A doctoral program exploring the social, emotional, cognitive, and physical aspects of human development within the context of culture, education, and social policy. 

With the freedom to craft an individualized plan of study, the Interdisciplinary Studies in Human Development program allows students to explore their interests and graduate prepared for a career in academic research.

What Sets Us Apart

4 YearsFull funding for up to 4 years
  Each student engages in a research internship with their mentor
  Penn proudly houses the IES Predoctoral Training Program, a multi-year opportunity for current Ph.D. students offering both financial and skill-building support

About the Program

Our program prepares graduates for careers as university professors and researchers. Significant graduate-level preparation in human development or a master’s degree is recommended but not required for admission. Core areas of focus include developmental psychology, cognitive development, development in cultural contexts, and research design and analysis.

Application deadline
Closed for Fall 2024. The application for Fall 2025 will be available September 1, 2024.
Entry term(s)
Course requirements
16 course minimum
Typical course load

Fall: 4 courses; Spring: 4 courses

Culminating experiencePreliminary (candidacy) examination, dissertation proposal, doctoral dissertation

  • Full-Time

This Ph.D. program combines the study of social, emotional, cognitive, and physical aspects of human development considered within cultural contexts and relevant to social policies. Penn GSE’s commitment to urban education as well as its West Philadelphia setting offers students the opportunity to create a specialized program of study that leads to an enriched understanding of the diverse perspectives of human development across the lifespan. Students create an individualized program of study in close consultation with an academic advisor. Students are encouraged to take an interdisciplinary approach to human development and may take courses in other schools and departments at Penn.


Each student creates their own program of study in consultation with a faculty mentor. Most students are required to take these 4 courses: Human Development, Adolescent Development, Personality & Social Development, and Cognitive Development. These courses may be waived with permission from a faculty advisor. Up to eight course units may be transferred from a master's program. 

For more information on courses and requirements, visit the Interdisciplinary Studies in Human Development Ph.D. program in the University Catalog.

Our Faculty

Penn GSE Faculty Ufuoma C. Abiola
Adjunct Assistant Professor
Ed.D., University of Pennsylvania
Penn GSE Faculty Xinyin Chen
Ph.D., University of Waterloo
Penn GSE Faculty Suzanne G. Fegley
Senior Lecturer
Ph.D., Temple University
Penn GSE Faculty Douglas A. Frye
Associate Professor
Ph.D., Yale University
Penn GSE Faculty Elizabeth Mackenzie
Adjunct Associate Professor
Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania
Penn GSE Faculty Michael J. Nakkula
Professor of Practice
Ed.D., Harvard Graduate School of Education
Penn GSE Faculty Howard C. Stevenson
Constance Clayton Professor of Urban Education
Ph.D., Fuller Graduate School of Psychology
Penn GSE Faculty Daniel A. Wagner
UNESCO Chair in Learning and Literacy
Ph.D., University of Michigan
Penn GSE Faculty Sharon Wolf
Associate Professor
Ph.D., New York University
Lloyd Talley portrait

"If you are ready to challenge yourself, your preconceived notions, and the field, then Penn GSE is the place for you."

Lloyd M. Talley

Education, Culture, and Society M.S.Ed., 2014

Our Graduates

Graduates go on to take tenure track positions at research universities, postdoctoral fellowships, as well as research and leadership positions at nonprofit institutions. 

Alumni Careers

  • Assistant Professor and Associate Director of Research for the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity, Duke University
  • Assistant Professor, University of Virginia Curry School of Education
  • Instructor, Harvard Medical School
  • Postdoctoral Fellow, Yale University
  • Assistant Professor, University of Texas at Austin
  • Senior Project Administrator, Senator Walter Rand Institute for Public Affairs at Rutgers-Camden
  • Assistant Professor, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine
  • Assistant Professor, Cal State San Marcos
  • Visiting Assistant Professor, Purdue University
  • Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Harvard School of Public Health
  • Assistant Professor, Shanghai Jiao Tong University
  • Principal Consultant, DiversiFYI Consulting; 

Admissions & Financial Aid

Please visit our Admissions and Financial Aid pages for specific information on the application requirements, as well as information on tuition, fees, financial aid, scholarships, and fellowships.

Contact Information

Contact us if you have any questions about the program.

Office of Admissions and
Financial Aid

Graduate School of Education
University of Pennsylvania
3700 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
(215) 898-6415

Program Contact

Dominic Homac
Administrative Coordinator

Please view information from our Admissions and Financial Aid Office for specific information on the cost of this program.

All Ph.D. students are guaranteed a full scholarship for their first four years of study, as well as a stipend and student health insurance. Penn GSE is committed to making your graduate education affordable, and we offer generous scholarships, fellowships, and assistantships.