year 1 and Year 2 are completed (and by the end of the 2nd year). The decision to advance a student to candidacy is made based on a holistic assessment of the student’s progress in the program. For more information, please refer to the Graduate Guide, section on Admission to Candidacy. 

Conferral of a masters degree: Graduate students in the Department of Psychology who have completed (a) the first-year and second-year course requirements and (b) at least 45 units of Psychology courses may apply for a conferral of the MA degree.

Master of Arts Degree in Psychology (Optional)

Graduate students in the Department of Psychology who have completed (a) the first-year and second-year course requirements and (b) at least 45 units of Psychology courses may apply for conferral of the MA degree. The application should be reviewed with the Student Services Manager. The  application process  typically occurs in 2nd or 3rd year.

Year 3: Research Plan and Dissertation Reading Committee   

Students in Year 3 are expected to:

(1) Form a dissertation reading committee (due Feb 1): The research committee includes the dissertation advisor and at least 2 additional faculty members, for a total of 3 members, at least two of whom should have primary appointments in the Psychology Department. 

(2) Schedule and hold the 3rd Year Committee Meeting to take place in Winter or Spring quarter (before June 1), and submit a research plan to their committee 2 weeks before the meeting

(3) After the committee meeting, submit the Research Plan to the Student Services Manager and report the meeting date using the Committee Meeting Google Form .

Year 4: Area Review and Research Roadmap (ARRR) and Committee Meeting

Students in Year 4 are expected to:

(1) Schedule and hold the 4th Year Committee Meeting in the Winter quarter and submit an Area Review & Research Roadmap (ARRR) to the committee two weeks before the meeting.

(2) After the committee meeting, submit the ARRR to the Student Services Manager and report the meeting date using the Committee Meeting Google Form . 

Final Year: Oral Examination and Dissertation  

Students in Year 3 and above are expected to hold a committee meeting every year. In their final year, students must form their Oral Examination Committee including identifying an external chair. Students must submit the Oral Exam Form to the Student Services Manager at least 2 weeks before the anticipated defense and follow the standard Department protocol for reserving a room for their defense.

Individual Development Plan

Every year, each graduate student completes an Individual Development Plan (IDP) and has a meeting with their advisor to discuss the IDP and set an Action Plan for the coming year. The goal of the IDP is for the student to step back from their daily tasks, reflect on the larger picture, discuss these topics with their mentor, and make an action plan for achieving their goals going forward. The IDP meeting must occur by June 1 each year. 

The IDP process has 4 steps:

1. Student completeness the IDP Self-Reflection form  

2. Student prepares the IDP Meeting and Action Plan form and schedules a one-on-one meeting with the advisor. 

3. Student and Advisor(s) complete the Action Plan (pages 3-4 of the IDP Meeting and Action Plan form ). 

4. Student submits the IDP Meeting Google Form to report the meeting to the Student Services.

Students can also use the IDP meeting to discuss mentorship expectations and schedule additional meetings if further conversations are needed. Note that first-year students must schedule a separate meeting with their advisors to discuss Mentorship Expectation as a part of their ProSem requirement

Graduation Quarter

Registration for Graduation Quarter is required for the term in which a student submits a dissertation or has a degree conferred. Please consult the Registrar's Academic Calendar for the quarterly deadlines for submitting dissertations; they are strict, and missing the deadline can have serious funding implications. For more information, please refer to the Graduate Guide and Registrar's Office website .

PhD Program Timeline At-A-Glance

  • FYP Proposal and name of 2nd reader due to Student Services

End of Fall Quarter 

  • Complete the mentorship expectations meeting with advisor
  • FYP due to Student Services, advisor, and 2nd reader

Summer of 1st Year

  • Meet and receive feedback from advisor and 2nd reader
  • Submit  Advanced Units coursework form  to Student Services

June 1  

  • IDP Meeting Due

By the end of 2nd Year

  • Submit  Candidacy Form  to Student Services
  • Submit  Doctoral Dissertation Reading Committee form  to Student Services
  • Schedule 3rd Year Committee Meeting
  • Hold Committee Meeting (Research Plan to committee 2 weeks before meeting), and report meeting to Student Services; IDP Meeting
  • Schedule 4th Year Committee Meeting
  • Submit ARRR to the committee two weeks before the meeting
  • Hold Committee Meeting
  • Report meeting to Student Services
  • IDP Meeting

2 weeks before Defense: 

  • Submit the  Oral Exam form  to Student Services

End of Spring Quarter: 

  • Oral Examination
  • Submit Dissertation 
  • Schedule and hold a 5th Year Committee Meeting 

Doctoral Program

glass bowl in hand

Stanford's Ph.D. program is among the world's best. Our graduate students receive their training in a lively community of philosophers engaged in a wide range of philosophical projects. Our Ph.D. program trains students in traditional core areas of philosophy and provides them with opportunities to explore many subfields such as the philosophy of literature, nineteenth-century German philosophy, and medieval philosophy.

Among other areas, we are exceptionally strong in Kant studies, the philosophy of action, ancient philosophy, logic, and the philosophy of science. We attract some of the best students from around the world and we turn them into accomplished philosophers ready to compete for the best jobs in a very tight job market.

The most up-to-date requirements are listed in   t he Bulletin .  


From the 2020-2021 edition of Explore Degrees:

Doctor of Philosophy in Philosophy

Prospective graduate students should see the  Office of Graduate Admissions  web site for information and application materials. 

The University's basic requirements for the Ph.D. degree including candidacy, residence, dissertation, and examination are discussed in the " Graduate Degrees " section of this bulletin.

University candidacy requirements, published in the " Candidacy " section of this bulletin, apply to all Ph.D. students. Admission to a doctoral degree program is preliminary to, and distinct from, admission to candidacy. Admission to candidacy for the doctoral degree is a judgment by the faculty in the department or school of the student's potential to successfully complete the requirements of the degree program. Students are expected to complete department qualifying procedures and apply for candidacy at the beginning of the seventh academic quarter, normally the Autumn Quarter of the student's third year.

Admission to candidacy for the doctoral degree is granted by the major department following a student's successful completion of qualifying procedures as determined by the department. Departmental policy determines procedures for subsequent attempts to become advanced to candidacy in the event that the student does not successfully complete the procedures. Failure to advance to candidacy results in the dismissal of the student from the doctoral program; see the " Guidelines for Dismissal of Graduate Students for Academic Reasons " section of this bulletin.

The requirements detailed here are department requirements. These requirements are meant to balance structure and flexibility in allowing students, in consultation with their  advisors , to take a path through the program that gives them a rigorous and broad philosophical education, with room to focus on areas of particular interest, and with an eye to completing the degree with an excellent dissertation and a solid preparation for a career in academic philosophy.

Normally, all courses used to satisfy the distribution requirements for the Philosophy Ph.D. are Stanford courses taken as part of a student's graduate program.  In special circumstances, a student may petition to use a very small number of graduate-level courses taken at other institutions to satisfy a distribution requirement.  To be approved for this purpose, the student’s work in such a graduate-level course would need to involve an appropriate subject matter and would need to be judged by the department to be at the level of an 'A' in a corresponding graduate-level course at Stanford.  

Courses used to satisfy any course requirement in Philosophy (except Teaching Methods and the summer Dissertation Development Seminar) must be passed with a letter grade of 'B-' or better (no satisfactory/no credit), except in the case of a course/seminar used to satisfy the third-year course/seminar requirement and taken for only 2 units. Such a reduced-unit third-year course/seminar must be taken credit/no credit. 

At the end of each year, the department reviews the progress of each student to determine whether the student is making satisfactory progress, and on that basis to make decisions about probationary status and termination from the program where appropriate.

Any student in one of the Ph.D. programs may apply for the M.A. when all University and department requirements have been met.

