Prospective Graduate Students FAQ
Are you taking a student next year?
Professors Butryn, Forman and Juarascio will each be taking a PhD student, with interviews in early 2019 for admission in the class enrolling in fall of 2019.
What type of applicant are you looking for?
We are looking for applicants who are particularly interested in health-related behavior change, including innovative obesity and weight-related eating disorder treatments (particularly those related to acceptance-based behavioral approaches based on technological developments), innovative interventions to promote physical activity, the role of implicit attitudes on health-related decision-making and the neurocognition of eating behavior. (See other pages on this site for more information on individual research interests.) In addition, we are seeking an applicant with:
- A strong academic record, as evidenced by their GRE scores (a quantitative plus verbal sum of 315, and an analytical writing score of at least 4.5 is desirable), strength of undergraduate institution and GPA (3.5 or greater is preferred)
- Outstanding letters of recommendation (from doctoral-level academic, research-oriented psychologists, if possible)
- High-quality research experience
- A statement of purpose that indicates an understanding of the realities of the field and a specific area of interest. Topics such as outcome research, cognitive-behavior therapy, acceptance and mindfulness and technology-based treatments are the focus of the lab, so an interest in one or more of these areas is usually important
- Strong writing skills, initiative, creativity and ambition
How does the admissions process work?
Applications are due December 1st; please review the application requirements and instructions. If you are interested in working in our lab group, be sure to indicate this on the Faculty Preference Form that you include with your application. Beginning in January, we review applications from those applicants who have indicated a desire to work in our lab (approximately 100 people). Out of this set, 10-15 students are invited to Drexel for in-person interviews and an opportunity to meet faculty and students. Normally, between one and three doctoral students are admitted for this lab each year.
Will contacting you help my application, or demonstrate my interest in the program?
No. We receive so many emails and phone calls per week, and so many applications (700 total; 150+ to our research group), that we honestly do not have any way of remembering who has and who has not contacted us. We make decisions solely on the basis of the criteria described above. Please only contact us if you genuinely have a question that we can answer. Of note, because of the high number of prospective applicants/students we are unable to hold phone or in-person meetings. Instead, as per above, we invite a select group of applicants to meet with us in February.
How does mentorship work?
Students typically are assigned either Professor Forman, Professor Butryn or Professor Juarascio as a primary mentor. However, students often participate in projects supervised by all three mentors, and enjoy the advantage of being advised by multiple mentors on matters relating to their thesis, dissertation, manuscript preparation and professional development.
What are the outcomes for students (and others) you have supervised?
We believe that outcomes--including internship program, publications, presentations, awards and positions attained post-graduation, are an essential part of understanding the impact of a given training program. As such, we have assembled a comprehensive list of these data in an online document. As you will see, our students/graduates have matched with top-tier internship sites, published high numbers of manuscripts in high-quality journals, presented posters and talks at the top national and international conferences, won large numbers of prestigious awards, and secured positions as academics and scientist-practitioners at top institutions throughout the country.
What are your active lab projects?
We have approximately 20 active lab projects currently. These include student-led projects and a number of large-scale NIH- and other agency-funded projects.
Dr. Butryn serves as project PI and subcontract PI of several NIH-funded clinical trials that are currently active, including FitLink, which is evaluating ways in which digital data from several self-monitoring devices can be shared with coaches to enhance supportive accountability during remote treatment for obesity; Project Impact, which is examining physical activity promotion during weight loss maintenance; and Project Health, which is designed to enhance obesity prevention interventions among young adults. With collaborators from Weill Cornell Medical Center, Dr. Butryn also is conducting research on lifestyle modification among African American breast cancer survivors, and is developing additional research on the role of obesity, diet, and physical activity along the cancer continuum in her role as operational director of cancer survivorship at the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Thomas Jefferson University.
Dr. Forman is PI of Mind Your Health, which is evaluating a novel acceptance-based behavioral treatment (ABT) for obesity; Project Dash, which is evaluating the effect of gamification and of computerized neurocognitive training aimed at helping individuals stay adherent to a healthy diet; OnTrack, a smartphone-based Just-in-Time Adaptive Intervention (JITAI) that uses machine learning to predict and prevent lapses from a weight control diet; and ReLearn, an investigation of an Artificial Intelligence (AI) approach to optimizing intervention features for weight control.
