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Doctoral Programs


American Studies and Ethnicity is among the most innovative departments in the nation.  The department’s widely published interdisciplinary faculty specialize in the theoretical study of race and ethnicity; the analysis of cultural production in the Americas; and transnational, cross-racial, and comparative research.


The USC Dornsife College Department of Art History offers a Ph.D. program with particular emphases of the widely renowned faculty include the politics of art history; questions of sexuality and gender in the visual field; race, ethnicity, and the effects of racial inequity on art and its history; the ways in which individual and national identity are constructed in architecture, art, and the museum; and the viewer’s stake in representation and the force of subjectivity.  Many faculty members conduct research related to objects and archives that lie beyond the traditional boundaries of art history, whether in terms of fashion, photography, advertising, design, landscape architecture, subcultural imagery, or performance.


The Integrative and Evolutionary Biology (IEB) Ph.D. Program is a multi-domain training program for research on organismic functions across the history of life.  Research by IEB faculty and graduate students targets emerging areas at the interface of genomics, evolution, and physiology.


In Marine Environmental Biology, Ph.D program studies marine organisms, their interactions in complex marine ecosystems, and the emergent properties of the communities that result from these interactions.  By design and necessity, this work includes studies at all levels of biological organization, as well as investigations of the intersection between the activities of organisms and the abiotic world.  The interdisciplinary and integrative nature of our research presents opportunities to create unique linkages across scales, educating our students in the connections between molecular biology, physiological ecology, neurobiology and the larger-scale functions of organisms and ecosystems.


The Molecular and Computational Biology (MCB) Program has a renowned faculty with expertise in the approaches of molecular biology, computational biology and genomics. Research interests range from prokaryotic regulatory mechanisms and fruit fly aging to the human genome project and bioinformatics. The MCB program offers two degrees.  The Ph.D. in Molecular Biology emphasizes laboratory research including three different research rotations in the first year.  The Ph.D. program in Computational Biology and Bioinformatics emphasizes quantitative methods to address biological problems. 


The USC Dornsife College Department of Chemistry works to provide a high quality education and research experience for its graduate students and post-doctoral fellows.  Graduate students can choose from emerging interdisciplinary fields, as well as traditional areas of chemistry.  Individual research programs are tailored to suit the needs of each student.  Emphasis on emerging areas such as chemical biology, nanosciences, materials chemistry and pharmaceutical chemistry, enrich the graduate experience.


The USC Dornsife College Department of Classics offers a Ph.D. program widely recognized for its distinctive integration of the study of Greek and Latin language and literature into a broader investigation of the cultural history of the ancient Mediterranean and of its impact on successive eras.  Our program introduces students to visual, literary, and material cultures of antiquity while providing opportunities for the development of individual research specialties from an early stage of study.


See Comparative Studies in Literature and Culture.


CSLC is a newly born, innovative graduate adventure (inaugurated 2011) that now houses the doctoral programs of Comparative Literature, French and Francophone Studies, Slavic Languages and Literatures, and Spanish and Latin American Studies.  Behind its creation was the idea that Ph.D. education in these fields ought to cultivate a common ground in addition to fostering specialized research.  Organized in three distinct Tracks (I, Comparative Media and Culture; II, Comparative Literature; III, National Literatures and Cultures) that share a core curriculum, CSLC emphasizes cross-disciplinary perspectives as well as rigorous training in cultural and linguistic traditions.

CSLC is a newly born, innovative graduate adventure (inaugurated 2011) that now
houses the doctoral programs of Comparative Literature, French and Francophone
Studies, Slavic Languages and Literatures, and Spanish and Latin American Studies.
Behind its creation was the idea that Ph.D. education in these fields ought to cultivate
a common ground in addition to fostering specialized research. Organized in three
distinct Tracks (I, Comparative Media and Culture; II, Comparative Literature; III,
National Literatures and Cultures) that share a core curriculum, CSLC emphasizes
cross-disciplinary perspectives as well as rigorous training in cultural and lingui


The Department of Earth Sciences focuses on the understanding the processes that influence the tectonics and environment of the planet, on using this understanding to read the record of earth history written in rocks and sediments, and on developing models that can be used to predict future changes due to natural phenomena and anthropogenic influences.  Issues of societal concern related to seismic risk, climate change, environmental contamination and other geologic hazards play an important role.


The Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures emphasizes interdisciplinary and innovative research, the program provides students with systematic training in East Asian languages, literatures, and cultures, with special strengths in visual culture and gender studies. Faculty members also are committed to intra-regional and interdisciplinary studies of East Asia, which includes critical interaction among the cultures of China, Japan, and Korea, and integration of modern and pre-modern studies.