Proficiency Requirements

  • First-year Ph.D. Proseminar : a one quarter, topically focused seminar offered in Autumn Quarter, and required of all first-year students.
  • two courses in value theory including ethics, aesthetics, political philosophy, social philosophy, philosophy of law. At least one of the courses satisfying this distribution requirement must be in ethics or political philosophy.
  • Two courses in language, mind, and action. One course satisfying this requirement must be drawn from the language related courses, and one from mind and action related courses.
  • two courses in metaphysics and epistemology (including metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of science). At least one of the courses satisfying this requirement must be drawn from either metaphysics or epistemology.
  • Instructors indicate which courses may satisfy particular requirements. If a course potentially satisfies more than one requirement the student may use it for only one of those area requirements; no units may be double-counted. Students must develop broad competencies in all these areas. Those without strong backgrounds in these areas would normally satisfy these distribution requirements by taking more basic courses rather than highly specialized and focused courses. Students should consult with their advisor in making these course decisions, and be prepared to explain these decisions when reviewed for candidacy; see requirement 6 below.
  • Logic requirement:  PHIL 150  Mathematical Logic or equivalent.
  • History/logic requirement. One approved course each in ancient and modern philosophy, plus either another approved history of philosophy course or  PHIL 151  Metalogic.
  • Students should normally take at least 64 graduate level units at Stanford during their first six quarters (in many cases students would take more units than that) and of those total units, at least 49 units of course work are to be in the Philosophy department. These courses must be numbered above 110, but not including Teaching Methods ( PHIL 239  Teaching Methods in Philosophy) or affiliated courses. Units of Individual Directed Reading are normally not to be counted toward this 49-unit requirement unless there is special permission from the student's advisor and the Director of Graduate Studies.
  •  Prior to candidacy, at least 3 units of work must be taken with each of four Stanford faculty members.

Writing Requirement: Second Year Paper

The second year paper should demonstrate good scholarship and argumentative rigor, and be a polished piece of writing approximately 8000 words in length. The second year paper need not bear any specific relationship to the dissertation. It may be a version of a prospective dissertation chapter, but this is not required. The final version must be turned in on the last class of the Second Year Paper Development Seminar in Summer Quarter of the second year. Extensions of this deadline require the consent of the instructor of the Second Year Paper Development Seminar and the Director of Graduate Studies and are only granted in exceptional cases (e.g., documented illness, family crisis). The final paper is read by a committee of two faculty members and it is an important consideration in the department’s decision on the student’s candidacy. 

Teaching Assistancy

A minimum of five quarters of teaching assistancy are required for the Ph.D. Normally one of these quarters is as a teaching assistant for the Philosophy Department's Writing in the Major course,  PHIL 80  Mind, Matter, and Meaning. It is expected that students not teach in their first year and that they teach no more than two quarters in their second year. Students are required to take  PHIL 239  Teaching Methods in Philosophy during Spring Quarter of their first year and during Autumn Quarter of their second year. Teaching is an important part of students’ preparation to be professional philosophers.

Review at the End of the Second Year for Advancement to Candidacy

The faculty's review of each student includes a review of the student's record, an assessment of the second year paper, and an assessment of the student's preparation for work in her/his intended area of specialization, as well as recommendations of additional preparation, if necessary.

To continue in the Ph.D. program, each student must apply for candidacy at the beginning of the sixth academic quarter, normally the Spring Quarter of the student's second year. Students may be approved for or denied candidacy by the end of that quarter by the department. In some cases, where there are only one or two outstanding deficiencies, the department may defer the candidacy decision and require the student to re-apply for candidacy in a subsequent quarter. In such cases, definite conditions for the candidacy re-application must be specified, and the student must work with the advisor and the DGS to meet those conditions in a timely fashion. A failure to maintain timely progress in satisfying the specified conditions constitutes grounds for withholding travel and discretionary funds and for a denial of advancement to candidacy.

  • Writing Seminar : In the Summer Quarter after the second year, students are required to attend the Second Year Paper Development Seminar. The seminar is intended to help students complete their second year papers. 
  • Upon completion of the summer writing seminar, students must sign up for independent study credit,  PHIL 240  Individual Work for Graduate Students, with their respective advisors each quarter. A plan at the beginning, and a report at the end, of each quarter must be signed by both student and advisor and submitted to the graduate administrator for inclusion in the student's file. This is the process every quarter until the completion of the departmental oral.
  • In Autumn and Winter quarters of the third year, students register in and satisfactorily complete  PHIL 301  Dissertation Development Proseminar. Students meet to present their work in progress and discuss their thesis project. Participation in these seminars is required.
  • During the third and fourth years in the program, a student should complete at least three graduate-level courses/seminars, at least two of them in philosophy (a course outside philosophy can be approved by the advisor), and at least two of them in the third year. The three seminars can be taken credit/no-credit for reduced (2) units. Courses required for candidacy are not counted toward satisfaction of this requirement. This light load of courses allows students to deepen their philosophical training while keeping time free for thesis research.

Dissertation Work and Defense

The third and following years are devoted to dissertation work. The few requirements in this segment of the program are milestones to encourage students and advisors to ensure that the project is on track.

  • Dissertation Proposal— By Spring Quarter of the third year, students should have selected a dissertation topic and committee. A proposal sketching the topic, status, and plan for the thesis project, as well as an annotated bibliography or literature review indicating familiarity with the relevant literature, must be received by the committee one week before the meeting on graduate student progress late in Spring Quarter. The dissertation proposal and the reading committee's report on it will constitute a substantial portion of the third year review.
  • Departmental Oral— During Autumn Quarter of the fourth year, students take an oral examination based on at least 30 pages of written work, in addition to the proposal. The aim of the exam is to help the student arrive at an acceptable plan for the dissertation and to make sure that student, thesis topic, and advisors make a reasonable fit. It is an important chance for the student to clarify their goals and intentions with the entire committee present.
  • Fourth-Year Colloquium— No later than Spring Quarter of the fourth year, students present a research paper in a 60-minute seminar open to the entire department. This paper should be on an aspect of the student's dissertation research. This is an opportunity for the student to make their work known to the wider department, and to explain their ideas to a general philosophical audience.
  • University Oral Exam— Ph.D. students must submit a completed draft of the dissertation to the reading committee at least one month before the student expects to defend the thesis in the University oral exam. If the student is given consent to go forward, the University oral can take place approximately two weeks later. A portion of the exam consists of a student presentation based on the dissertation and is open to the public. A closed question period follows. If the draft is ready by Autumn Quarter of the fourth year, the student may request that the University oral count as the department oral.

Below are yearly lists of courses which the faculty have approved to fulfill distribution requirements in these areas: value theory (including ethics, aesthetics, political philosophy, social philosophy, philosophy of law); language; mind and action; metaphysics and epistemology (including metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of science); logic; ancient philosophy; modern philosophy.

The most up-to-date requirements are listed in  t he Bulletin .  

Ph.D. Minor in Philosophy

To obtain a Ph.D. minor in Philosophy, students must follow these procedures:

  • Consult with the Director of Graduate Study to establish eligibility, and select a suitable  advisor .
  • 30 units of courses in the Department of Philosophy with a letter grade of 'B-' or better in each course. No more than 3 units of directed reading may be counted in the 30-unit requirement.
  • Philosophy of science
  • Ethics, value theory, and moral and political philosophy
  • Metaphysics and epistemology
  • Language, mind and action
  • History of philosophy
  • Two additional courses numbered over 199 to be taken in one of those (b) six areas.
  • A faculty member from the Department of Philosophy (usually the student's advisor) serves on the student's doctoral oral examination committee and may request that up to one third of this examination be devoted to the minor subject.
  • Paperwork for the minor must be submitted to the department office before beginning the program.

Interdisciplinary Study

The department supports interdisciplinary study. Courses in Stanford's other departments and programs may be counted towards the degree, and course requirements in Philosophy are designed to allow students considerable freedom in taking such courses. Dissertation committees may include members from other departments. Where special needs arise, the department is committed to making it possible for students to obtain a philosophical education and to meet their interdisciplinary goals. Students are advised to consult their advisors and the department's student services office for assistance.

Graduate Program in Cognitive Science

Philosophy participates with the departments of Computer Science, Linguistics, and Psychology in an interdisciplinary program in Cognitive Science. It is intended to provide an interdisciplinary education, as well as a deeper concentration in philosophy, and is open to doctoral students. Students who complete the requirements within Philosophy and the Cognitive Science requirements receive a special designation in Cognitive Science along with the Ph.D. in Philosophy. To receive this field designation, students must complete 30 units of approved courses, 18 of which must be taken in two disciplines outside of philosophy. The list of approved courses can be obtained from the Cognitive Science program located in the Department of Psychology.

Special Track in Philosophy and Symbolic Systems

Students interested in interdisciplinary work relating philosophy to artificial intelligence, cognitive science, computer science, linguistics, or logic may pursue a degree in this program.