Dr. Juarascio is the PI of the Balancing Act Project, which evaluates a novel, acceptance-based behavioral treatment for individuals with binge eating disorder; Project ACQUIRE, which evaluates a new smartphone application designed to enhance the current gold-standard treatment for bulimia nervosa; CGM study, which utilizes continuous glucose monitoring to detect eating behaviors in individuals with binge eating; and INSPIRE Project, an NIH funded RCT comparing a novel, acceptance-based behavioral treatment for bulimia nervosa to an existing behavioral treatment.
Dr. Manasse is the PI of Project TRAIN, which aims to develop and evaluate a virtual reality inhibitory control training for individuals with binge eating. Additionally, she is PI of a pilot project examining affect reactivity and regulation (measured via psychophysiological methods) as predictors of treatment response in adolescents with binge eating and bulimia nervosa.
What can you tell me about applying to the MS Program?
We use somewhat less stringent criteria for selection to the MS Program, but most of what is stated above still applies. The MS Program is a good option for applicants who are research-focused, but either do not want to attend a PhD program, or who are not yet competitive for a high-quality PhD program. However, we do not view the MS program as a likely vehicle for transitioning to our own doctoral program.
Frequently Asked Questions Answered by Current And Recent Students
Would you describe your program as more research-focused or more clinically-focused?
Steph K: "Our program is very clinical-research focused. Most of the research we do is clinically focused, so everyone gets ample opportunity to develop clinical skills within the context of a research project. It's a huge advantage to our lab because we not only get a high level of research training, but we also get cutting edge clinical training that's closely supervised before we're ever even at external practicum sites."
Steph M: "The lab focuses on clinical research, particularly on the development and testing of health behavior change interventions. That means the lab provides an amazing opportunity to participate as an interventionist in treatment studies the minute you enter the program, while at the same time developing research questions related to treatment and outcome. Hands-on clinical experiences often can inform research ideas, and the lab provides the perfect environment for that. The lab also strongly supports and encourages each student to develop his or her own line of research, so there is a large emphasis on that as well."
Stef G: "One of the big advantages to our lab is the focus on clinical research. This means that, with our strong emphasis on research, comes a large amount of high-quality clinical experiences in order to carry out our larger grant-funded projects. In addition to conducting assessments and delivering treatment, you will also likely gain experience in treatment/program development, which is an extremely valuable training opportunity. Finally, many students conduct their own treatment studies for theses and dissertations."
Helen: "The PhD program as a whole has a balance between research and clinical focus, with flexibility within the program with students’ emphasis on research. In fact, many students are in labs that have more of a research focus that aligns with a clinical science model. For example, many students pursue careers that are heavily research-focused, such as in academic research and at the industry level. In our lab, there are many opportunities to contribute to clinical research (e.g., treatment development and trial research), but also to work on translational research (e.g., research on physiology, neurobiology, etc.)."
What are your roles as graduate students in the PhD program?
Steph K: "As a graduate student the role advances as you advance as a student. In my first year I've had a large role in data management which has advanced as my data analytic skills progress. I've also had a large role in delivery of interventions for the research program as well as some of the grant writing process. Looking forward, the expectation for how much I contribute to these things will change in line with how much I'm able to contribute new ideas. One of the really nice things is how much students are able to be part of the smaller pilot studies the lab runs; because there are so many things going on we can to some degree choose our involvement so that it's most in line with our interests."
Steph M: "I have participated in many of the lab's projects in various capacities. During my first year, I was a co-leader for the Mind Your Health weight loss groups and a mindfulness intervention to reduce salty snack intake, helped develop the treatment manual for Mind Your Health, participated in the development of TakeControl, a smartphone app for binge eating, assisted in the writeup of NIH grant submissions, analyzed data for submissions to national conferences and developed my master's thesis project. There are so many great, diverse projects going on in the lab that there is a wealth of opportunity to take on different roles on projects that interest you. In a short amount of time, I have been involved in all aspects of clinical research."
