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Transdisciplinary Developmental Sciences (Certificate)

A goal for the Transdisciplinary Developmental Sciences certificate is for students to develop an in-depth understanding of the developmental emergence and course of the mechanisms and processes related to their field, through investigation, training, and coursework. We aim to train scientific leaders who will break new ground on the scientific priorities of our times including uncovering malleable roots of disease, the seeds of lifespan wellbeing, and translation of discovery to application in real world settings. They will do so with a powerful and nuanced understanding of neurodevelopment and the complex interface of brain, behavior, and context in shaping early development health and wellbeing and its reverberations across the lifespan.

Northwestern graduate students and Feinberg Medical School Trainees across departments, who have joined the Institute for Innovations in Developmental Sciences (DevSci) cluster, may elect to receive recognition for training and experience in developmental science by completing the requirements and recommendations outlined below. This certificate is administered by DevSci and awarded by The Graduate School.

How to apply

Enrolled PhD and Master's students in The Graduate School may pursue this certificate with the permission of their program. In order to petition to have a Graduate Certificate awarded and appear on the transcript, students must submit the  Application for a Graduate Certificate  once all Graduate Certificate requirements have been completed, but no later than the time that the student files for graduation (in the final quarter of study). 

Who to contact

Please contact the program director, listed below, with questions about this program.

The following requirements are in addition to, or further elaborate upon, those requirements outlined in The Graduate School Policy Guide.


Students interested in obtaining the certificate should enroll in the DevSci cluster as well. The membership application is simple. Please send your CV and a 1-2 paragraph summary about your research as a single pdf to Jessica Horowitz the program director. Cluster members have access to special events and DevSci Seed Funds.


Students must take 5 courses, one from each of four domains and a fifth course from any of the domains or an elective of their choice as approved by the Training Directors, that are substantially related to developmental science themes. All of the courses already exist and are offered through a range of Northwestern academic units. A single course may not be used to satisfy the requirement for more than one domain. The list below provides examples of suitable courses but is not exhaustive (students can petition the coordinators to include new/different classes when forming a training program, and the committee will carefully review respective syllabi for suitability for a given domain). Domains include topics crucial to the developmental sciences and will provide a breadth of experience for each participating student, to complement the in-depth experience that other components such as the recommended research project provide.

  • Domain 1 focuses on conceptual background and early childhood development.
  • Domain 2 focuses on a topic of later development (including adolescent, adult and geriatric populations).
  • Domain 3 includes developmental psychopathology and atypical development.
  • Domain 4 focuses on developmental research methods, including neurodevelopmental methods, and relevant statistics.

Students pursuing the Developmental Sciences Certificate must choose at least 1 class per domain and obtain approval for their course plan from the Institute’s Training Directors.

Domain 1: Conceptual background and early childhood development

  • CLIN_PSY 487: Life-Span Developmental Psychology
  • HDSP 402: Child Development and Social Policy
  • HDSP 413: Theories of Human Development
  • PSYCH 462: Cognitive Development
  • PSYCH 424: Behavioral & Neural Basis of Visual Perception

Domain 2: Later development

  • CLIN_PSY 487: Life-Span Developmental Psychology
  • HDSP 403: Adolescent Development
  • HDSP 404: Adult Development & Aging
  • PSYCH 494: Personality Theory & Research

Domain 3: Developmental psychopathology

  • CLINPSY 466: Child Psychopathology
  • PSYCH 421-1: Psychopathology (1 Unit)
  • PSYCH 421-2: Psychopathology (1 Unit)
  • PSYCH 422: Child Psychopathology

Domain 4: Developmental research methods and advanced statistics

  • CLIN_PSY 426, 427, 428: Research Methods (Stats)
  • CLIN_PSY 429: Advanced Research Methodology
  • HDSP 410: Quantitative Methods I Probability and Statistics
  • HDSP 411: Quantitative Methods II Regression Analysis
  • HDSP 412: Quantitative Methods III Empirical Tools for Causal Analysis
  • PSYCH 405: Psychometric Theory
  • PSYCH 451-1: Statistics in Experimental Design
  • PSYCH 453: Linear Models: Regression & Correlation
  • PSYCH 454: Psychological Measurement
  • PSYCH 494: Personality Theory & Research
  • PSYCH 497: Multilevel Modeling

Optional co-curricular components

Developmental Sscience presentations and lectures

Over the course of their graduate studies it is recommended that students:

  • Attend the DevSci Brown Bag
    • Events in this series occur once a month and all presentations are related to the developmental sciences. The Brown Bag takes place on both the Chicago and Evanston campuses through videoconferencing.
  • Present each year at the annual DevSci Data Blitz/Poster Presentation event
    • The 2.5-hour event will be held each spring, and will include poster presentations by DevSci certificate and cluster members. The event will be attended by DevSci faculty and the broader NU intellectual community will be invited. It will be advertised across campus list-serves.
    • This opportunity is intended to allow for dynamic scholarly interaction between presenters and faculty/student attendees with the hope that this will enhance students’ research by offering diverse perspectives and opportunities for dialogue and feedback from a faculty and student group with diverse backgrounds and research topics, but connected by the common focus on developmental science. This event is also intended to foster networking skills that might support the development of job skills as well as future collaborations.
    • Further, students may apply to present a 5-minute data-blitz oral presentation. DevSci leadership will evaluate applications and, through committee, select the presentations each year. These will be selected on the basis of 1) project progress, 2) breadth, and 3) seniority (with the aim of allowing as many students as possible to benefit from this opportunity).

Developmental Sciences research project

In order to fully benefit from this certificate, it is recommended that students complete a research project in a domain of developmental sciences and/or incorporate developmental science methods into the project under the supervision of a faculty member. Projects should have a transdisciplinary emphasis. Students are encouraged to engage with additional DevSci faculty for this purpose to complement training from their primary laboratory. This optional component will involve incorporating a significant developmental science element into the student’s, dissertation project.

Upon enrollment in the certificate, students will work with the DevSci training committee to determine if they will complete a research project and create the plan for their research project. Note: in the long term, students will be encouraged to join DevSci certificate in their 1st or 2nd years of Ph.D. training to allow plenty of time for planning. However, while the certificate is rolling out, we will aim to be inclusive to the broad DevSci cluster membership, and thus students at more advanced levels will be welcome. During the typical dissertation planning process (as it pertains to the students’ respective home department), they will meet with the DevSci Training Directors, who will work with the student to identify a DevSci faculty affiliate member who will consult on their dissertation project. The student and primary dissertation mentor (from their home department) will then meet with the DevSci faculty affiliate to generate ideas for how to incorporate developmental questions and methods into the dissertation study. Ideally, this process will take place in the month following the student’s qualifying exam (or shortly thereafter). Note: if the student’s primary mentor is already a DevSci affiliate, it is possible to work with an additional DevSci affiliate as an assigned committee member, in an effort to maximize developmental science incorporation and encourage the intra/cross disciplinary nature of the work.