Prerequisites—Admitted students should have covered the equivalent of the core of the undergraduate Symbolic Systems Program requirements as described in the " Symbolic Systems " section of the Stanford Bulletin, including courses in artificial intelligence (AI), cognitive science, linguistics, logic, and philosophy. The graduate program is designed with this background in mind. Students missing part of this background may need additional course work. In addition to the required course work listed in the bulletin, the Ph.D. requirements are the same as for the regular program, with the exception that one course in value theory and one course in history may be omitted.

Joint Program in Ancient Philosophy

This program is jointly administered by the Departments of Classics and Philosophy and is overseen by a joint committee composed of members of both departments:

  •         Christopher Bobonich , Philosophy (Ancient Greek Philosophy, Ethics)
  •         Alan Code , Philosophy, Philosophy (Ancient Greek Philosophy, Metaphysics)
  •         Reviel Netz , Classics (History of Greek and Pre-Modern Mathematics)
  •         Andrea Nightingale , Classics, (Greek and Roman Philosophy and Literature)
  •        Josh Ober , Classics and Political Science (Greek Political Thought, Democratic Theory)

It provides students with the training, specialist skills, and knowledge needed for research and teaching in ancient philosophy while producing scholars who are fully trained as either philosophers with a strong specialization in ancient languages and philology, or classicists with a concentration in philosophy.

Students are admitted to the program by either department. Graduate students admitted by the Philosophy department receive their Ph.D. from the Philosophy department; those admitted by the Classics department receive their Ph.D. from the Classics department. For Philosophy graduate students, this program provides training in classical languages, literature, culture, and history. For Classics graduate students, this program provides training in the history of philosophy and in contemporary philosophy.

Each student in the program is advised by a committee consisting of one professor in each department.

Requirements for Philosophy Graduate Students: These are the same as the proficiency requirements for the Ph.D. in Philosophy.

One year of Greek is a requirement for admission to the program. If students have had a year of Latin, they are required to take 3 courses in second- or third-year Greek or Latin, at least one of which must be in Latin. If they have not had a year of Latin, they are then required to complete a year of Latin, and take two courses in second- or third-year Greek or Latin.

Students are also required to take at least three courses in ancient philosophy at the 200 level or above, one of which must be in the Classics department and two of which must be in the Philosophy department.

Ph.D. Subplan in History and Philosophy of Science

Graduate students in the Philosophy Ph.D. program may pursue a Ph.D. subplan in History and Philosophy of Science. The subplan is declared in Axess and subplan designations appear on the official transcript, but are not printed on the diploma.

1.  Attendance at the HPS colloquium series. 2.  Philosophy of Science courses.  Select one of the following:

  • PHIL 263 Significant Figures in Philosophy of Science: Einstein
  • PHIL 264: Central Topics in the Philosophy of Science: Theory and Evidence
  • PHIL 264A: Central Topics in Philosophy of Science: Causation
  • PHIL 265: Philosophy of Physics: Space and Time
  • PHIL 265C: Philosophy of Physics: Probability and Relativity
  • PHIL 266: Probability: Ten Great Ideas About Chance
  • PHIL 267A:  Philosophy of Biology
  • PHIL 267B: Philosophy, Biology, and Behavior

3.  One elective seminar in the history of science. 4.  One elective seminar (in addition to the course satisfying requirement 2) in philosophy of science.

The PhD program provide 5 years of  financial support . We also try to provide support for our sixth year students and beyond though we cannot guarantee such support. In addition to covering tuition, providing a stipend, and covering Stanford's health insurance, we provide additional funds for books, computer equipment, and conference travel expenses. Some of the financial support is provided through requiring you to teach; however, our teaching requirement is quite low and we believe that this is a significant advantage of our program.

Stanford Support Programs

Additional support, such as advances, medical and emergency grants for Grad Students are available through the Financial Aid Office. The University has created the following programs specifically for graduate students dealing with challenging financial situations.

Graduate Financial Aid  homepage :

Cash Advance:

Emergency grant-in-aid :, family grants:, housing loans:, program characteristics.

Our program is well known for its small size, streamlined teaching requirements, and low average time to degree.

The program regulations are designed to efficiently provide students with a broad base in their first two years. In the third year students transition to working on their dissertations. During the summer prior to the third year, students are required to attend a dissertation development seminar. This seminar introduces students to what is involved in writing a dissertation. During the third year the course load drops to just under one course per quarter.

The rest of the time is spent working closely with a faculty member, or a couple of faculty members, on the student's area of research interest. The goal of the third year is that this process of intensive research and one-on-one interaction will generate a topic and proposal for the dissertation. During the fourth and fifth year the student is not required to take any courses and he or she focusses exclusively on research and writing on the dissertation.

aerial view of Stanford campus

Stanford University

Being a part of  Stanford University  means that students have access to one of the premier education institutions in the world. Stanford is replete with top departments in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. In addition, our professional schools, such as the  Stanford Law School , are among the best. The range of research in a variety of areas, many of which touch on or relate to philosophical issues, is simply astounding. Students have the freedom to take courses across the university. Graduate students also regularly earn joint degrees with other programs.

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Welcome to the stanford cognitive & systems neuroscience laboratory, learn about our research.

Learn about our Research

The Stanford Cognitive and Systems Neuroscience Laboratory (SCSNL), directed by Prof. Vinod Menon, aims to advance fundamental knowledge of human brain function and to use this knowledge to help children and adults with psychiatric and neurological disorders. Our research integrates multimodal brain imaging techniques with novel computational techniques and cognitive-behavioral-clinical assays to determine mechanisms underlying cognitive, emotional, and social function and dysfunction.

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Our work is advancing understanding of human brain function and dysfunction across the lifespan, in individuals with psychiatric and neurological conditions  including Autism,  ADHD, Learning Disabilities, Schizophrenia, Mood Disorders, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. Your support is greatly appreciated and will go directly to fund our research studies.  Please click on this link if you would like to support our research.

To learn more contact Lab Manager, Mai-Phuong Bo,  [email protected]

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Lab members - Farewell 6.2021

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We invite your participation in our ongoing research studies and thank you for your interest. Your participation helps us advance diagnosis, prognosis, and therapies for neurodevelopmental disorders and learning disabilities at the earliest possible age.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

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Anthony  D. Wagner, Ph.D.

Anthony D. Wagner, Ph.D.

Wagner (PhD '97, Stanford) is a Lucie Stern Professor in the Department of Psychology and a deputy director of the Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute at Stanford University. He has served on the board of Stanford's Center for Cognitive and Neurobiological Imaging and is a faculty affiliate of the Symbolic Systems Program , Human Biology Program , and Stanford Center on Longevity . His basic science focuses on the psychology and neurobiology of learning, memory, and executive function in young and older adults. His translational research examines aging and Alzheimer's disease, the relationship between multitasking and cognition, and the implications of neuroscience for law .

Postdoctoral Fellows

stanford cognitive psychology phd

Mingjian He, Ph.D.

Mingjian (Alex) (PhD ’24, Massachusetts Institute of Technology) is a Postdoctoral Scholar in the Purdon lab under the Department of Anesthesiology and in the Wagner lab under the Department of Psychology. He is passionate about combining statistics, electrophysiology and neuroimaging tools, and cognitive neuroscience experiments to understand cognitive decline in aging and Alzheimer’s disease. His research focuses on quantifying neural oscillations and investigates how the brain responds to memory decline with cognitive control and neuromodulatory systems. He is a part of the Awake EEG and Aging Study (AEAS) and the Sleep and Aging Study (SAS).

stanford cognitive psychology phd

Subbulakshmi S

Subbulakshmi (PhD’22, University of Cambridge) is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Wagner Lab. She is a NMOL 2022 Fellow at the Stanford Centre on Longevity. She is interested in understanding how cognitive systems like memory, attention, learning, decision making, emotional regulation and cognitive control interact with one another to bring about goal-directed behavior across the life-span. She is also broadly interested in understanding broader socio-political contexts and perspectives when studying human behavior and mental health. Her postdoctoral work will focus on studying underlying mechanisms of attention, memory and learning, and investigating how these mechanisms change as people age. Her work will leverage various cognitive neuroscience techniques including behavioral methods, functional MRI, structural MRI and PET imaging.

stanford cognitive psychology phd

Jintao Sheng

Jintao (PhD ’22, Beijing Normal University) is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Wagner Lab. She is broadly interested in what shapes human episodic memory and how memory declines with normal aging. As part of the Stanford Aging and Memory Study, her postdoctoral research will focus on how hippocampal functions (e.g., pattern separation) impact age-related memory decline by combining univariate and multivariate analysis. She plans to use a multimodal neuroimaging design, such as using an ultra-high resolution of structural MRI to segment the subfields of the hippocampus, functional MRI to measure brain activation and pattern separation, and PET to measure tau and amyloid-beta pathology, to understand the underlying neural mechanisms of memory decline.

