At Penn State’s College of IST, you will receive multidisciplinary training to prepare you to address complex issues related to technology and society. We welcome applicants from diverse academic backgrounds including computer science, behavioral sciences, cognitive and brain sciences, engineering, environmental sciences, information sciences, law, life sciences, health sciences, management, philosophy, physical sciences, policy, mathematics, statistics, social sciences (sociology, economics).
In our Ph.D. program you will engage in cutting-edge research areas with our graduate faculty. To succeed in any of these areas, as a graduate student in IST, you will develop important skills in mathematics, computer science, social and behavioral sciences. You will learn how to analyze qualitative and quantitative effects in data and to understand, test and contribute to scientific theory.
Ph.D. Course Requirements
The Ph.D. in IST is a 38 credit degree program, which takes 5 years to complete on a full-time basis. A complete discussion of degree requirements can be found in our IST Ph.D. Roadmap.
As a Ph.D. IST student you are expected to develop a broad understanding of foundations, theories and methods across the disciplines that constitute the research landscape of the College. To accomplish this breadth in knowledge, students take these courses during their first year:
- IST 501: Interdisciplinary Research Methods for Information Sciences and Technology (3 credits, fall)
- IST 510: Foundations in Computational Informatics (3 credits, spring)
- IST 520: Foundations in Human-Centered Design (3 credits, spring)
- IST 530: Foundations in Social Informatics (3 credits, fall)
- IST 590: Colloquium (1 credit Fall, 1 credit spring)
You will complete a minimum of 12 credits of specialty coursework. These courses can be in IST or other units that provide in-depth concepts and skills related to support your dissertation project.
You will complete a minimum of 12 credits of research methodology coursework. These courses will guide you to acquire and practice research methods relevant to your dissertation project. These courses can be in IST or other units that are linked to the information sciences.
Under the direction of your adviser, you will complete research credits relevant to your dissertation project.
In addition to coursework, the Ph.D. program includes several milestones:
- The first is the candidacy exam, taken after the first year of study. In this College exam, we assess your ability to understand and apply critical thinking across several different disciplinary perspectives, and to demonstrate proficiency in research writing and oral competency.
- After successful completion of the candidacy exam and before the comprehensive exam, you will formally select your Ph.D. doctoral committee.
- The comprehensive exam is taken within 12-18 months of passing the candidacy exam. You will develop and defend a dissertation proposal to your doctoral committee.
- The final defense occurs when you defend your dissertation project to your doctoral committee.
All Ph.D. students are funded their first and second semesters in the form of research assistantships, teaching assistantships or fellowships. Graduate assistantships include a stipend sufficient to cover living expenses in this region, full tuition coverage and health benefits. While we cannot guarantee funding beyond this first year, historically we fund students through at least their fourth year in our program as long as they are making acceptable academic progress.
Additionally, the College of IST provides funding to support students for professional travel. These funds are intended to assist graduate student travel to present results from their research at professional meetings or to present their creative work in a professional venue.
For other financial aid, such as loans and grants, contact the Office of Student Aid's Loans. In addition, the Office of Graduate Fellowships and Awards has information on internal and external fellowships.