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You are here: Home / Graduate / Program Areas / Cross-Cutting Program Initiatives / Dual-degree Programs / Dual-Title PhD in Psychology and Social Behavioral Neuroscience

Dual-Title PhD in Psychology and Social Behavioral Neuroscience

Beginning in Fall of 2019 students will be able to pursue a new dual title in Social Behavioral Neuroscience. Social behavioral neuroscience reflects the study of how brain development and function influence, and are influenced by, social environments and human interaction. The dual-title Ph.D. program provides students with additional training in the neurobiological foundations of brain function in order to enable them to pursue innovative interdisciplinary research with intellectual sophistication. Social Behavioral Neuroscience (SBN) represents a sub-domain within the Neuroscience discipline focusing on the relation between brain and cognition and behavior.  As such, SBN seeks to connect at least two levels of analysis.  Research that is solely restricted to a single level of analysis is not considered to fit within the SBN framework regardless of whether the single level is behavioral (e.g. examining cognitive task performance among individuals with Alzheimer’s) or biological (e.g. examining the regenerative properties of neurons).  Although each domain can have clear implications for the other, the SBN framework seeks to explicitly examine the associations between them. 

The Social and Behavioral Neuroscience dual-title degree program is administered by the Social and Behavioral Neuroscience Steering Committee, which is responsible for the management of the program. The committee oversees the general direction of the program, identifies faculty and courses appropriate to the program, recommends policy and procedures for the program’s operation to the Dean of the Graduate School, and is an advisory body to the program Director. The program enables students from participating graduate programs to obtain foundational graduate-level training in neuroscience as well as expertise in social and behavioral neuroscience theory, research, and methods.  This dual-title training will enable rigorous research at the intersection of neuroscience and the students’ partner discipline.  To pursue a dual-title degree under this program the student must apply to the Graduate School and register through one of the approved graduate programs.

Admission to the Dual-Title

Before they can apply for admission to the dual-title degree program, students must apply and be admitted to a primary graduate program with a formal affiliation to the dual-title, as well as to the Graduate School.  The following graduate programs offer a dual degree in Social and Behavioral Neuroscience: Biobehavioral Health, Human Development and Family Studies and Psychology.

Students may apply for enrollment in the dual-title degree program during their first year (second semester) or second year in their primary graduate program.  Students must be admitted into the dual-title degree program prior to taking the qualifying exam.  Students can be enrolled in are of the program areas within psychology: Clinical, cognitive, developmental, industrial/organizational, and social.

To apply, students should submit (1) a completed application form, (2) graduate and undergraduate transcripts, and (3) a letter of recommendation from their graduate adviser to the Psychology department member of the SBN Steering Committee. 

Degree Requirements

Coursework:

All coursework requirements indicated below are in addition to the courses required in psychology.  Students are encouraged to discuss their course planning with their advisor and the SBN coordinator in psychology in order to establish the most efficient path to fulfilling degree requirements.  Students are permitted to take any of the required courses, including the SBN 590 seminar series, prior to declaring the dual-title, and may wish to do so as part of the process of deciding whether the dual-title is right for them. 

The minimum course work requirements for the dual-title Ph.D. degree are as follows:

  • NEURO 520 (3 credits)
  • NEURO 511 (3 credits) or NEURO 512 (4 credits) or BIOL 478 (3 credits)
  • SBN 590 (1 credit, taken twice)
  • A minimum of 12 credits of approved SBN electives

Approved Electives

  • NEURO 521 (3 credits)
  • HDFS 502:  Biological Systems in Developmental Context
  • HDFS 512: Cognitive Developmental Neuroscience of Adolescence
  • PSY 524: Biological Basis of Behavior
  • SBN 505  (3 credits, variable)
  • SBN 508  (3 credits, variable)
  • SBN 511  (3 credits, variable)

Courses offered under the 597 designation, or courses with a permanent course number but which may or may not fulfill the SBN objectives depending on the instructor offering the course in a given semester, can be approved on a case-by-case basis.  Students requesting to have a course approved as counting toward the elective requirement should submit the syllabus to the psychology department coordinator.  Requests will be reviewed by the Steering Committee or its designee.

Sample programs of coursework can be found at the bottom.

