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The dual-title Ph.D. in Biobehavioral Health and Behavioral Neuroscience is designed to:

  • provide a cohesive curriculum for in-depth training in Biobehavioral Health processes that incorporate a neurobiological level of analysis, which we view as needed for our graduates to become independent researchers in Neuroscience.
  • prepare graduates to be competitive on the academic job market in traditional departments related to Biobehavioral Health (e.g. Psychology, Behavioral Medicine, Health Promotion, Neuroscience, Biology) with well-developed programs in neuroscience, or to become leaders in departments expanding their disciplinary representation in this domain.
  • enhance students’ literacy and fluency in neuroscience research to become highly skilled and valuable members of interdisciplinary research teams, making them exceptionally competitive for securing research funding across multiple funding agencies.

Description of Required Social and Behavioral Science (SBN) Course Work:

The minimum course work requirements for the dual-title Ph.D. degree in BBH and Social and Behavioral Neuroscience are as follows:

  • Course work and other requirements for Biobehavioral Health (which are described in detail below).
  • NEURO 520 (3 credits): Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • NEURO 521 (3 credits): Systems Neuroscience
  • SBN 590 (2 credits): Proseminar in Social and Behavioral Neuroscience (1 credit course taken twice)
  • 12 or more elective credits from courses specific to social and behavioral neuroscience. These can be fulfilled by courses listed or cross listed with the SBN classification and with additional approved courses (shown in the Table below). Requests for alternative courses to apply toward the SBN title (e.g. new courses offered as 597)

Within BBH, there are four required core content courses, two required core statistics courses, a required professional development seminar, and a requirement of 12 additional “methods courses” (defined broadly as methods or research content courses that are relevant to the student’s interests, and as approved by the student’s advisor,. Any 9 credits of the SBN elective courses could be counted toward this BBH “methods” requirement of 12 credits. As such, an BBH student could complete the dual-title in as few as 11 credits beyond the requirements of the BBH degree. This is further illustrated below in a side-by-side comparison of the course work requirements for BBH vs. Social and Behavioral Neuroscience.

The following provides a side-by-side summary of how Social and Behavioral Neuroscience course work requirements interact with BBH course work requirements in the dual-title Ph.D. in BBH and Social and Behavioral Neuroscience.

Table 1. Comparison of Course Work Requirements

Ph.D. in BBH

Ph.D. in BBH & Social and Behavioral Neuroscience

Total credits

A minimum of 31 post-baccalaureate credits of course work.

Total credits

A minimum of 41 post-baccalaureate credits of course work.

Required substantive core courses (12 credits)

All students must take the following courses:

  • BBH 501 (3 credits)
  • BBH 502 (3 credits)
  • BBH 503 (3 credits)
  • BBH 504 (3 credits)

Required substantive core courses (21 credits)

All students must take the following courses:

  • BBH 501 (3 credits)
  • BBH 502 (3 credits)
  • BBH 503 (3 credits)
  • BBH 504 (3 credits)
  • NEURO 520 (3 credits)
  • NEURO 521 (3 credits)

Required core statistics courses

  • BBH 505 (3 credits)

Required core statistics courses

  • BBH 505 (3 credits)

Additional Electives

Additional Electives

Additional core department Methodology/ Electives

A minimum of 12 elective credits must be in methodology or content related to the student’s research area.

Additional core department Methodology/ Electives

A minimum of 12 elective credits must be in methodology or content related to the student’s research area.

SBN courses could fulfill 9 credits of this requirement for BBH with the approval of the BBH PIC of Graduate Studies

A minimum of 12 credits in SBN-approved electives must be taken

Approved elective options are the following

  • NEURO 511 (3 credits) or NEURO 512 (4 credits)
  • SBN 505 (3 credits, variable)
  • SBN 508 (3 credits, variable)
  • SBN 511 (3 credits, variable)
  • HDFS 502: Biological Systems in Developmental Context
  • HDFS 512: Cognitive Developmental Neuroscience of Adolescence
  • PSY 524: Biological Basis of Behavior

As noted above, 9 credits of these courses could be used toward the BBH methods electives requirement, with the approval of the BBH PIC of Graduate Studies

Required seminars

  • A 1-credit BBH seminar is required in the first year

Required seminars

  • A 1-credit BBH seminar is required in the first year

  • SBN 590 (1 credit), taken twice

Scholarship and Research Integrity

SARI@PSU requirement is currently filled through a combination of certification of CITI course completion in year 1, and discussion-based ethics training in BBH and College-level workshops

Scholarship and Research Integrity

SARI@PSU requirement is currently filled through a combination of certification of CITI course completion in year 1, and discussion-based ethics training in BBH and College-level workshops

Example Course Work Path, Dual-Title Ph.D. in BBH and Social and Behavioral Neuroscience

Table 2 illustrates an example path through course work and other milestone requirements of the dual-title Ph.D. in BBH.

Table 2. Example Path Through Dual-Title Ph.D.