Tammy Tran, Ph.D.

Tammy Tran, Ph.D.

Tammy (PhD ’19, Johns Hopkins) is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Wagner Lab. Her research focuses on examining the neural mechanisms underlying memory encoding in young adults and how these processes may change in aging and Alzheimer’s disease. Tammy’s work leverages virtual navigation to explore how memory and spatial navigation are intertwined. As part of the Stanford Aging and Memory study, she investigates how structural changes are related to biofluid and imaging biomarkers of disease. Tammy is funded by both an NIA F32 and an Alzheimer’s Association Research Fellowship to promote Diversity.

stanford cognitive psychology phd

Ali Trelle, Ph.D.

Ali (PhD '16, Cambridge) is an Instructor in the Stanford School of Medicine. Ali collaborates with the Wagner Lab on the Stanford Aging and Memory Study, a longitudinal multimodal biomarker study of human aging. Her research uses genetic, biofluid, and imaging markers of Alzheimer's disease to characterize the impact of early AD pathological changes on memory function in aging. Ali's research is supported by a K99 Pathway to Independence award from the National Institute on Aging. 

stanford cognitive psychology phd

Haopei Yang

Haopei (H.Y.) (PhD ’22, Western University) is a Postdoctoral Scholar in the Wagner Lab. He is interested in how attentional mechanisms and goal-state coding interact to affect memory, as well as how these relationships change with age. His research involves EEG, pupillometry, structural and functional MRI as part of the Attention, Memory, and Aging Study at Stanford (AMASS).

Graduate Students

Douglas  Miller

Douglas Miller

Douglas (B.A. ’17 UC Davis) is a Psychology PhD student in the Wagner Lab. He is interested in understanding how attentional states affect learning and subsequent memory strength. His work leverages a combination of behavioral, and neuroimaging and electrophysiological methods.

stanford cognitive psychology phd

Shawn Schwartz, M.S., M.A.

Shawn (B.S. ’19, M.S. ’21, UCLA; M.A. '23, Stanford) is a PhD candidate in cognitive neuroscience at Stanford Psychology. His research leverages multimodal neuroimaging – fMRI, PET/MR, scalp EEG, and pupillometry - to investigate the neural mechanisms underlying fluctuations in attention and episodic memory. As a researcher on AMASS, he is specifically interested in how group and individual differences in molecular and structural biomarkers of Alzheimer’s disease pathology relate to variance in moment-to-moment fluctuations in sustained attention and goal-state representation when attempting to bring a memory back to mind. He is funded by Stanford Psychology, the Center for Mind, Brain, Computation and Technology at the Stanford Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute, and an Agility Project Grant from the Wu Tsai Human Performance Alliance.

stanford cognitive psychology phd

Alice (BA ’20, Columbia) is broadly interested in understanding how our experiences shape our understanding of the world and in turn, the decisions that we make. As a PhD student in the Wagner lab, she is studying the cognitive neuroscience of learning and memory, with a focus on the temporal characteristics of neural processes governing episodic encoding and retrieval. Alice’s research is supported by a Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation.

Research Staff

stanford cognitive psychology phd

Gloria Cheng

Gloria Cheng (B.S. ’23, University of California, Irvine) is a research coordinator in the Wagner lab. Her undergraduate honors thesis explored the effects of time on the retrieval and influence of episodic memory on future decisions. She strives to study the intricate role of memory and neurobiology in shaping goal-directed behavior, particularly within the context of healthy aging.

stanford cognitive psychology phd

Khanh K. Nguyen

Khanh Nguyen (B.S. '22, UT Austin) is a research coordinator in the Wagner lab. At UT Austin, she conducted research in Dr. Alison Preston's lab, studying how episodic memory processes are affected by emotion. Her honors thesis investigated how overnight consolidation impact emotional influences on associative memory. She aims to study the underlying mechanisms of memory encoding and retrieval in young and older adults.

Jen  Park

Jen (B.A. '19, University of Southern California) is a Clinical Research Coordinator Associate in both the Mormino and Wagner Labs.  Before coming to Stanford, Jen worked at UC Davis at the Cognitive Electrophysiology and Neuroimaging Lab that seeks to develop methods sensitive to cognitive impairments of neurodegenerative diseases, and then was most recently working on the KHANDLE study that looks to shed light on racial & ethnic differences in aging, cognitive decline and dementia incidence. Jen's research interests are in the early detection of Alzheimer's Disease & other neurodegenerative diseases and in better understanding changes that occur in the brain in aging and preclinical AD. 

stanford cognitive psychology phd

America Romero

America Romero (B.S. '21, Cal Poly SLO) is a research coordinator in both the Mormino and Wagner labs. At Cal Poly, she conducted research in Dr. Kelly Bennion’s lab, studying retroactive interference and facilitation in learning and memory. America’s senior thesis investigated how attention affects emotional false memory. America’s research interests include investigating factors that predict memory performance using neuroimaging and behavioral methods.

Tobias Gerstenberg


Assistant Professor in Psychology, 2018-present

Stanford University

Postdoc, 2013-2018

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

PhD in Cognitive Science, 2013

University College London

MSc in Cognitive Science, 2008

I’m the PI of the Causality in Cognition Lab (CiCL). You can see me in action here .

Research interests

Here are some of the things I’m interested in:

  • computational models of cognition
  • causal inference
  • counterfactual reasoning
  • mental simulation
  • eye-tracking

You can find out more about what we do in the CiCL, what we value, and how to join us here . You can also take a look at my research statement .

Email : [email protected] Office : Room 302, Building 420

  • Winter 2023/24: Statistical Methods for Behavioral and Social Sciences (PSYCH 252)
  • Winter and Spring 2023/24: Advanced Research (PSYCH 198)
  • Winter 2021/22: Statistical Methods for Behavioral and Social Sciences (PSYCH 252)
  • Fall, Winter, and Spring 2021/22: Advanced Research (PSYCH 198)
  • Winter 2020/21: Statistical Methods for Behavioral and Social Sciences (PSYCH 252)
  • Fall 2020/21: Experimental Methods (PSYCH 251)
  • Fall 2020/21: What makes a good explanation? Psychological and philosophical perspectives (PSYCH 293)
  • Spring 2019/20: Research Methods in Cognition and Development (PSYCH 187)
  • Winter 2019/20: Statistical Methods for Behavioral and Social Sciences (PSYCH 252)
  • Winter 2018/19: Statistical Methods for Behavioral and Social Sciences (PSYCH 252)
  • Spring 2018/19: Causal Cognition (PSYCH 291)


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PSYCH-MA - Psychology (MA)

Program overview.

The purpose of the master’s program is to develop knowledge and skills in Psychology further and prepare students for a professional career or doctoral studies. This is achieved by completing courses in the primary field and related areas, and experience with independent work and specialization. The master’s program is available only to PhD students in Psychology and, under special circumstances, students enrolled in other graduate programs offered through the university.

Degree Eligibility

Current Stanford doctoral students can apply for a Master of Arts in Psychology during their PhD, JD, or MD program.

Graduate students already enrolled in the Psychology PhD program and who have completed (a) the first-year and second-year course requirements and (b) at least 45 units of Psychology courses may apply for conferral of the MA degree. This application should be discussed with the Student Services Manager.

Students currently enrolled in a Stanford PhD or professional program in another Department may be granted a Master of Arts in Psychology. In such cases, admission to the MA is considered by the faculty on a case-by-case basis. An admitted student must complete at least 45 units of Psychology courses and possibly other research or course requirements as determined by the faculty. Interested applicants should consult the Student Services Manager, Emily Fay ( [email protected] ).

All applicants must satisfy university residency requirements for the degree and are responsible for consulting with their primary departments or the Financial Aid Office about the effects of the proposed program on their current funding. 

The Department of Psychology does not offer a terminal master’s degree. Only currently enrolled Stanford doctoral students (PhD, MD, or JD) are eligible to apply for the MA in Psychology. 

Free Form Requisites

Completion of 45 units of graduate-level Psychology courses

A maximum of 18 units may be from lab courses, independent study, outside units, and practica (e.g., 222, 258, 269, 281, 297, 282, 290)

Successful completion of the First Year Project (FYP) or equivalent master’s thesis

Of the 45 units of Psychology courses, master’s students must complete 4 Core Courses and 2 Statistical Methods Courses as outlined below. These are the same Core Course and Quantitative Methods Course requirements the department sets for PhD students. 

