PhD in Applied Cognitive and Brain Sciences (ACBS) in the Department of Psychology

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. This is an exciting time in the field of psychology.

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 the problem of how to expand and improve human cognitive and affective capabilities.

This distinction has begun to dissolve. Basic and applied research need not be viewed as opposite ends of a single spectrum. Rather, many scientific questions seek both a fundamental understanding of nature as well as contribute to the solution of practical problems. This approach is illustrated in the table below as use-inspired basic research (Stokes, 1997).

Pasteur’s Quadrant

"Pasteur’s Quadrant" — a model of research methodologies that spans basic and applied science.

Use-inspired basic research is exemplified by Louis Pasteur, whose research sought to uncover basic facts of microbiology, but also resulted in the discovery of vaccination and millions of lives saved. Drexel University's PhD Program in Applied Cognitive and Brain Sciences (ACBS) is a research-intensive program emphasizing use-inspired basic science.

Such use-inspired research can be performed in a variety of contexts, and the ACBS program is designed to prepare doctoral students for a broad range of careers, whether a traditional faculty position in a university, or a position in the corporate world, government, startup companies, NGOs, and more. For example, with ACBS training in behavioral experimentation, advanced data analysis, computer programming, and computational modeling, graduates 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.

The ACBS program accomplishes this through close contact with mentors, opportunities for program customization, and extensive quantitative training in statistics, computational modeling, and computer methods for research. Information about relevant career possibilities can be found here.

For additional information about the ACBS doctoral program, contact Program Director John Kounios at