Qualifying Research

In addition to the coursework criteria, students pursuing the dual-title must conduct dissertation research that meets the expectations of the program.  Because SBN seeks to understand the associations between brain and behavior, SBN research must include a measure that has been determined to validly index and/or impact brain function, and must be explicit in how this measure contributes to our understanding of brain function.  Examples can include measurement of electrical potentials at the scalp surface (EEG/ERP), cerebral changes in blood oxygenation or glucose utilization (fMRI, PET), structural anatomy of the brain (MRI, DTI), function of peripheral organs innervated by cranial nerves (heart, facial muscles), peripheral indices of central nervous system function (skin conductance, neuroendocrine measures such as cortisol), exogenously administered psychoactive medications (e.g. therapeutic or non-therapeutic substances), and variations in the genome and/or epigenome with biologically mapped implications for brain function.  Measures of peripheral organ activity that are not mapped to central nervous system function (e.g. venous plethysmography, peripheral muscular control, spinal reflexes) are not sufficient.  Techniques that use behavior to assume biological functionality (e.g. neuropsychological testing, behavioral genetics) are also not sufficient.

Committee Composition and Exam Format

Qualifying Examination Committee Composition

The qualifying examination committee must conform to all requirements of the graduate program in psychology and the Graduate Council. In accordance with Graduate Council, the qualifying examination committee must include at least one member of the SBN Graduate Faculty.

Qualifying Exam

The dual-title degree will be guided by the Qualifying Exam procedure of the graduate program in psychology and the Graduate Council. The dual-title program defers to the primary program with regard to the format, structure and timing of the Qualifying Exam, as well as the discretion of the SBN representative to determine the appropriate exam content.  Because students must first be admitted to a primary graduate program of study before they may apply to and be considered for admission into SBN, dual-title graduate degree students may require an additional semester to fulfill requirements for both areas of study and, therefore, the Graduate School permits the qualifying examination to be delayed up to one semester beyond the normal period allowable.

Ph.D. Committee Composition

The Ph.D. committee must conform to all requirements of the primary graduate program and the Graduate Council. In addition to the general Graduate Council requirements for Ph.D. committees, the Ph.D. committee of an SBN student must include at least one member of the SBN Graduate Faculty. If the chair of the Ph.D. committee is not also a member of the Graduate Faculty in Social and Behavioral Neuroscience, a member of the committee representing SBN must be appointed as co-chair.

Comprehensive Exam

The dual-title degree will be guided by the Comprehensive Exam procedure of the graduate program in psychology. After completion of required course work, SBN students must pass a comprehensive examination. In programs where this includes evaluation of a written exam, the SBN representative on the student's Ph.D. committee will participate in the writing and evaluation of the exam, in accordance with procedures maintained by the primary graduate program. In programs where the comprehensive exam involves defense of a dissertation prospectus, the SBN representative on the student's Ph.D. committee will participate in the evaluation of the prospectus, including ensuring the proposed dissertation has substantial SBN content.

Dissertation and Dissertation Defense

Upon completion of the doctoral dissertation, the candidate must pass a final oral examination (the dissertation defense) to earn the Ph.D. degree. Students enrolled in the dual-title program are required to write and orally defend a dissertation on a topic that reflects their original research and education in their primary graduate discipline and in SBN. The dissertation must be accepted by the Ph.D. committee, the heads of both graduate programs, and the Graduate School.

SBN Psychology Department Representative
Koraly Pérez-Edgar
McCourtney Professor of Child Studies
Professor, Psychology
kxp24@psu.edu
270 Moore Building
865-9272
 
SBN Program Director
Lisa Gatzke-Kopp
Professor, Human Development and Family Studies
lmk18@psu.edu
119 HHD
867-2371

Since the Department of Psychology has multiple distinct areas of training, there is no one set of requirements in pursuit of the PhD in psychology or the SBN dual title degree.  However, we note here an example of courses a student could take as part of their training plan.

Table 1 offers a side-by-side comparison of the requirements for a Psychology student who is not participating in a dual-title degree program (left column) and for a Psychology student who is participating in the SBN dual-title (right column). Table 2 illustrates a path through course work and other milestone requirements for a Psychology student completing the SBN dual-title Ph.D.