Core Course Requirement

Students must take four core courses, each from a different area of the Psychology department: Affective Science, Cognitive Science, Developmental Psychology, Neuroscience, and Social Psychology, as listed below. All core courses must be taken for a letter grade for three units and passed with a B- or better grade. 

Consistent with the program’s goal of fostering breadth and engagement across all areas of the department, students are encouraged to take all five core courses spanning the five areas of the department. If a student takes five core courses, the units and grade of the fifth course are counted toward the student’s advanced units.

Students may be required by their advisors to take up to two additional graduate courses in their area of specialization. The additional courses are counted toward the advanced unit requirement described below in these cases. Students should consult with their advisor about any additional requirements in their area of specialization. 

Quantitative Methods Course Requirement

Students are required to take two of the following Quantitative Methods courses:

Quantitative methods courses must be taken for a letter grade and passed with a B- or better grade.

Policy and Process for Current Psychology PhD students

Graduate students already enrolled in the Psychology PhD program and have completed (a) the first-year and second-year course requirements and (b) at least 45 units of Psychology courses may apply for conferral of the MA degree. This application should be discussed with the Student Services Manager.

All applicants must satisfy university residency requirements for the degree and are responsible for consulting with their primary departments or the Financial Aid Office about the effects of the proposed program on their current funding.

Please note: The Department of Psychology does not offer terminal MA degrees for students not already pursuing another advanced degree at Stanford.

How to apply for the Psychology MA: Current Psychology PhD Students

Fill out the  application form  and obtain your advisor’s signature.

Submit the completed application form to the Psychology Student Services Manager, who will obtain the Department Chair’s signature.

Submit a request for the master’s degree via Axess using the Graduate Program Authorization Form. To find this form, navigate to the Student Tab, then Petitions and Forms under the Academics tab. Make sure to indicate that you are adding a master’s degree. There will be a checkbox to leave your current graduate program - do NOT check this box!

Enter your payment and select “Apply to Graduate” in Axess (select the master’s, not PhD).

Psychology’s Student Services Office will approve your request in Axess.

Policy and Procedures for External Students Requesting to Pursue a Master of Arts in Psychology

Graduate students from other Stanford departments/graduate programs may request the opportunity to pursue a Master of Arts in Psychology. They are eligible if:

They are PhD, JD, or MD students in another Stanford department/graduate program

They have secured a Psychology faculty sponsor who agrees to serve as their master’s research advisor.


The requirements for the MA are the same for internal (Psychology PhD program) and external (non-Psychology PhD program) students. However, for external students, the MA coursework and thesis must be in addition to the coursework and milestone documents they are using toward their primary Ph.D. In other words, a student may not use the same course to count toward the unit or content requirements of both degrees; the student must choose which courses count for which degree. Students are still bound to the PhD course load cap of 10 units per quarter. Students may count the Psych MA course units toward the requirement to complete 135 units in residence for a PhD (a university requirement) but not toward specific Department/program-level PhD requirements.

If a student requests permission to waive a particular core or methods course requirement (e.g., PSYCH 252) due to overlapping course content with their PhD coursework, the student must petition the Psychology Graduate Program Committee. If this petition is granted, the student must still complete 45 units of Psychology coursework, of which a maximum of 18 can be labs/practica/research units. Waiving a course requirement means the student replaces the waived course with a different psychology course.

An external student’s master’s thesis cannot overlap with similar milestone documents that count toward their primary Ph.D. For an external student, a successful Master’s Thesis is a report on a research project in Psychology that is done during the first two years of their master’s studies. Typically, the thesis is written in the format of a scientific paper, including the following sections: (i) an introduction describing the background and theoretical context, (ii) a methods section describing the experimental paradigm,  (ii) results detailing experiment outcomes with the appropriate data analyses, statistical analyses, figures, and/or tables, (iv) discussion, and (v) references. Both the primary advisor in the Psychology department and a second reader (must be a Stanford Academic Council member) will read and give the student feedback on their Master’s Thesis, and the student must pass a 1-hour thesis defense at which the work is presented to the advisor and reader.

A successful external MA recipient goes through the following steps:

The potential student secures a Psychology faculty research mentor who supports the addition of the MA; have an initial meeting with the Student Services Manager to review the program and set expectations.

The potential student applies to the Student Services Manager. This application is composed of the following materials: Statement of Purpose, CV, and Letter of Support from primary advisor(s) in the home department.

The Student Service Manager collates and submits the application to the area faculty for review.

If the area faculty approves, the Student Services Manager confirms Department approval with the student and records the student’s commitment to pursue an MA. Note: The student does not formally add the Psych MA program plan in Axess at this time.

The student pursues the MA coursework and research under the consultation of the MA advisor. The Student Services Manager is available for logistical advising.

The student completes the coursework and submits an MA Thesis. The thesis is submitted via email to the Psychology MA advisor and secondary reader, cc’ing the Psychology Student Services Manager.

The MA Thesis is defended in a presentation to the primary advisor and second reader, and the thesis is reviewed and approved by both the primary advisor in Psychology and the second reader.

The student submits the MA form and formally matriculates, and the MA degree is available in the system for the student to confer.

How to apply for the Psychology MA: Current Stanford JD, MD, or PhD Students

Carefully review the  Psychology MA Policy and Process document .

Set up a meeting with the Student Services Manager (Emily Fay,  [email protected] ) to review the process.

Secure Psychology faculty MA advisor.

Apply for the Student Services Manager. The application consists of a Statement of Purpose, CV, and Letter of Support from the primary home department advisor(s). The psychology faculty will review this application.

If the Psychology faculty approves, the Psychology MA advisor will mentor you as you complete the MA requirements. The requirements include the 45 coursework units outlined above and a master’s thesis and master’s thesis defense. For complete details, refer to the  Psychology MA Policy and Process document . 

After completing the required MA coursework, thesis, and Thesis defense, complete the  application form  and obtain your advisor’s signature.

Submit a request for the Master’s Degree via Axess using the Graduate Program Authorization Form. To find this form, navigate to the Student Tab, then Petitions and Forms under the Academics tab. Make sure to indicate that you are adding a master’s degree. There will be a checkbox to leave your current graduate program - do NOT check this box! 

Enter your payment and select “Apply to Graduate” in Axess (choose the master’s, not PhD).

As with internal MA students, external MA students matriculate into the MA at the end of the program. This ensures that if a student opts not to complete the MA, we do not need to process a formal withdrawal or dismissal from the MA program.

The department does not provide funding for external MA students. If a faculty mentor wishes to engage an external MA student as an RA, the faculty must provide the funds.

Email forwarding for is changing. Updates and details here . CS Commencement Ceremony June 16, 2024.  Learn More .

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Stanford Pain News

TDS support is key for PROGRESS pain relief study

stanford cognitive psychology phd

More than 50 million Americans experience chronic pain. Many of them struggle to find relief, particularly affordable, low-risk treatment options that help them reduce their own suffering when they need it most.

With the support of Stanford Health Care’s Technology and Digital Solutions group, we are rolling out the PROGRESS study to test two evidence-based pain relief skills treatments that patients can receive online and from home at no cost. The online PROGRESS study eliminates travel burdens and makes treatment more accessible, especially to groups that are often underserved in health care.

We are targeting representative enrollment of Stanford Health Care patients most commonly overlooked in health research, including older adults with Medicare/Medicaid (often lower income), racial and ethnic minorities, and people living in rural areas. Because PROGRESS is online, it involves a lot of effort from TDS to tailor our learning healthcare system, the Collaborative Health Outcomes Information Registry (CHOIR), to each study site, enhancing the patient-participant experience and ensuring rigor in data collection and study operations.

stanford cognitive psychology phd

Since PROGRESS is what’s known as a comparative effectiveness trial, there is no “control group” — rather, every enrolled patient receives one of the two evidence-based pain treatments. This format makes the study more appealing to patients and clinicians who want to access to pain care, aligning it closely to Stanford’s clinical mission.

The study will compare the effects of an online single-session pain relief skills class called Empowered Relief® against a program of eight online sessions of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Both methods have been shown to relieve pain and help people have better sleep, better mood, less fatigue, and improved daily function. But the two methods have never been compared in a national study with diverse patients and online.

