UMass Boston

Developmental Brain Sciences PhD

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Acquire the skills necessary to unravel the mysteries of the developing brain.

The PhD program in Developmental and Brain Sciences (DBS) at the University of Massachusetts Boston is a research-intensive program focused on understanding cognition, perception, and behavior when underlying neural and hormonal mechanisms are developing. Core faculty engage in lab work ranging from cognitive development and psychophysics to neuroendocrinology and behavioral genetics. Students may follow a cognitive specialization, investigating functional changes in perceptual and cognitive abilities; or a behavioral specialization, investigating neural and hormonal correlates of behavior.

In this program, you will:

  • Gain advanced knowledge of developmental theories, cognitive processes, and brain development, exploring the intricate relationship between brain structure, function, and human behavior across different stages of development
  • Acquire expertise in research methodologies and data analysis techniques, allowing you to design and conduct cutting-edge studies that advance our understanding of developmental and brain sciences, and contribute to the field through scientific inquiry
  • Develop critical thinking, communication, and collaborative skills, enabling you to effectively communicate complex concepts, engage in interdisciplinary research, and foster collaborations that bridge developmental and brain sciences with other fields

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Career Possibilities

Conduct research in academic or research institutions, investigating various aspects of developmental and brain sciences. Teach and mentor students at the university level while conducting research and contributing to the academic community. Or, investigate the neural mechanisms underlying cognitive processes, such as attention, memory, and decision-making as a neuroscientist. These are just a few of the possibilities.

Become a(n):

  • Research Scientist
  • University Professor
  • Neuropsychologist
  • Developmental Psychologist
  • Cognitive Neuroscientist

Plan Your Education

How to Apply

Applicants must meet general graduate admission requirements in addition to the following program-specific requirements:

  • Successful applicants typically have a BS degree in psychology, biology, or cognitive science. Students with degrees in other fields (e.g. physical sciences, mathematics, engineering, computer science) and a strong interest in the foundations of neuroscience and behavior may also be considered for admission.
  • We require a minimum of a BA/BS with a B (3.0) average or above in undergraduate and/or graduate-level coursework.
  • With respect to the required Statement of Intent and Interest, in addition to a general statement of your research interests and aptitudes and how they constitute a good match to the DBS program, please be sure to list up to three faculty members you would like to work with, and why; indicate which specialization you would like to pursue (developmental behavioral neuroscience or developmental cognitive neuroscience); list any special honors or awards you have received for academic achievement; detail your relevant research experience (especially your role in the research and any specific contribution toward any resulting publications); touch on your career objectives.

Evaluation of applications is the responsibility of an Admissions Committee composed of DBS program core faculty members. All graduate admissions are handled according to University, Office of Graduate Admissions, and DBS Program guidelines and procedures. From our applicant pool, we undertake an extensive review of applications and will select approximately 10-20 people for interviews. Unfortunately, it is not feasible to interview more than this number, and faculty may not conduct interviews with applicants who have not undergone our review process and been officially selected for an interview.

To start your application:

  • Go to Apply to UMass Boston
  • Under Graduate Programs (All Others), click the 'Graduate Application: Summer & Fall 2024, Spring 2025' button
  • Create a GradCAS username and password
  • Search for Developmental and Brain Sciences, click the + sign to add the program to your cart, then click 'Continue' at the bottom of the page to continue filling out your application

Start Your Application

Deadlines & Cost

Deadlines: December 15 (priority), January 15 (final) for fall

Application Fee: The nonrefundable application fee is $75. UMass Boston alumni and current students that plan to complete degree requirements prior to graduate enrollment can submit the application without paying the application fee.

Program Cost Information: Bursar's website


For detailed course descriptions, please visit the university catalog for Developmental and Brain Sciences PhD.

Required Core Courses (21 Credits)

  • PSYDBS 601 - Grant Writing and Research Ethics 3 Credit(s)
  • PSYDBS 613 - Behavioral Neuroscience 3 Credit(s)
  • PSYDBS 623 - Cognitive Neuroscience 3 Credit(s)
  • PSYDBS 693 - Seminar in Development and Brain Sciences 3 Credit(s)
  • PSYCLN 670 - Advanced Statistics 3 Credit(s)
  • PSYCLN 891 - Teaching Seminar 3 Credit(s)

Concentration Core Course (3 Credits)

Complete one from below.

  • PSYDBS 715 - Developmental Behavioral Neuroscience 3 Credit(s)
  • PSYDBS 725 - Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience 3 Credit(s)

Electives (6 Credits)

Complete two from below.

Students may also elect to take an independent study course or a course offered by another UMass Boston PhD program. In all cases, independent studies must first be approved by the DBS graduate program director and the student’s advisory committee.

  • PSYDBS 762 - Knowledge Acquisition 3 Credit(s)

Mentored Research Course (6 Credits)

  • PSYDBS 690 - Mentored Research 1-9 Credit(s)

Dissertation Research Course (24 Credits)

  • PSYDBS 899 - Dissertation Research 1-12 Credit(s)

Graduation Criteria

Complete 60 credits from twelve courses including seven required core courses, one concentration core course, two electives, one mentored research course, and 24 credits of dissertation research.

Doctoral candidacy: Passage of a take-home exam, based on questions that require the student to engage critically with the literature. Typically, students will select questions from a set developed by program faculty. Students are required to take the qualifying exam by the end of their 5th semester.
Dissertation: Completion of a dissertation representing an original and thorough body of research. Multiple formats for the dissertation may be acceptable, at the agreement of the student and the dissertation committee. For instance, a dissertation that encompasses three independent projects each with the scope (and expectation of submission) of a journal article may be acceptable instead of one large-scope project with multiple related experiments. Students are expected to complete their dissertation by the end of the 4th year.
First-year report: Completion of an oral presentation to the student’s advisory committee. It should contain both a review of the student’s research accomplishments during his/her first year (including background, results, and significance) and a proposal for the work that will comprise the mentored research project (see below). Students are required to complete this milestone by the end of the second semester (late May). There is no written component for the first year report; however, students will be required to apply for a grant of relevance to their research, such as an NRSA ( or GRFP (
Mentored research project: Completion of a research project culminating the student’s first two years of research. The MRP requires both an oral defense as well as a written component that should follow the format of an NRSA proposal. It is understood that elements of the student’s grant proposal and first-year report research will be incorporated into the MRP. Students are required to complete their mentored research project by the end of the 4th semester.

Statute of limitations: Eight years.


Graduate Program Director Richard Hunter
richard.hunter [at]
(617) 287-3198

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