The Ph.D. program in Brain, Behavior, and Quantitative Science provides instruction and research training for students pursuing careers in the academic, public, and private sectors that draw on the research and scholarly interests of the group. A key aspect of the program is that each student’s training plan is individually tailored and fit to each studentʹs personal goals. In general, though, a strong emphasis is placed on students developing a fundamental understanding of psychological theory, acquiring advanced statistical and computational skills and expertise, and learning how to apply this science to improve the development and/or well‐being of individuals in society. Toward this end, the program requires both coursework and constant involvement in the research endeavor, whether in the laboratory or in the field, and (where appropriate) active engagement in opportunities to translate basic science into practice or application.

Research Requirement

We expect that each graduate student in the program is continuously involved in research.  Entering students should visit each faculty member in the area to determine areas of mutual research interest.  The student can either become a part of a faculty member’s ongoing program of research, or identify a faculty member who is willing and able to supervise the student’s independent research efforts. Often students will primarily work with a single faculty member. Translational science, however, often requires scientists to draw connections between different research areas. Therefore, the program also encourages students to seek out connections between labs and faculty members. In doing so the student should work together with the labs and faculty members to identify the roles and responsibilities of who will advise and supervise the student’s research.

Training Contract

Incoming graduate students in the program develop a plan of study best suited to their long term goals. This plan is formalized in the form of a training contract that specifies the components, each of which are described below:

  • Advisor(s)
  • Contract Committee
  • Professional Goals
  • Coursework
  • Planned Research Activity/Activities
  • Further Professional Development
  • Plan for Evaluation of Progress
  • Research Skills and Responsible Scholarship
  • Timeline


The student should identify the faculty member(s) who will serve as the primary advisor for the student. Typically, this faculty member will be the chair of the contract committee. If the student is working with 2 or more faculty members then the contract should specify the roles and responsibilities of each faculty member in advising and supervising the student. 

The Contract Committee

During the fall semester, first-year students are expected to identify three faculty members they would prefer as members of their contract committee. Typically, the committee chair is a faculty member in the program, and one other member is also a member of the program. The third member is typically a member of the department, and can be from outside the program. The third member, in special cases, may come from outside the department.  The student must then develop a plan of study (contract) and have it approved by the committee by April 15 (of the first year in the program).  Earlier preparation and approval of the initial contract is encouraged.

Professional Goals

The student should describe professional goals in as much detail as possible, including areas of specialization, preferred or likely setting for work following completion of graduate training, and the nature of the professional activity in which the student intends to engage. The student should describe how she wants to achieve these goals.


Students should identify a list of courses that will help them reach their personal and professional goals. The course work should include the following areas, but the amount from each area is specific to each individual’s needs and goals. 
  • Basic research skills
  • Training in substantive (content) areas of psychology
  • Training in quantitative and computational psychology
  • Skills and expertise beyond psychology
Please identify a course or set of courses that will fill the requirement for the Research Skills and Responsible Research Requirement.

Planned Research Activity

To the extent possible, a description of the research activities in which the student intends to engage while in the program should be provided.  Deadlines for the completion of various research activities should be made clear.

Further Professional Development

The student should indicate other plans for development as a professional including plans to participate in workshops and summer schools. The student should also indicate plans if any to actively engage in opportunities to gain experience in translating basic science into practice or application such as working in any of the associated research centers on campus on an applied project, doing an internship at a research lab outside of the university or in industry in an area directly related to the field of study of the student.  

Plan for Evaluation of Progress

The student and advisor should provide details on specific and on mutually agreed-upon ways in which his or her progress will be evaluated. Grades in courses are not sufficient for this purpose. 

Research Skills and Responsible Scholarship Requirement

The student should include a statement describing the ways in which the Graduate School requirement relating to research skills will be met, noting the anticipated date of completion. 


A summary list of projected completion dates for the major activities described in items 3 through 7 should be provided. Estimated dates for the completion of the remaining Graduate School requirements should also be provided.  

Core Components of Graduate Degree

  • Masters Thesis
  • Research Skill and Responsible Scholarship Training
  • Oral Comprehensive Exam in One of the Following Formats:
    • Defense of a major area paper
    • Defense of two research proposals
    • Defense of five propositions
    • Defense of written exam
  • Dissertation

Graduate Certificates

Graduate students in the BBQ program are encouraged to consider pursuing the Graduate Certificate in Data Science offered through the KU College of Engineering.  

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