Improved Patient Experience

In designing the PROGRESS study we integrated advice from 2,000 patients and consulted multiple patient advisory boards to better understand how to best meet diverse patients’ needs and wants. TDS then implements their guidance in tailoring the informatics platform, patient surveys, participant compensation, and patient communications systems. Patients even receive their treatments through our online platform. Our electronic study platform hosts all patient experiences in one easy location; people can access it anywhere as long as they have access to the internet.

stanford cognitive psychology phd

TDS Collaboration

The PROGRESS study represents about six months of TDS collaboration, development, and testing to launch this national, multi-site trial. Research Technology built this solution leveraging our existing  CHOIR  platform software and Google Cloud infrastructure. This improved our time to solution, reduced infrastructure cost and complexity, and helped innovate in terms of CHOIR features that are now available for future projects. New CHOIR features we released include: 

  • Self-directed electronic screening and consent process with inclusion/exclusion criteria, waiting room and workflow for verification checks and randomization
  • Versioning of consents and electronic re-consent process
  • Integration of Amazon gift card incentives for participation (participants receive payments as they complete various activities)
  • Scheduling of treatment activities 

The Research Technology team was able to leverage existing CHOIR features for collecting baseline information, pre- and post-treatment status, and followup outcomes at various time points. The administrative features and ability to isolate data between multiple study sites were valuable, and we leveraged existing role-based security controls. 

Since Research Tech was able to leverage our existing development and production environments, we did not need to provision or manage any new infrastructure. This greatly reduced the burden for our software development team, and kept the cloud resource costs minimal.

Quote: This far-reaching study is helping to advance Stanford's mission to be a national leader in health care

Uniquely Stanford

The PROGRESS study is “uniquely Stanford” in three ways. First, the CHOIR learning health system and informatics platform were developed at Stanford (by Sean Mackey, MD, PhD) in 2010. CHOIR is used in multiple Stanford clinics and academic centers throughout the U.S. to capture high-quality data to guide patient care and generate real-world research discoveries. Second, Empowered Relief® was created at Stanford by Beth Darnall, MD, PhD. Third, our Stanford pain psychology team is leading the national implementation of both Empowered Relief® and 8-session CBT.

We’re aiming to perform the study on 1,650 individuals; since we started in January of 2023, we’ve enrolled around 300. We’re currently on year two of a five-year study, and will follow participants for six months after treatment is finished. We hope the results of our study inform national pain treatment policies, and help patients, families and clinicians make informed decisions about their pain care.

This far-reaching study is helping to advance Stanford’s mission to be a national leader in health care research, particularly in research that seeks to enhance diversity and include underrepresented populations. Or, as stated in our Integrated Strategic Plan: “Discovered here, used everywhere.” 

PROGRESS study participants will gain new skills, set goals, and receive support while continuing their other pain treatments.

Special Thanks and Recognition

Beth Darnall , MD, PhD, Principal Investigator of the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, which provided $13.3 million in funding;  Sean Mackey , MD, PhD, who created CHOIR and is the site-PI for the Stanford study site;  Emma Adair , PROGRESS Core Manager;  Matt Cheung , PhD, RPh;  Kelly Adams ,  Kristen Honesto ,  Ashley Gomez , and the perhaps 80 other individuals, site PIs, clinical leads, study coordinators, and patient advisers who are essential to the success of PROGRESS.

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Stanford Pain Faculty/AAPM Members Co-Author Breakthrough Feasibility Study Published in Anesthesia and Analgesia

  • Department of Psychology >
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  • Graduate Admissions >

Cognitive PhD Program

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For information regarding the online application and admissions process, please visit the UB Graduate School. 

  • UB's General Admission Requirements
  • Admissions FAQs
  • Check Your Admissions Status

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Admission Requirements and Process

The Department of Psychology at the University at Buffalo uses a holistic admissions process in our consideration of applications.  This means that we evaluate the entire application, rather than any single indicator or a few indicators. Thus, applicants are viewed as a whole person, the sum of their experiences, accomplishments, and aspirations. Consistent with this, we do not rely on or use “cut offs” for numerical indices of an academic record such as grade point average. A holistic approach also means that a candidate who may be less strong in some areas, can still have a highly competitive application by having greater strength in other areas. All elements of an application are taken into consideration, to maximize a good fit of the applicant with our training program and potential mentors, to reduce bias that can result from reliance on a limited number of components, and to reduce inequities in access to opportunities for graduate training. 

Over the years, we have learned that a holistic admissions process helps us identify applicants who are likely to succeed in our graduate programs, brings a diversity of experience and ideas into our academic community, and supports a fair review of all applicants. Our goal is to recruit the next generation of academic psychologists who are passionate about making new discoveries and generating new knowledge in their chosen discipline.  We expect students to bring hard work, professional ambition, resilience, grit, intellectual acumen, and enthusiasm to our graduate programs.

Although we value quantitative criteria like GPA, we take a broad view of academic excellence and recognize that indices of success in our graduate programs and professional achievement cannot be reduced to numbers alone. In short, we endeavor to balance quantitative and qualitative indices of success. Because we want to give students the greatest opportunity to thrive in our program, we place a strong emphasis on fit with our programs and potential faculty mentors. A highly qualified applicant may not be strongly considered if their interests and goals do not provide a good fit with the orientation of our training program or with faculty research interests. Accordingly, we consider the following components in our admissions decisions: personal statement, undergraduate transcript and GPA (and prior graduate record if applicable), letters of recommendation, and resume/research experience. Interviews are required for applicants to the Behavioral Neuroscience, Clinical, and Social-Personality doctoral programs, and our MA programs in General Psychology; interviews are not required for applicants to the Cognitive Psychology doctoral program. After initial review of applications, the selected applicants to program requiring an interview will be contacted by prospective advisors to set up an interview time.

Schomburg statements are optional for applicants to our doctoral programs interested in being considered for a Schomburg Fellowship. These statements are not used for admissions decisions.

Cognitive PhD Program:

Components of the application and how they are used, personal statement (required).

Helps contextualize the more quantitative and objective credentials of an applicant.  The statement is used to evaluate the applicant’s goals and fit with the program and research interests of the faculty as well as how they would contribute to the diversity of thought and perspectives.

Prompt for Personal (1000 words or less):

Describe the area of research you are interested in pursuing during your graduate studies and explain how our program would help you achieve your intellectual goals. The statement should include your academic background, intellectual interests and training or research experience that has prepared you for our program. The statement should also identify specific faculty members whose research interests align with your own interests.

Submitting Personal Statement:

Uploaded as part of the online application.

Transcript and GPA (required)

Provides evidence that the applicant is seeking challenging coursework, while excelling and showing academic growth. The University at Buffalo requires an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher.  However, applications with an undergraduate GPA below 3.0 can still be considered, particularly when other components of the application are strong (e.g., a high graduate GPA, high GRE scores, etc.). 

Submitting transcripts:

Upload scanned copies of all undergraduate and graduate transcripts as part of your online application.  Include the English translation, if applicable. 

Letters of recommendation (3 required):

Provides a third-party endorsement of the applicant’s attributes, ability to succeed in the graduate program, and potential to contribute to the field.  The letter offers a perspective on the applicant’s prior achievements and potential to succeed, along with concrete examples of the subjective traits described in other elements of the application.

Submitting Letters:

Letters must be submitted electronically. Further instructions are included in the online application.

Resume and research experience (required):

Provides information on how the applicant has practically applied ideas and concepts learned in the classroom. It helps show that applicants possess the skills and dispositions needed to conduct extensive research and make substantive contributions to their chosen field.

Submitting resume

Schomburg statement (optional applications to our doctoral program):, what is a schomburg fellowship.

A Schomburg Fellowship offers support for students in doctoral programs who can demonstrate that they would contribute to the diversity of the student body, especially those who can demonstrate that they have overcome a disadvantage or other impediment to success in higher education. In order to be eligible for the Schomburg Fellowship, you need to be either a U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident and have a cumulative undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or above. 

Here is a link to more information about Schomburg Fellowships.

The Schomburg statement provides useful information in helping the faculty decide whether to nominate an applicant for the Schomburg Fellowship.

Schomburg Statement:

If you would like to be considered for a Schomburg Fellowship, please  upload a written statement with your online application  (maximum of 500 words) describing how you will contribute to the diversity of the student body in your graduate program, including by having overcome a disadvantage or other impediment to success in higher education.  Please note that such categorical circumstances may include academic, vocational, social, physical or economic impediments or disadvantaged status you have been able to overcome, as evidenced by your performance as an undergraduate, or other characteristics that constitute categorical underrepresentation in your particular graduate program such as gender or racial/ethnic status.

