Image: fNIRS demonstration

PhD in Educational Neuroscience

The PhD Program in Educational Neuroscience (PEN) was founded at Gallaudet University by Dr. Laura-Ann Petitto (Chair, PEN Steering Committee), Dr. Melissa Herzig (Associate Director, PEN), and Dr. Thomas Allen (Director, PEN). 

Students in our pioneering PEN program gain state-of-the-art Cognitive Neuroscience training in how humans learn, with a special strength in the neuroplasticity of visually guided learning processes. While Cognitive Neuroscience includes studies of learning and higher cognitive processes across the lifespan, its sister discipline, Educational Neuroscience, includes intensive study of five core domains that are crucial in early childhood learning, including language and bilingualism, reading and literacy, math and numeracy, science and critical thinking (higher cognition), social and emotional learning, and includes study of action and visual processing. PEN students become expert in one of the world's cutting-edge neuroimagine methods in the discipline of Cognitive Neuroscience (e.g., fNIRS, EEG, fMRI, and beyond), study Neuroethics, gain strong critical analysis and reasoning skills in science, and develop expertise in one of the core content areas of learning identified above. While becoming experts in both contemporary neuroimaging and behavioral experimental science, students also learn powerful, meaningful, and principled ways that science can be translated for the benefit of education and society today.

Our students benefit from access to an in-house, research-dedicated neuroimaging facility in the Brain and Language Laboratory for Neuroimaging (BL2), founded and directed by Professor Laura-Ann Petitto. Here, students can also choose to become certified in one of the world's most advanced neuroimaging technologies that is ideally suited for the study of young children and individuals across the lifespan, fNIRS (functional Near Infrared Spectroscopy). Students graduate from the program prepared to become groundbreaking scientists!

The PEN program was approved by the Gallaudet Board of Trustees on May 17, 2013 and opened its doors to the first class of PhD students in fall 2013 (Adam Stone and Geo Karthesier). The PEN program is thrilled to recognize its three new Assistant Professors, Dr. Clifton Langdon (language, reading, learning in deaf blind individuals and children with cochlear implants, and the brain), Dr. Lorna Quandt (action perception and the brain), and Dr. Ilaria Berteletti (math, numeracy, and reading, and the brain). This is Gallaudet's first interdisciplinary PhD program, and it includes Gallaudet University's National Science Foundation Science of Learning Center, Visual Language and Visual Learning, VL2 (the PhD program's administrative home) and VL2's four national resource hubs (Petitto Brain and Language Laboratory for Neuroimaging, BL2, Motion Light Laboratory, ML2, Early Education and Literacy Lab, EL2, and the Translation in the Science of Learning Lab, TL2. It also includes the Departments of Psychology, Linguistics, Interpretation, Education, and Hearing Speech and Language Sciences.

Gallaudet University has committed to providing financial support to PEN students for four years of study in the form of full tuition waivers and stipend ($21,000/year). Students in this program can expect to receive fellowship support from the university, direct mentoring support from advisors, and PEN students may have access to the VL2 student dedicated $25,000 research and training funds.

For more information, email us at 


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