Course

Course Title

Credits

BBH

SBN

Year 1 Fall (Semester 1)

BBH 501: Biobehavioral Systems in Health and Development: Theory and Processes

3

Core

BBH 505: Behavioral Health Research Strategies

3

Core

BBH 590: BBH Colloquium

1

Core

Year 1 Spring (Semester 2)

BBH 503: Biobehavioral Systems in Health and Development: Processes and Integration

3

Core

NEURO 520: Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience

3

Core

BBH 597: Continuation of data analytic models relevant to biobehavioral research

3

Elective

BBH 590: BBH Colloquium

1

Core

Year 2 Fall (Semester 3)

BBH 502: Health: Biobehavioral Perspectives

3

Core

NEURO 521: Systems Neuroscience

3

Core

PSY 524: Proseminar in Cognitive Psychology

3

Elective

Elective

SBN 590: Proseminar in Social and Behavioral Neuroscience

1

Core

Year 2 Spring (Semester 4)

BBH 504: Behavioral Health Intervention Strategies

Development

3

Core

SBN 505: Seminar in Social and Behavioral Neuroscience

3

Elective

Elective

SBN 590: Proseminar in Social and Behavioral Neuroscience

1

Core

Year 3

Candidacy (Note, student may request to take candidacy earlier; we suggest that students take Neuro 520 and Neuro 521 prior to candidacy)

SBN 508

3

Elective

Elective

SBN 511

3

Elective

Year 4

Comprehensive Exam

Comprehensive Exam (end of Year 3 or start of Year 4)

Dissertation Proposal (end of Year 4 or start of Year 5)

Year 5

Dissertation

  • Core = course required of all students to complete the degree
  • Elective = credit requirement toward degree, with flexibility in specific course

Additional Requirements, Dual-Title Ph.D. in BBH and Social and Behavioral Neuroscience

The following provides a side-by-side summary of how additional Social and Behavioral Neuroscience requirements compare to and interact with BBH requirements in the dual-title Ph.D. in BBH and Social and Behavioral Neuroscience.

Table 3. Comparison of Other Requirements

Ph.D. in BBH

Ph.D. in BBH & Social and Behavioral Neuroscience

Qualifying Examination Committee

Qualifying examination committees must consist of 3 committee members including the student’s academic adviser and two members of the BBH graduate faculty. Committee composition must be approved by the Graduate P.I.C.

Students generate a dossier consisting of (1) a personal statement including long term professional goals, (2) CV, (3) grades in all completed coursework (4) all prior annual plans of study, and (5) an independently written original professional writing sample (an empirical research paper or a review paper) to be circulated to the Committee 2 weeks prior to the candidacy meeting. The Committee will discuss the student’s progress, proposed plans, and candidacy paper in light of the student’s expressed future goals; structured feedback will be provided via the Department’s Candidacy evaluation form. The Committee presents their evaluation of the student to the BBH faculty at large, after which the full BBH faculty vote to admit the student to candidacy or to recommend termination from the program.

Candidacy exams are typically held by the end of the 3rd semester.

Qualifying Examination Committee

Qualifying examination for students pursuing the dual title will be conducted in an identical manner, with the caveat that at least one candidacy committee member must be a faculty member affiliated with the Social and Behavioral Neuroscience graduate faculty. The chair of the candidacy committee must be an affiliate of the SBN program or an affiliated member be appointed as a co-chair. Faculty members who hold appointments in both programs may serve in a combined role.

Students must apply, and be admitted, to the SBN dual title program prior to scheduling their candidacy meeting.

To allow for the extra time needed for coursework, the candidacy examination must be held by the end of the 4th semester. Students may request that the candidacy examination occur earlier.

Doctoral Committee

Once admitted to candidacy students must form their doctoral committee. In accordance with Graduate Council requirements, the doctoral committee is composed of at least four members of the graduate faculty, at least one of whom must be from outside the BBH department, or represent a different disciplinary perspective (based on scholarly work or field in which the Ph.D. was received). A minimum of three committee members must hold primary appointments in BBH (the chair of the committee and two committee members). One faculty member is designated as the chair of the doctoral committee; typically this person is also the student’s general adviser. In the event that a student is conducting dissertation research under the direct supervision of two faculty members, faculty may be appointed as co-chairs of the doctoral committee.

Doctoral Committee

The committee composition for students completing the dual-title in Social and Behavioral Neuroscience follows the same general structure, with the caveat that both the dissertation chair and the outside member are affiliated with the Social and Behavioral Neuroscience faculty. Exceptions to the role of the 2 SBN affiliated committee members (e.g. both SBN affiliated faculty are from the home department) must be approved by the SBN steering committee. As with the candidacy committee, if the chair of the candidacy committee is not an affiliate of the SBN program, an affiliated member must be appointed as a co-chair.

Comprehensive Exam

Prior to the examination, each committee member provides 10-20 readings selected to provide students with depth and breadth of exposure to literature related to BBH and their research interests. The comprehensive examination itself involves a written and an oral component. The written component is comprised of two parts: an independently written review paper or NSRA-style grant proposal (the choice of which is determined by consultation between student and advisor), and written answers to a comprehensive examination designed by the doctoral committee. The oral part is a defense of the written component and discussion of general progress in the graduate program.

The goal of the examination questions and defense is to evaluate the student’s acquired knowledge and ability to critically evaluate the state of the field at the level needed to make meaningful scientific contributions to the field.

Comprehensive Exam

Students pursuing the dual-title will follow the same format for the comprehensive exam. It is expected that a substantial portion of the exam emphasizes research relevant to the Social and Behavioral Neuroscience field. The representation of neuroscience in the exam materials will be evaluated by the committee members who hold affiliations with the SBN program.

Dissertation Proposal

The dissertation proposal occurs after passing the comprehensive exam. The student submits a dissertation proposal to the doctoral committee, outlining the proposed research study(ies) that will comprise the dissertation. A proposal defense is scheduled in which the committee can provide feedback regarding the student’s proposed approach, and approve the dissertation plan.

Dissertation Proposal

The dissertation research must involve the integration of neuroscience and a research question of interest within the home department, such as an examination of the association between brain and behavior. The suitability of the dissertation topic as fulfilling the dual-title objective is evaluated by the 2 committee members affiliated with the dual-title faculty.

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. The oral examination is administered by the doctoral committee. The dissertation must be accepted by the doctoral committee, the P.I.C. of the graduate program, and the Graduate School.

Dissertation Defense

The dissertation defense requirements are identical.