Table 1. Comparison of Course Work Requirements— PSY and PSY-SBN

Ph.D. in Psychology

Ph.D. in Psychology & SBN

PSY Orientation Seminar

  • PSY 501 (1 credit)

PSY Orientation Seminar

  • PSY 501 (1 credit)

Major area credits (PSY)

A minimum of 18 credits in major area

 

Major area credits (PSY)

A minimum of 18 credits in major area.  Courses in the “additional courses” requirement of SBN may count toward this requirement with approval of the area coordinator and Psychology Director of Graduate Studies (DGS)

Breadth requirement (PSY)

A minimum of 12 credits outside of major area (breadth).

 

Breadth requirement (PSY)

A minimum of 12 credits outside of major area (breadth).  The required courses of the SBN degree may count toward this requirement, as may additional SBN requirements that do not count toward PSY major area credits

Statistics Requirements (PSY)

  • PSY 507 (3 credits)
  • PSY 508 (3 credits)

Statistics Requirements (PSY)

  • PSY 507 (3 credits)
  • PSY 508 (3 credits)

 

Required Neuroscience core seminar

  • NEURO 520 (3 credits)
  • NEURO 511 (3 credits) or

NEURO 512 (4 credits) or

BIOL 478 (3 credits)

  • SBN 590 (Neuroscience proseminar) (1 credit, minimum 2 semesters)

Again, these credits may count toward the PSY breadth requirement

 

Neuroscience-approved electives

12 or more elective credits from a list of courses maintained by the Neuroscience Dual-title Committee.  

As noted above, PSY courses applied to the SBN degree may also count toward major area credits on PSY.  Other courses toward this SBN requirement may apply to the PSY breadth requirement

Scholarship and Research Integrity

SARI@PSU requirement is fulfilled through 5 hours of discussion-based ethics training (in part in PSY 501), and certification of CITI course completion.

Scholarship and Research Integrity

SARI@PSU requirement is fulfilled through 5 hours of discussion-based ethics training (in part in PSY 501), and certification of CITI course completion.

 

Table 2. Illustrative Path Through the Dual-Title Ph.D.

Course

Course Title

Credits

PSY

SBN

Year 1 Fall (Semester 1)

PSY 501: Seminar in General Psychology

1

CORE

 

PSY 549: Developmental Theory

3

AREA

 

PSY 507: Analysis of Psych. Data I

3

CORE (STAT)

 

PSY 529: Seminar in Child Dev. (Dev. Proseminar)

1

AREA

 

PSY 600: Thesis Research

1

 

 

Year 1 Spring (Semester 2)

PSY 548: Fundamentals of Cognitive Development

3

AREA

 

PSY 508: Analysis of Psych. Data II

3

CORE (STAT)

 

PSY 529: Seminar in Child Dev. (Dev. Proseminar)

1

AREA

 

PSY 600: Thesis Research

1

 

 

Year 2 Fall (Semester 3)

PSY 547: Fundamentals of Social Development

3

AREA

 

NEURO 520: Social and Behavioral Neuroscience I

3

BREADTH

Core

SBN 590: Proseminar in Social and Behavioral Neuroscience

1

 

Core

PSY 529: Seminar in Child Dev. (Dev. Proseminar)

1

AREA

 

PSY 600: Thesis Research

2

 

 

Year 2 Spring (Semester 4)

PSY 529: Seminar in Child Dev. (Dev. Proseminar)

1

AREA

 

NEURO 521: Social and Behavioral Neuroscience II

3

BREADTH

Core

SBN 506: Seminar in SBN (developmental section)

3

AREA

REQ

SBN 590: Proseminar in Social and Behavioral

1

 

Core

PSY 600: M.S. Thesis or Alternative Project defense

2

 

 

Year 3

SBN 511: Translational Applications of SBN

3

BREADTH

REQ

SBN 506: Seminar in SBN (another dev. section)

3

AREA

REQ

SBN 508: Seminar in SBN Methods

3

BREADTH

REQ

Advancement to Candidacy if not before

 

 

 

Year 4

PSY 601: Ph.D. Dissertation

9/sem

 

 

Comprehensive Exam

 

 

 

Year 5

PSY 601: Ph.D. Dissertation

9/sem

 

 

Dissertation defense

 

 

 

Total credits required by program (excluding 600/601)

 

43

20

Unique credits required by program (does not double count)

 

 25

2

Total course credits completed by student (not including thesis)

 

   45

  • Core = course required of all students to complete the degree
  • REQ = credit requirement toward degree, with flexibility in specific course
  • AREA=PSY, 15 credit requirement in program area
  • BREADTH=PSY, 12 credit breadth requirement 

     

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