The Department of Economics at USC Dornsife College is widely known for economic theory and econometrics, development economics, and game theory.  Regional expertise focuses on Japan, East Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America.  Recent additions to the faculty have deepened the Department’s expertise in economic demography, health, and labor, while new connections with USC’s other centers of economic research—in policy and planning, health care, business, and finance—provide extraordinary opportunities for applied research.

ENGLISH (including Literature and Creative Writing)

USC English is one of a very small group of institutions in America to offer a combined Ph.D. in creative writing and literature. Unlike traditional departments organized according to historical periods, USC English finds its intellectual coherence in a variety of interests that overlap periods and fields.  Literary history is vital to our endeavors, filtered through a series of shared rubrics and strengths that include, but are not limited to:  Poetry and Poetics; Gender and Sexuality; Media, Film, and Popular Culture; the Study of Popular Culture; Studies in Race and Minority Literatures and Narrative Studies.


See Comparative Studies in Literature and Culture.


USC Dornsife College's History Department has more than 35 faculty members with pronounced strengths in medieval, colonial American, modern American, East Asian, Latin American, Middle Eastern, Russian, and European history.  They also have thematic strengths in the history of women and gender, sexuality, race and ethnicity, medicine and science, the environment, film, and visual culture.


See Comparative Studies for Literature and Culture.


The USC Dornsife College Department of Linguistics enjoys a national and international reputation for excellence.  Research areas represented in the department include syntax, phonology, phonetics, semantics, morphology, sociolinguistics, first and second language acquisition, language processing, and language change.


The USC Dornsife College Department of Mathematics is home to many mathematical theoreticians as well as specialists in applications of engineering, computer science, finance, economics, physics, and computational genomics.  Faculty expertise in both theoretical and applied fields gives the department’s research a unique breadth.


The Ph.D. in Biology with concentration in neurobiology ecourages students to develop a broad, fundamental background in neurobiology and a detailed knowledge and expertise in the chosen area of concentration. Courses in related disciplines of neuroscience, such as computational or cognitive neuroscience may be taken as electives. Courses in genomics, molecular biology, integrative and evolutionary biology and biomedical engineering are also available as electives for students interested in bridging the interface between neurobiology and these disciplines.


The Ph.D. Program in Neuroscience at USC Dornsife College offers students a broad-based curriculum and state-of-the-art training in modern neuroscience techniques.  More than 70 faculty from 18 departments conduct externally-funded research ranging from molecules to cognition.


The Ph.D. program in Philosophy provides for a wide range of study within the analytic tradition in philosophy, both classical and modern, and in metaphysics, philosophy of mind, philosophy of language, epistemology, ethics, political philosophy and logic.


Faculty in the USC Dornsife College’s Department of Physics and Astronomy observe the most elemental forms of nature and how they behave in both inner and outer space.  From electrons to galaxies, faculty scientists explore the structure of matter and how it organizes itself.  Encompassing both the smallest and the largest objects in the universe, the faculty’s research interests are necessarily broad, ranging from atomic physics, elementary particle theory, quantum optics and laser physics to solar systems, self-organizing systems and stellar structure.  Other prominent scholars study high-energy physics, and how string theory resolves the contradiction between theories of general relativity and quantum mechanics.


The Department of Political Sciences and the School of International Relations together offer the Politics and International Relations (POIR) Ph.D. program. POIR offers a combination of standard and innovative fields of specialization and is especially strong in Political Communication; Law and Public Policy; International Political Economy; East Asia; Latin America; Foreign Policy Analysis; Race and Ethnicity; and Culture, Gender, and Global Society.  Students may also petition to create their own special fields.


See Comparative Studies in Literature and Culture.


The Department of Psychology provides students with access to an exciting range of research and classroom experiences.  The faculty currently investigates topics related to aggression, prejudice, substance abuse, social relationships, psychological disorders, psychotherapy, motivation, cognitive and social development, language acquisition, measurement and assessment, qualitative methods of cognitive processes, memory, learning, perception, behavior genetics, biological bases of behavior and neuroscience.


The Department of Sociology has a proud history, and a wide range of research and teaching interests and methodological approaches.  The faculty includes some of the nation’s leading sociologists in the study of families, culture, religion, immigration, race/ethnicity, and gender.  Specializations include race, gender, families, culture and immigration, but students may also craft emphases in demography, religion, sociology of the life course and aging, organizations, work and social change, medical sociology, urban sociology, and class stratification. 


See Comparative Studies for Literature and Culture.