Stef G: "Within our lab especially, graduate students are very much treated as junior colleagues. Though my role within the lab has changed as I advanced through the program, each step of the way you are encouraged to use your critical thinking skills and clinical intuition to contribute to lab discussions and meetings. Each student is encouraged to participate in many lab projects, while also clarifying and pursuing his or her own research interests. During the beginning of the program, you will likely fill many different roles (e.g., data management, clinician, assessor, paper writing, grant writing) on varying projects. However, towards the end of your graduate career, you will likely have a much more focused set of tasks the pertain more directly to your research line."
Helen: "There are many opportunities to be involved in projects at multiple stages of the research process. In my first year in the lab, I had different roles on various projects. For the pre-study stage, I assisted with the writing of an NIMH R01 grant proposal, assisted with literature reviews and created study materials (e.g., writing treatment interventions). During the active study phase, I completed research diagnostic interviews, was a study interventionist for multiple treatment studies, assisted with research subject study visits and provided mentorship to and supervised a team of undergraduate RAs. For the post-study phase, I contributed to empirical research papers for secondary data analyses. Our lab is collaborative and very active in research, so there are also often opportunities to work on empirical review papers and book chapters."
Kelsey: "I’ve had so many great opportunities to be involved in various aspects of our lab’s research, including clinical research work (e.g., developing intervention content, administering study assessments, delivering study interventions, grant preparation, manuscript development). I’ve also contributed to training and professional development of undergraduate research assistants, post-baccalaureate research coordinators, and Master’s students. I really appreciate how our lab encourages students to pursue a line of research and choose opportunities that support their intended career trajectory."
Jocelyn: "You can can contribute to so many studies at different stages of development as a PhD student in the WELL Center. I’ve contributed to NIH R01 grant writing and pilot data collection, helped develop treatment manuals, implement the manuals as a leader or a coach, managed data, and contributed to paper writing and outcome assessment. As a lab with many rich resources, there are opportunities for everything that you may be interested in. Having the ability to do my own projects in the form of my thesis, dissertation, or data collection alongside with aiding in major clinical trials has helped me learn and apply skills from the PIs and other students to my own work."
What clinical opportunities are there? What is the clinical training like?
Steph K: "The first clinical opportunities we get are within the context of research programs, including things like co-leading groups and receiving supervision. In terms of external practicum sites there's a wide variety of opportunities. More advanced students in the lab are a great resource because between them they have been to most of the practicum sites and can help you figure out what experiences are going to be most in line with your interests."
Steph M: "Aside from the many practicum opportunities provided to all students in the program, all students coming into the lab get clinical experience through the research studies. Most students become co-leaders for the weight loss groups in their first year, which is a unique opportunity that many first year students don't get. Often, there are also other studies running that provide clinical opportunities for students, such as an upcoming study testing a group treatment for binge eating disorder. In these groups, you lead your own sections of the group, and learn from experienced group leaders, who are either clinical psychologists or advanced graduate students. All of the treatment studies meet weekly for group supervision and your tapes are listened to by supervisors, so you really get good feedback on how to improve as a clinician very early on in the program."
Christine: "One of the largest benefits of our lab is that we get a ton of clinical experience early on through research studies. Within a month of starting the program I was co-leading a weight loss group and over the course of my first year I co-led two more groups. Drexel also has a great on-site training clinic that serves the community (the Psychological Services Center) where second year students complete their practicum before applying to off-site placements for the next two years. Our supervisors are clearly invested in our training and work to ensure that our clinical experiences are consistent with our long-term goals. All of the on-site training we receive has made me feel prepared to apply to external placements."
Helen: "There are so many opportunities for clinical hours, both within our lab and across the program! Many of our students actually end up having more clinical hours than the average student applying to internships has. Our lab has an advantage too because a lot of our research is related to treatment, so students will start getting clinical hours from treatment research studies in their first year, before seeing patients through the Drexel Psychological Services Center in their second year. The Drexel Psychological Services Center has state-of-the art facilities and serves patients of all ages from the community; this is different from many other PhD programs, which either don’t have an in-house clinic or the in-house clinic mainly serves undergraduate students."
