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PhD in Applied Cognitive and Brain Sciences

Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences

the cognitive neuroscience of creativity at Drexel University's department of psychological and brain sciences

Drexel University's doctoral (PhD) program in Applied Cognitive and Brain Sciences is focused on psychological questions of real-world significance, grounded in basic science. The program emphasizes rigorous quantitative and methodological training, and students receive substantial personal interaction with faculty mentors. This doctoral program prepares scholars to excel in careers across diverse sectors, such as: traditional faculty positions, corporations, government, startups, non-government organizations and many more.

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Program Format


Program Format

The 21st century has seen the beginnings of a new revolution in psychology, one in which novel questions have been posed, research methods devised, and sub-fields created. It is an exciting time for the field.

The Applied Cognitive and Brain Sciences program is focused on psychological questions of real-world significance, grounded in basic science, with minimal course requirements to maximize time for research and program customization. The required courses emphasize quantitative and analytical skills and methods that are directly applicable to your scholarship efforts. Required coursework is typically completed during the first two years of the program, including time for elective courses and research credits. In addition to required courses, other relevant courses are offered by the psychological and brain sciences department, and other departments, colleges, and schools within the University also offer relevant courses.

The ACBS doctorate program provides personal interaction with mentors and emphasizes rigorous quantitative and methodological training to empower students to pursue research without technical limitations.

One of the traditional distinctions in psychology and other disciplines is between basic and applied research. Basic research addresses fundamental questions, the answers to which may or may not yield immediate, practical benefits. Applied research addresses questions of real-world significance, such as how to expand and improve human cognitive and affective capabilities. This distinction has begun to dissolve in recent years. Basic and applied research need not be viewed as opposite ends of a single spectrum. Rather, many scientific questions seek a fundamental understanding of nature while also contributing to the solution of practical problems.

In addition to required coursework, by the end of the second year, students must complete and successfully defend a master’s thesis and must pass the ACBS doctoral qualifying exam. The qualifying exam entails preparation of a literature review article on a topic mutually determined by the student and his or her mentor. This review article must be approved by the mentor and at least one additional faculty member and should be suitable for publication in a refereed journal (e.g., Psychological Bulletin or Trends in Cognitive Sciences). The student may write the MS thesis and literature review article on two different topics or the student may write a review article on the topic of the MS thesis. Upon completion of these milestones and required coursework, the student becomes a doctoral candidate and thereafter focuses most of his or her time on research.

CoAS Admission Requirements

Students applying to the PhD in Applied Cognitive and Brain Sciences psychology program are expected to have an undergraduate degree in a relevant area, such as psychology, neuroscience, linguistics, computer science, etc., as well as significant experience doing empirical research. Although a major in psychology is not required for admission to the ACBS PhD program, it is highly desirable that an applicant have demonstrated interest in cognitive and brain sciences via coursework or research experience in cognitive psychology, cognitive science or cognitive neuroscience. The person should also have a solid background in college-level mathematics, science and computer skills.

The program acknowledges that some individuals may have followed alternative educational and career paths. Therefore, applicants who feel that they have prerequisite knowledge and experience that would enable the successful completion of the ACBS program, even if they do not meet the above criteria, should document in their application essay their relevant experience and motivation. Interested individuals who may not yet have all the qualifications for the PhD program may instead apply to the Master's in Psychology program.


Use-inspired research can be performed in a variety of contexts, and the ACBS psychology program is designed to prepare doctoral students for a broad range of careers, whether in a traditional faculty position in a university, or in the corporate world, government, startup companies, NGOs and more. Through close interaction with mentors, opportunities for program customization, and extensive quantitative training in statistics, computational modeling, and computer methods for research, ACBS graduates excel in the competitive job market. The American Psychological Association lists relevant career options.

With education in behavioral experimentation, advanced data analysis, computer programming and computational modeling, doctoral graduates of the Applied Cognitive and Brain Sciences program will be well qualified for careers in:

  • Data science
  • Educational testing and assessment
  • Software development, with applications in cognitive modeling, artificial intelligence and machine learning
  • Product development and marketing
  • Human computer interaction and human factors engineering
  • Government health and military research institutions, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Air Force
  • Office of Scientific Research, the Army Research Laboratory, the Naval Research Laboratory, and so forth.

Areas of Research Focus

  • Neuroscience of creativity
  • Memory and language
  • Network neuroscience
  • Cognitive and affective regulation
  • Neural bases of motivation and emotion
  • Precision brain stimulation (TMS, tES)
  • Computational neuroimaging and neuroimaging statistics
  • Statistical modeling of multidimensional datasets

Faculty Labs

Drexel’s Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences is home to renowned faculty experts who advance the forefront of applied cognitive and brain sciences scholarship. Our faculty members publish widely in top-tier, peer-reviewed journals and are regularly featured experts in national and international media.

Chrysikou Lab

Cognitive Neuroengineering and Well-being (CogNeW) Lab

Creativity Research Lab

Dynamic Mind and Brain Lab

Quantitative Psychology and Statistics Lab

Faculty Accepting Students: 2024-2025

The ACBS doctoral program’s core faculty members —in addition to program faculty and affiliated faculty— serve as dedicated mentors to our graduate students. Students work under the mentorship of one or two faculty members who serve as the incoming student’s advisors. For students who are admitted to work under two faculty members, one faculty member is established as the student’s primary advisor, and the other as the student’s secondary advisor.

Click on each faculty member's profile to learn more about their expertise, research interests and scholarship.

Faculty Accepting Students

Additional Faculty

Program Faculty

Affiliated Faculty

Doctoral Candidacy

In order to advance into doctoral candidacy in the PhD in Applied Cognitive and Brain Sciences, students must complete all master’s-level coursework during the first two years of their chosen concentration and successfully pass the comprehensive examination.

The comprehensive examination consists of a critical, in-depth, publishable review article on a topic to be agreed upon by the student, their mentor and one additional faculty reader. The review article must demonstrate comprehensive empirical and theoretical mastery of the agreed-upon topic. After appropriate revisions based on faculty feedback, the student is strongly encouraged to submit the article for publication. The article may later be incorporated into the student’s doctoral dissertation. After the exam has received a passing grade, the student may teach an undergraduate Special Topics seminar based on the content of the article. This will help solidify the material for the student and also help to enrich the undergraduate offerings for advanced undergraduates.

Drexel Library: Theses, Dissertations, and Projects

Recent Dissertations

We proudly invite prospective student to review recent dissertations authored by our PhD in Applied Cognitive Brain Sciences degree recipients.