Submitting a Schomburg statement:

Do men really sleep better than women? Experts explain

Couple in bed

Women and men sleep differently, so their sleep disorders shouldn’t be treated the same way, suggests new research that explores the biological sex characteristics of getting shut-eye.

Men are more likely to have obstructive sleep apnea , while women are more likely to experience insomnia and report lower sleep quality. These are among the findings of a literature review published in April in the journal Sleep Medicine Reviews . The researchers hailed from Harvard University, Stanford University, and the University of Southampton in the U.K.

This research is as much about precision medicine as it is sleep disparities between the sexes, says coauthor Renske Lok, PhD , a postdoctoral fellow at the Stanford Center for Sleep and Circadian Sciences .

“We’re trying to move away from the one size fits all,” she tells Fortune . “[Medicine] needs to be more tailored.”

Understanding how and why biological sex impacts various sleep disorders is a critical step toward individualized treatment. However, the long-standing lack of inclusion of women in biomedical and behavioral research is a hindrance. The National Institutes of Health didn’t require studies to account for sex as a biological variable until 2016.

“The biggest finding is that we absolutely have to do better in including women in our research designs,” Lok says. “Historically, women have not been included as much as men, in part because it was always assumed results from men would translate automatically to women. And we’re starting to find out more and more that this is not the case.”

Sex and circadian rhythm

The mental, physical, and behavioral changes your body experiences in a 24-hour period are called circadian rhythms . Almost all your organs and tissues have their own rhythms, and together they form a kind of master biological clock that’s particularly sensitive to light and dark.

At night, your brain produces more of the sleep hormone melatonin , which makes you feel tired. In one study reviewed by Lok and her colleagues, women secreted melatonin earlier in the evening than men. This aligns with other research showing men typically are later chronotypes; that is, they go to bed and wake up later than women. As such, men tend to have worse social jetlag, when their biological clock doesn’t align with the traditional timing of societal demands, like working a 9-5 job.

Another study showed that core body temperature—which is highest before sleep and lowest a few hours before waking—also peaked earlier in women. Other research found that women’s circadian periods were about six minutes shorter than men’s: 24.09 hours compared to 24.19.

“While this difference may be small, it is significant. The misalignment between the central body clock and the sleep/wake cycle is approximately five times larger in women than in men,” Lok said in a news release about her team’s work. “Imagine if someone’s watch was consistently running six minutes faster or slower. Over the course of days, weeks, and months, this difference can lead to a noticeable misalignment between the internal clock and external cues, such as light and darkness.

“Disruptions in circadian rhythms have been linked to various health problems, including sleep disorders , mood disorders , and impaired cognitive function . Even minor differences in circadian periods can have significant implications for overall health and well-being.”

Cognitive behavioral therapy is one option for getting your circadian rhythm on track—especially if your biological and social clocks don’t match up—says Alaina Tiani, PhD , a clinical psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic Sleep Disorders Center .

“It differs patient to patient, but we have them take melatonin (supplements) earlier in the evening and then we have them use some bright-light exposure in the morning,” Tiani tells Fortune , referring to night owls who need to wake earlier. “Those two things help anchor their sleep window as they’re working on shifting things.”

Man sleeping while wearing a CPAP mask for sleep apnea.

Work-life stress may influence women’s insomnia

You’ve likely experienced bouts of acute insomnia , stressful periods throughout your life when you’ve had difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or getting high-quality sleep. They may have lasted just days or as long as a few weeks. Chronic insomnia, though, is when you experience these sleep disruptions at least three times a week for more than three months, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute . In addition, chronic insomnia can’t be explained by other health problems you may have.

Insomnia is about 1.5 times more common in women , previous research has shown. Lok and her colleagues theorized this may be due to certain risk factors more prevalent in women, such as anxiety and depression.

Dr. Eric Sklar is a neurologist and medical director of the Inova Sleep Disorders Program in northern Virginia. Insomnia is one of the most common sleep disorders he treats, and he was unsurprised by the review’s findings.

“There is a high correlation with underlying psychiatric disorders and insomnia,” Sklar tells Fortune . “Some of the underlying societal stressors for men and women may be different.”

Women still are often pigeonholed into the role of family caregiver, while also clawing their way up the career ladder, Sklar notes, not to mention fielding life’s other stressors . In addition, evening downtime is essential for healthy circadian rhythms and women sometimes have to fight harder for it, he says. And when so-called “revenge bedtime procrastination” involves screen time, women may be further disrupting their body clocks.

By some objective measures, women sleep better than men, the review shows. Women have higher sleep efficiency , which refers to the percentage of time in bed actually spent sleeping . Women entered the dream-heavy rapid eye movement (REM) phase of sleep earlier, and spent about eight minutes longer in non-REM sleep . However, women self-reported poorer sleep quality than men.

While new parents face a variety of sleep disruptions, Tiani tells Fortune a swath of her postpartum patients and women with young children report diminished sleep quality.

“Almost like their brain was half-listening out for their children in the middle of the night, in case they needed something,” Tiani says. Patients who are caregivers in other capacities have reported the same thing, “that listening out in the night.”

Why do men and women sleep differently?

Women did catch a break with one common sleep disorder: obstructive sleep apnea , when the upper airway becomes blocked repeatedly during sleep. The disorder is almost three times as common in men , however, it’s only associated with an increased risk of heart failure in women , the review noted.

“It is well known that men are at a higher risk,” Sklar tells Fortune , adding that biological sex is used in sleep apnea risk assessment. “Men tend to have larger necks, and neck size is also a risk factor.”

Lok’s review also noted these sleep differences between the sexes, among others:

  • Women 1.5–4 times more likely to have a sleep-related eating disorder
  • Women have 25–50% increased likelihood of restless legs syndrome
  • Women self-report more fluctuation in sleep quality
  • Men have less consistent rest-activity schedules
  • Men overeat more in response to sleep loss
  • Men night-shift workers at higher risk of Type 2 diabetes

One key factor remained inconsistent across the nearly 150 studies Lok and her colleagues analyzed: women’s menstrual phases. Menstruation correlates to numerous changes that impact sleep, such as elevated body temperature during the luteal phase of the cycle. What’s more, some research failed to consider subjects’ oral contraception usage, which may have skewed results.

“It’s tricky because, for example, if somebody doesn’t use hormonal contraceptives, it means that you have to include women at the same menstrual phase,” Lok tells Fortune . “Otherwise, you get all kinds of variation due to changes in hormonal levels.”

Having tackled some of the hurdles standing in her team’s way—namely, thin evidence of some biological sex differences—Lok is hopeful about future research.

In some instances, “we’re not sure if there are any sex differences because, simply, nobody has ever looked at it,” Lok says. “At the same time, it’s a very encouraging article because it definitely identifies where the gaps are still present.”

For more on biological sex and health:

  • Alcohol-fueled hospital visits are spiking among middle-aged women, study says: ‘We simply just don’t know what’s causing this’
  • Women may get more health benefits from regular exercise than men—even if they work out less
  • A 5-minute test can estimate your odds of developing breast cancer—but not if you’re biracial
  • Jill Biden announces a White House initiative focused on women’s health research: This ‘has been underfunded for decades’

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Nine named SUNY Distinguished Professors

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SUNY Distinguished Professor medal.

Nine UB faculty members have been named SUNY Distinguished Professors, the highest faculty rank in the SUNY system.


Published May 3, 2024

Ralph H.B. Benedict, Ann Bisantz, Deborah Duen Ling Chung, Craig Colder, Michael Duffey, Jeffrey Lackner, Amanda Nickerson, Sanjay Sethi and Eva Zurek were appointed to the distinguished professor ranks by the SUNY Board of Trustees at its meeting on April 16.

The rank of distinguished professor is an order above full professorship and has three co-equal designations: distinguished professor, distinguished service professor and distinguished teaching professor.

Duffey was named a Distinguished Teaching Professor in recognition of his commitment to teaching. According to SUNY, the candidate’s teaching mastery must be “consistently demonstrated over multiple years” and “must contribute to the discipline and to the University, the State of New York or the nation by the use of innovative pedagogy and the sustained application of intellectual skills drawing from the candidate’s scholarly and research interests.” 

