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Graduate Education

Doctoral education in Penn Arts and Sciences takes place in an array of over 30 eminent programs. These programs seek to offer a rigorous education that promotes cutting-edge research skills and that prepares students for careers in academia or a variety of other domains.

The Next Generation of Scholars

Our Ph.D. students represent the next generation of scholars who will further knowledge and apply their advanced training in any number of important pursuits. They add fresh intellectual perspectives to our academic community and are an asset in our efforts to attract top faculty to Penn.

Criminology doctoral student Jill Portnoy has been working with Richard Perry University Professor Adrian Raine on studies of the relation of biological responses to psychopathic and antisocial tendencies. Among her findings is the discovery that more aggressive people tend to have lower heart rates. Portnoy explains, “We think this leads to arousal-seeking behavior, because for them, the low heart rate presents an uncomfortable state.”

Next Generation Teachers

Philosophy doctoral student Robert Hoffman is exploring how texts of the 17th and 18th centuries provide a philosophical foundation for an increasing use of military tactics and technology to combat domestic crime. “It’s a phenomenon seen broadly in the U.S., ranging from the ‘War on Terror’ to responses to the Occupy movement and the Ferguson protests,” says Hoffman, who examined the topic as a 2014 Penn Humanities Forum Fellow.

Hoffman’s teaching accomplishments have also earned him recognition. A winner of the 2015 Dean’s Award for Distinguished Teaching by a Graduate Student, Hoffman says, “I strive to make every class valuable, even (or perhaps especially) to those students who will never take another philosophy course. My main priority is helping students recognize the contrasts between theories, their practical importance, and the complexity and nuance required to fit theories to the world around us.”

Innovation in Graduate Education

Options like certificates offer graduate students flexible opportunities to add an interdisciplinary dimension to complement their primary areas of study—a potentially valuable asset in our competitive academic funding and job environment.

The new certificate in Social, Cognitive, and Affective Neuroscience will enable graduate and professional students in fields as diverse as law, business, engineering and education, as well as in the humanities and social sciences, to work knowledgeably with neuroscience. Rather than training future neuroscientists, the program’s aim is to supplement the education of people with expertise in other areas, enabling them to incorporate some of the concepts and methods of neuroscience into their work. The curriculum focuses on the aspects of neuroscience that have the most direct application to the understanding of human behavior, specifically cognitive and affective neuroscience.