Program Overview

The ACBS PhD program is a use-inspired basic-research program in cognitive psychology and/or cognitive neuroscience. It offers no clinical training. Graduate students already in Drexel’s ACBS or Clinical Psychology programs may not transfer from one to the other of these programs, except by applying for admission to the other program through normal channels.

Prerequisites for Admittance to the ACBS PhD Program

Students 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 MS program.

Program Structure

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.

PhD Program Curriculum

The ACBS program is research-oriented 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 students’ research 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 Psychology Department (e.g., Judgment and Decision Making, Psycholinguistics, Learning and Memory). Other departments, colleges, and schools within the University also offer relevant courses.

Required coursework:

  • PSY 560: Teaching of Psychology (1-credit course);
  • Core ACBS courses: PSY 512 (Cognitive Psychology) and PSY 812 (Cognitive Neuroscience);
  • Core data analysis sequence: PSY 610, 710, & 711 (Data Analysis I-III);
  • Advanced statistical methods (at least one such course is required): PSY 811 (Multilevel Regression), PSY 865 (Data Mining), or another advanced course, with approval;
  • Advanced computational research methods: PSY 611 (Computer Based Research Methods) and PSY 532 (Introduction to Computational Modeling).


All doctoral students are typically offered financial support. Historically, this support has included tuition remission, health insurance, and a baseline stipend from the Psychology Department and may also include additional stipend funding from other sources (e.g., advisors’ grants, Dean’s or Provost’s Fellowships). Financial support is offered for five years of residency in the program contingent on satisfactory progress toward the degree. A description of the support package accompanies offer of admission to the program.