All the other faculty members were named Distinguished Professors in recognition of their international prominence and distinguished reputations within their chosen fields. According to SUNY, “this distinction is attained through significant contributions to the research literature or through artistic performance or achievement in the case of the arts. The candidate’s work must be of such character that the individual’s presence will tend to elevate the standards of scholarship of colleagues both within and beyond these persons’ academic fields.”

UB’s newest SUNY Distinguished Professors:

Ralph Benedict.

Ralph H. B. Benedict , professor of neurology in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, is a pioneer in the understanding of cognitive disorders, and treatment the treatment thereof, in people with multiple sclerosis (MS). Benedict is one of the top investigators worldwide in standardized neuropsychological testing and quantitative brain imaging used in assessing cognitive dysfunction in MS and other neurological diseases. His research employs behavioral psychometrics and clinical trials to understand how cerebral disease affects personality, cognition and psychiatric stability. His research on the psychological, behavioral and cognitive attributes of MS has also shaped the field of neuropsychology more generally.

A fellow of the American Psychological Association, Benedict received the Consortium of MS Center’s 2019 Fred Foley Award, which recognizes outstanding contributions to advancing research in the understanding and clinical treatment of MS, and UB’s 2022 Exceptional Scholar Award for sustained professional achievement. He received a SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activities in 2015 and the Stockton Kimball Award — the Jacobs School's highest honor — in 2021.

Ann Bisantz.

Ann Bisantz , professor of industrial and systems engineering, is a pioneer in the fields of human factors engineering and cognitive engineering, which uses cognitive psychology and systems engineering methods to support or improve user cognitive processes and system safety. Her research works to understand aspects of human trust in automated systems, particularly those in complex human technology work environments, including health care, military systems, transportation and emergency management.

She examines new techniques for displaying complex and uncertain information to decision makers, including supporting the transition from legacy or manual information systems to more integrated, supportive IT systems.

A fellow of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (HFES), Bisantz has also received the HFES’ Paul M. Fitts Education Award for exceptional contributions to the education and training of HFE specialists and its Mentor of the Year award. She received a 2015 Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activities. In addition to her role on the faculty, she serves as dean of undergraduate education at UB.

Deborah Chung.

Deborah Duen Ling Chung , professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, is internationally renowned for transformative contributions to materials science and engineering. Her groundbreaking invention of smart concrete propelled the field of smart materials and structures. In addition, she changed the thermal interface materials design from thermal-conductivity based to conformability based. Moreover, she transformed the design of electromagnetic interference shielding materials from relying on electrical conductivity to interface/surface area design.

A 2022 Stanford University study ranked Chung 13th out of more than 316,000 materials researchers (living and dead), 10th among those living and first among female materials researchers; Stanford’s 2021 study ranked her first in the world in the field of building and construction.

A fellow of ASM International and the American Carbon Society, Chung was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Science in 2023. She received a 2003 SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activities, and will receive the UB President’s Medal during the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences’ undergraduate commencement ceremony on May 18.

Environmental Portrait of Psychology Associate Professor Craig Colder Photographer: Douglas Levere.

Craig Colder , professor of psychology, is a world-renowned authority on adolescent alcohol and drug use and abuse whose work has shaped the fields’ understanding of early precursors of the initiation and escalation of substance use. His groundbreaking longitudinal studies on the development of substance use span childhood to adulthood and have established the psychological and ecological predictors of substance abuse, including the role of parent alcoholism, parenting, peer influences, temperamental factors, maternal depression and adolescent social competence.

He developed and validated tools for assessing the consequences of alcohol use in young adulthood and childhood temperament that have been translated into six languages. His recent work extends into related topics, including cigarette smoking and cessation, vaping and parenting approaches that can help reduce the harms of adolescent drinking.

In 2002, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation named Colder a Tobacco Etiology Research Network Scholar. A fellow of the Association for Psychological Science, he received a 2022 Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activities.

Michael Duffey.

Michael E. Duffey , professor of physiology and biophysics in the Jacobs School, has demonstrated excellence in teaching, curricular development, student mentoring and academic scholarship. His extensive contributions to graduate and medical curricula include redesigning the medical school’s curriculum into an integrated curriculum with organ system-based modules for first- and second-year medical students. He developed and is module leader for the course “Gastrointestinal Systems,” which integrates metabolism, genetics and nutrition in both health and disease.

Duffey co-founded the interdisciplinary graduate program in biomedical sciences, a revolutionary umbrella curriculum that unified six graduate basic science programs and has served as a model for other institutions. As director for physiology graduate studies, he developed and revised the physiology and biophysics curriculum.

Duffey is also the recipient of a SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2019.

Jeffrey M. Lackner.

Jeffrey M. Lackner , professor of medicine, is an international expert in the field of cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) for the treatment of gastrointestinal and chronic pain disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).. The behavioral self-treatment he developed at UB is regarded as one of the most effective treatments of any type (drugs, dietary) for IBS. He validated a four-stage pain processing model for understanding how specific aspects of pain interact to influence symptom burden, and his team was the first worldwide to use brain imaging techniques to characterize the neural correlates of CBT’s improvements in GI symptoms. Lackner’s work on nonpharmacological approaches to chronic pain has dramatically changed clinical practice guidelines in the U.S., Europe, and Asia.

A fellow of the American Gastroenterological Association, the Academy of Behavioral Medicine Research, the Association for Psychological Science, the American Psychological Association, and the Society of Behavioral Medicine, Lackner received a 2016 Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activities.

Amanda Nickerson.

Amanda Nickerson , professor of counseling, school and educational psychology in the Graduate School of Education, has made significant and sustained contributions to the field of school psychology. Inaugural director of the Alberti Center for Bullying Abuse Prevention, she focuses her work on understanding, preventing and intervening in school crises, with an emphasis on addressing interpersonal violence, such as aggression, bullying and abuse, and on promoting safety and mental health.

She developed and validated the Bystander Intervention Model in Bullying and Sexual Harassment Measure, and created and is currently evaluating NAB IT! (Norms and Bystander Intervention Training). She is an author of the PREP a RE School Crisis Prevention and Intervention Training, which has improved interventional attitudes and knowledge of thousands of school personnel.

A fellow of the American Psychological Association, Nickerson received UB’s Exceptional Scholar Award for Sustained Achievement in 2018 and the UB President’s Medal in 2019.

Sanjay Sethi.

Sanjay Sethi , professor of medicine and assistant vice president for health sciences in the Jacobs School, is an internationally regarded pulmonologist with a primary clinical and research interest in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), the third leading cause of death worldwide. Sethi has been recognized as one of the top five COPD specialists since 2013 by Expertscape. He examines whether new bacterial strains are causative of COPD exacerbations, the role of innate immunity, inflammation without infection and important bacterial strains in the respiratory tract in acute exacerbations of COPD.

His contributions have fundamentally altered our understanding of bacteria and the microbiomes role in COPD and have had a profound impact on the treatment of COPD and respiratory infections. He is the recipient of a 2020 Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activities.

Portraits of Theoretical Chemist Eva Zurek in the Natural Sciences Complex.

Eva Zurek , professor of chemistry, is a "star” in theoretical condensed matter physics and computational materials chemistry. Existing at the intersection of theoretical physics, engineering, materials science, chemistry, earth and planetary sciences, Zurek’s research is based on calculations of chemical and physical properties of molecules and materials. Her discoveries have been central to the computational design of new superconducting H-rich phases at high pressure.

She designed and developed an open-source evolutionary algorithm for crystal structure prediction, which is widely used to predict new materials for use in novel technologies, including superconductors, super-hard materials and classes of nanomaterials. Her research also holds paradigm-shifting implications for understanding extreme environments in nature — from the depth of planets in the solar system to the new planets being discovered with potentially quite different compositions and chemistry.

A fellow of the American Physical Society, Zurek received a 2021 Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activities.

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Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is an emergency procedure that can help save a person’s life if their breathing or heart stops. The  Recreation and Wellness Committee  is dedicated to promoting and maintaining the latest health and safety policies across UB. 

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Congratulations URF Scholars Class of 2024

We are delighted to share the names of the URF Scholars — those who have earned a PEAK Experience Award, applied for a distinguished fellowship, or participated in our Graduate School advising — graduating this year. We are very proud of the ways that they have sought to make the most of their Northeastern University educations, creating new knowledge and practice through research and creative endeavor, using their talents in the service of others, and working with deliberate intention, in community with one another. We’re very proud of them and eager to see them put their intellect and capacities to work in the wider world. Congratulations, Huskies!

Emin Abahamian



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