Biological & Health Psychology Program PhD Requirements

These are the minimum requirements for the PhD from the Biological and Health Psychology program. The Biological and Health Psychology program is a stand-alone training program. It is also possible, however, to pursue cross-disciplinary training in Biological and Health Psychology in conjunction with a second subspecialty area.

At the time of application to the Biological and Health Psychology program, students may jointly apply to the Clinical Psychology program (in the joint Clinical & Health track).  Except as noted, Clinical/Health Psychology Program students satisfy the same degree requirements as nonclinical Biological and Health Psychology Program students, in addition to completing requirements of the Clinical Psychology Program.

As another option, students with bridging interests may design and formalize a program of cross training with the Social, Developmental, or the Cognitive programs. This may be done at the time of admission, or after the commencement of training. Students who wish to add one of these programs as a second training area after admission must obtain a letter of approval from the Chair of the new program as well as their primary research mentor. For more information about these options, see section on “Cross-Program Training”  in Department Graduate Student Handbook

Students enrolled in the Biological and Health Psychology program may also pursue additional complementary training in Neuroscience as part of the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition (CNBC). Students who pursue this option will be required to enroll in an additional 4 course sequence required of trainees affiliated with this center, many of which can be used to fulfill elective requirements that are part of the Biological and Health program.  For more information, see

General Information

  • Graduate training is only offered for the PhD. There is no terminal master's degree.

  • Graduate training occurs on a full-time, three-term, year-round basis. Most courses are 3 credits and one term in duration.

  • A mentorship model of training is employed, in which students work closely with their faculty advisors. It is possible to change advisors at any time and often students work with other faculty in addition to their advisor.

  • Students are encouraged to examine the research interests and recent publications of faculty with whom they might be interested in working. Graduate applicants are asked to designate potential faculty mentors, and these selections are considered seriously in the application review process.

  • An individualized curriculum is established for each student. This curriculum is established, approved, and monitored by a two-member advisory committee composed of program faculty.


  • Health Fundamentals (Psy 2502)  is a one term small group seminar required of first or second year graduate students enrolled in the Biological and Health Psychology program. The goal of the course is to introduce students to the major tools that underlie contemporary research in health psychology, with a focus on a) biological and psychophysiological systems of relevance to the field (e.g., fear and stress systems, energy homeostasis, genetics), b) the epidemiology and pathophysiology of major health problems, and c) the psychosocial models that link these systems and problems (emotion and personality, social environmental factors, sociodemographic factors and health).

  • In addition, all students must fulfill coursework in: (1) research methods in biological and health psychology (e.g., Psy 2200, Clinical Psych Research Methods); (2) statistical analysis (e.g., Psy 2005 Statistical Analysis I, and Psy 2010, Stat Analysis 2) ; and (3) two courses in systems physiology (a human physiology course, for example,  Psy 2576 Topics: Human Physiology , and a basic neuroscience course, for example,  Psy 2475, Behavioral Neuroscience). These requirements may be satisfied by a variety of course options (e.g., CMU Psychology #85-765, Cognitive Neuroscience also fulfills the neuroscience requirement), based on recommendations of the student's advisory committee.

  • For the Ph.D., students must also complete at least 14 credits (approximately 5 courses; for clinical/health students, at least 8 credits or approximately 3 courses) relating to the program’s several fields of research concentration. Examples of such courses include: Human Cardiovascular Psychophysiology, Psychoneuroimmunology, Behavioral Medicine Interventions, and The Process of Addiction.

  • All students participate in a 1-credit monthly Program Research Seminar (Psy 2505, Health Program Research Seminar)each fall and spring term. This seminar serves to bring together graduate students, faculty, and postdoctoral fellows, providing a forum for presentation and discussion of conceptual and methodological issues bridging the various specialty areas of Biological and Health Psychology. The program research seminar also serves as a forum for professional development in areas such as grant writing, publishing and presenting research, reviewing papers, and developing a program of research.

  • In addition to formal coursework, students may participate in one or more optional journal clubs meeting biweekly or monthly, providing additional opportunities for critical reading in the field and cross-disciplinary interaction. Standing journal clubs include the Cardiovascular Behavioral Medicine journal club, the Psychoneuroimmunology journal club, the Addictions journal club, and the Genetics journal club. Ongoing research seminars of relevance to Biological and Health Psychology (for example, Sleep Grand Rounds) are also available through the Department of Psychiatry.

Research Milestones

  • Master's Thesis: The master's thesis is an empirical study that is proposed and defended to a faculty committee.
  • Specialty Paper and Examination: The specialty paper is a review of scientific literature involving a topic of central importance to the student's field of study. The paper is defended before a faculty committee. Passing the specialty examination demonstrates that the student has acquired mastery of the theories, research methods, and content defining a set of related problems in health psychology and can articulate issues central to these problems.
  • Dissertation: The dissertation is an independent empirical study that is proposed and defended to a faculty committee.

Teaching Requirement

  • Students are required to teach at least one course during their graduate career.