Jocelyn: "The clinical training at Drexel is excellent. As a WELL center first year you start off as a clinician in any number of clinical trials. I co-led my first group before I even started classes! You receive great supervision and work with others to gain early skills. As a second year you will see patients in the Drexel Psychological Services Center where you will see a wide variety of patients and presenting problems. Drexel students also have access to many great practicums for 3rd and 4th year. You are able to get a wide variety of experiences and really good training which prepares you well for internship."
Diane: "Students in the WELL Center are in such a unique position in terms of clinical opportunities. As early as our first year, we have the opportunity to gain high quality clinical experiences as assessors and interventionists in lab studies. On top of that, we are situated to continue gaining excellent training through our department’s in-house clinic and external practica sites in years two through four. Also of note, some advanced students have the opportunity to deliver evidence-based treatments for weight management and eating disorders to the community through our newly established outpatient WELL Clinic. Really, there’s no shortage of opportunities to gain clinical experience-- it’s just a matter of deciding which ones to pursue!"
What are the funding opportunities? How does this affect your quality of life?
Steph K: "The basic stipend is relatively small. It takes some budgeting, but it is liveable (many first year students also get an additional fellowship that adds an additional few thousand dollars). Depending on your mentor and what's going on with your schedule, you can potentially also have another job that can supplement and there are also sometimes opportunities to pick up additional responsibilities that can be paid."
Steph M: "There are many opportunities to receive extra fellowships on top of your stipend, which definitely helps quality of life as a graduate student. Additionally, the faculty in the lab and department encourage and strongly support the graduate students to apply for external funding, which both can help quality of life and the quality of your research."
Christine: "I was nervous about living on a graduate student stipend but it has been more manageable than I expected. Philadelphia is very affordable (especially compared to other cities in the Northeast) and there are so many free activities (yoga, concerts, movie screenings, museum admission, etc.) and student discounts that it is still possible to do a lot on a small budget. There are also many additional funding opportunities including fellowships, grants and teaching, and some students choose to take out a small amount of student loans to supplement their stipend."
Helen: "Funding in the program is dispersed over a 9 month period (October to June). Many students will seek out opportunities for extra funding in the summer, such as for working on an extra research project or students who have their master’s degree can teach courses. The stipend is liveable, but some students will take out small loans if they don’t receive additional funding."
How has the lab prepared you for an academic career?
Lauren: "As I am beginning my academic career as an Assistant Professor at Rush University Medical Center, I could not be more thankful for the training and mentorship I received at the lab. The lab is extremely productive, which provided me with unique opportunities to be integrally involved in all phases of the clinical research process. I received exemplary mentorship from Professor Forman, allowing me to develop an independent line of research beginning in my first year of graduate school (developing and examining novel interventions including a web-based, self-directed behavioral program). I gained extensive experience in manuscript writing (including the write-up of an NIH-funded clinical trial) and ended up with three first author publications from my thesis and dissertation projects. I also received training and experience in grant writing, assisted in writing NIH grants and applied for NIH and other grants and awards to fund independent research projects. As a result, I was awarded two dissertation awards and an NIH F31. My training at the lab made me a competitive applicant during my job search, which enabled me to secure my dream job."
Steph M: "I was lucky enough to be offered a research faculty position in the WELL Center after completing my doctoral studies here, and I envision no other place that could have prepared me for a research-oriented faculty position immediately after graduate school. I received top-notch research training, including NIH grant writing experience (both as a PI and student helping PIs writing grants), manuscript writing, and presentation experience. I also was encouraged and supported in developing my line of research. The Center is extremely collaborative, meaning not only do you get mentorship from your primary mentor, you are constantly exposed to academic dialogue and collaboration amongst all the PIs and graduate students. It is also incredibly enriching to be part of research that is not narrowly in one area. Overall, I couldn’t have asked for better preparation for an academic career."
