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

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 


  • Completed application form. See Application Instructions to learn how.
  • A non-refundable application fee of $75.
  • Official transcripts of all undergraduate study, including evidence of having received a bachelor's degree from an accredited university. (Those applying during their final undergraduate year will be required to submit a final transcript after completion of their bachelor's degree and before enrolling in their first semester of graduate study.) See Application Guidelines and FAQ for more information.
  • Official transcripts of all graduate study. See Application Guidelines and FAQ for more information.
  • Goals statement. See Application Guidelines for more information.
  • Three letters of recommendation.
  • GRE (Use 5240 for the ETS institutional code)
  • TOEFL is required from all international applicants from non-English speaking countries. (Use 5240 for the ETS institutional code)

Additional Program Requirements

  • 3.2 Undergraduate GPA or higher, a 3.6 or higher GPA in the undergraduate major
  • Undergraduate or graduate study in biology, education, interpretation, linguistics, psychology, philosophy, cognitive neuroscience or other area related to Educational Neuroscience
  • 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.
  • Two letters of recommendation addressing your potential for conducting advanced doctoral studies. (May use same letters required for general application requirements)
  • You may be called for an interview with faculty from the PEN program.