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PhD Program in Educational Neuroscience (PEN)


Dr. Laura-Ann Petitto, Steering Committee Chair
Sorenson Language and Communication Center, Room 1224

Dr. Melissa Herzig, Program Assistant Director
Sorenson Language and Communication Center, Room 1222

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

This doctoral program is a research-focused program where students develop a specific research focus, conducting supervised research within their mentor’s lab as well as developing their own lines of research through independent research projects. Students accepted into the program receive four years of funding as follows: tuition scholarship for up to the domestic rate + $25,200 annual stipend + health insurance option.

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 opened its doors to the first class of Ph.D. students in Fall 2013. This is Gallaudet’s first interdisciplinary Ph.D. program and has its administrative home in Gallaudet University’s National Science Foundation Science of Learning Center, Visual Language and Visual Learning, VL2. Learn more about VL2 and its cognitive neuroscience and translational labs, all of which provide PEN students with unparalleled lab research experience and opportunities.

Application Requirements

Applicants for the Ph.D. in Educational Neuroscience must complete the application procedures and meet the requirements for graduate study at Gallaudet University. Visit the Graduate Admissions website for more information and a checklist of application requirements.  

Deadline to apply for this program: February 15, 2023 (Early applications will be considered)

General Application Requirements

  • Official transcripts of all undergraduate or graduate study (major preferred: biology, psychology, linguistics, cognitive neuroscience, education, interpretation, hearing speech and language sciences, philosophy, or other area related to Educational Neuroscience)
  • 3.2 Undergraduate GPA or higher, a 3.6 or higher GPA in the undergraduate major
  • An application fee of $50
  • A completed graduate school application form
  • Goal statement
  • Three (3) letters of reference

Program Specific Requirement:

  • At least two (2) of your three (3) letters of recommendation, which are required by Gallaudet’s general application requirements, must address your potential for conducting advanced doctoral studies.
  • Strong research background
  • Narrative Statements – Both written English Essay and signed ASL digital “Essay”

In addition to the essay questions required in the Gallaudet Admission Application, please answer the question below in written English and in ASL (please be sure to answer all parts. Length limit: English, maximum 4 pages. ASL, maximum 5 minutes)

Explain your background research experiences, your future professional goals, and why you believe advanced graduate study specifically in the new discipline of Educational Neuroscience is the ideal course for you to achieve your goals.

  • Bilingual language knowledge – in both ASL and English
    • English competence to be determined by submitted written materials and by GRE scores
    • ASL competence to be determined by ASL digital essay and interview (if scheduled)
  • Resume detailing academic, professional, and research experience is required.
  • An example of a completed written project (e.g., research report, course paper)
  • An undergraduate course in basic statistics.
  • You may be called for an interview with faculty from the PEN program.
Available In:

Courses & Requirements

Fall I

PEN 701: First part


Spring I

PEN 701: Second Part


Summer I
Fall II

Core Elective Course: INT 830 or LIN 510 or EDU 860


Spring II

Note: Core elective course (advanced statistics) at Gallaudet University or consortium university


Summer II
Fall III
Spring III
Summer III (if needed)
Fall IV
Spring IV
Summer IV (if needed)

Admissions Requirements

Hearing Undergraduate