Steph G: "I feel extremely well-prepared for an academic career, which is a direct result of the strong foundation of research training that I received at the WELL Center. Not only did I receive solid training in research design, data analysis, and dissemination of research findings, but I was also encouraged to engage in opportunities that are much rarer in other graduate programs such as grant writing (both federal and non-federal submissions), co-reviewing manuscripts for high-end journals, presenting work to non-federal agencies (e.g., pharmaceutical companies), and attending advanced trainings/pre-conference workshops. Further, Dr. Forman provided mentorship and funding to conduct ambitious research projects that would not have been possible at nearly any other institution and formed an advanced line of research that was integral to receiving numerous awards and grants of my own. At the WELL Center, I felt as though I was treated as a junior colleague in that I was encouraged to think critically about my own independent research line while also collaborating with other students and faculty to accomplish their research goals (which is an important skill within most academic settings). This allowed me to be extremely productive, finishing graduate school with 20+ publications (6 first-authored), while also carving out a niche research area to build upon for my clinical internship and postdoctoral fellowship applications. After my training at the WELL Center, I was selected for the only internship in the United States that provides half of my time for obesity research during the internship year (Alpert Medical School of Brown University) and was awarded an NIH F32 postdoctoral fellowship to continue my research at Brown."
What is it like living in Philadelphia?
Steph K: "Philadelphia is great - there are a huge number of really high quality restaurants and fun things in the city. It's also very walkable, so a lot of students don't have cars."
Steph M: "I loved living in the San Francisco Bay Area and wasn't sure how much I'd like Philadelphia. However, I've been pleasantly surprised at how quickly I felt at home here. Philadelphia is really an ideal place to be as a graduate student. There are so many museums, restaurants, professional sports teams, bars, music venues, theatre venues - pretty much anything that you could want in a city. At the same time, everything is very accessible by foot or public transportation, so you never have to travel far to get where you want to go (which is perfect for a busy graduate student)."
Britt: "Philadelphia is a very affordable city to live in, which makes it possible to live on the stipend. There is also a huge number number of university and graduate students in the Philly area, so there are many places with reasonable prices and student discounts. Plus, Philly is full of BYOB restaurants, which is fun and makes dining out less pricey!"
Christine: "I moved to Philly from NYC and wasn’t sure what it would be like to live in a somewhat smaller city. So far it’s been great! It has many of the advantages of a larger city, including amazing restaurants and so much to do, but it is considerably cheaper and less overwhelming. Exploring all of the different neighborhoods, working in the numerous coffee shops throughout the city, and taking advantage of the plethora of free activities has been a great way to find some balance in grad school!"
Kelsey: "I love Philadelphia! It is quite different from the Midwestern college towns where I lived previously, but I’ve really enjoyed the change of scenery. There’s so much to do; I’m constantly adding more restaurants, museums, events, etc. to my list of places to explore. Philadelphia is well-situated near other major cities (e.g., New York City, Washington, D.C.) which offer fun opportunities for day/weekend trips, and even for more affordable conferences to attend. While the city is more expensive than other places I’ve lived, and can take some getting used to, it’s been totally worth it and I feel at home here."
Cait: "I have developed a strong love for Philadelphia. I grew up in a very rural town, but I feel very comfortable here. Philly provides a strong sense of community, and sometimes feels more like a small town than a bustling city. Diverse and cultural, historic and artistic, Philly is exciting and has a niche for everyone. Overall, it’s a great place for emerging young professionals to live and grow. Great coffee to help with long days and nights is a plus! "
Jocelyn: "I moved here thinking Philadelphia was a good place to live, but I’ve now grown to love living here. It is so easy to walk around and there are so many free or very affordable activities! The number of free workout classes is unparalleled. The parks and outdoor spaces (did you know that Philly has 71 public pools?!) are great, including the many dog parks!"
What is the lab culture like?
Britt: "Our lab is very productive and people in the lab enjoy spending time with each other. Because the lab is relatively large, there are many different opportunities to get involved in various projects and fellow grad students are often happy to help out with each other’s projects. Outside of lab, lab members also regularly spend time together at a range of events including lab dinners, trivia (or “quizzo” in Philadelphia lingo) nights, bowling, Phillies games, etc."
Stef G: "I would say that we genuinely like each other and enjoy working together. We work very hard, but we also have fun while doing it. The environment on the whole is very collegial and everyone pitches in where it is needed most. We’re all excited about research and usually happy to be involved with each other’s projects - which means that our projects can be more ambitious than the average graduate student thesis and/or dissertation (and get done more efficiently)! We are competitive, but not with one another and enjoy celebrating each other’s accomplishments."
Kelsey: "Everyone works very hard and lab members are always seeking opportunities to collaborate with others; oftentimes all you have to do is ask if you can contribute to a project and people are happy to have you join the team! In addition to working well together, everyone also takes time for themselves and time to be social with others in the lab. There are regular events among the larger WELL Center as a whole, and individuals within each professor’s lab are also social with each other. In my experience, everyone from the post-docs, to Ph.D students, to Master’s students, to research coordinators has been included. I’ve made wonderful friends in this lab and have really enjoyed the friendly, welcoming, and supportive environment we’ve created."
Jocelyn: "The lab is very supportive and productive. I appreciate learning so much from the many different lab members and expertises available. Everyone here at the WELL Center truly wants everyone to do well and thrive in graduate school, and that means you can seek help or get advice from anyone. We try to do as many fun activities as possible together, like dinners, exercise classes, or other activities. Even if we’re low on time we make sure to check-in more informally about progress or to problem-solve. I’ve made lifelong friends in this lab and have enjoyed working with such smart, engaging, and helpful colleagues."
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What made you choose to attend Drexel and join this particular research lab?
Christine: "Heading into graduate school interviews, I felt torn between several programs, all of which looked great on paper. After spending time on each campus though, Drexel clearly stood out as my favorite. I was impressed by how welcoming the entire department was. It was also evident that people in this lab respected and enjoyed spending time with each other. The lab seemed collaborative and supportive, and that feeling has proven true since arriving on campus. Graduate programs are demanding, so working with friendly people who want to see you succeed is incredibly important. It also helps that we have a big lab filled with accomplished people (students and faculty alike)—there is so much room to learn from everyone else! In addition to the people and the culture, I chose Drexel because of the balance between research and clinical focus—we get amazing training in both and there is flexibility to pursue what is important to you!"
Steph M: "There are many ways in which Drexel, on paper, was not the most intuitive fit for my academic interests. However, immediately upon leaving the interview, I knew that Drexel would top my list. First of all, the available mentorship in our lab is stellar - I knew I’d have to opportunity to have three really incredible mentors who would be invested in my career. Secondly, it was incredibly clear how happy the graduate students were, both in and outside of this lab. They clearly supported, not competed with each other and that has proven to be more than true in my experience here - I can’t express enough how important that is for getting through a PhD program. Lastly, the department itself was highly collegial and welcoming - everyone is down to earth and approachable. I couldn't be happier with my decision!"
Steph K: "I actually had the luxury of being a research coordinator in this lab prior to attending graduate school, so I knew it well from the inside. When interviewing at other programs, I had Drexel and our lab as a comparison point. The things I love about our lab, and the things I didn’t want to give up, were the collaborative nature of the people and the vibrancy of the research program. Many of my research training experiences, including papers and presentations, have been with other students or mentors other than my primary mentor. The richness of experience that I get from a large lab, where everyone is excited to work on new projects and talk about new ideas, was unmatched by other programs. I can’t imagine having had a better, more supported, experience in graduate school."
Kelsey: "I felt that Philadelphia, Drexel, and our lab offered so many wonderful opportunities. There are so many studies students can get involved with, clinical research roles you can take on, relevant clinical training opportunities in the area, and the ability to network and collaborate with people in this program and other programs. This has proved true for me so far; it’s not hard to find opportunities, it’s difficult to choose which ones to pursue! Moreover, the people in this lab and this program are so great to work with. Everyone is ambitious and impressive in their accomplishments, but still open to collaboration and willing to mentor and teach. Being in this lab has undoubtedly changed my graduate school experience for the better."
Becca: "I was captivated and impressed by Drexel after hearing WELL Center mentors and graduate students present their cutting-edge research at national conferences. When I had the opportunity to interview at Drexel, I realized that not only were the members of this lab ambitious, productive, and innovative in their research, but they were also extremely warm, welcoming, and encouraging of one another. It was clear to me that the WELL Center was unique in providing a combination of rich research experience, invested mentorship, and a genuinely collaborative and supportive environment. I felt at home right away—the decision to join this lab was a no-brainer!"