Interdisciplinary Doctorate

A customized doctoral program for students pursuing studies across multiple departments and programs.

  • Program Description
  • Application Process
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Office of Graduate Admissions
Bendetson Hall
Medford, MA 02155
(617) 627-3395

The Interdisciplinary Doctoral Program is designed for those interested in pursuing doctoral level studies in areas that cannot be accommodated in one of the departmental doctoral programs within Arts and Sciences or Engineering. Admission to the Interdisciplinary Doctoral Program is for applicants with demonstrated proficiency in independent study at the graduate level and whose research area is interdisciplinary and carefully matched to Tufts human, academic and physical resources.

 A committee of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS), the Interdisciplinary Doctorate Overseers Committee (IDOC) serves as the admissions committee and will monitor the progress of all students matriculated into the program.

Admission to the program is highly selective. The applicant must demonstrate the ability to do independent research/scholarship. Normally this is demonstrated by having completed a master's degree with a dissertation requirement at an accredited graduate school, or in some cases by published research. Creative works such as art, musical composition, performance, and performance directionare not acceptable as the sole qualifications for admission into a scholarly doctoral program of study.

For more information, contact the GSAS Admissions Office at or the Program Director at

Application Deadline

Fall: January 15
Spring: September 15

Application to the Interdisciplinary Doctoral Program is a two-step process.

Step One:

A Tufts Graduate School of Arts and Sciences application form should be submitted with all documents together with the application fee, transcripts, letters of recommendation, etc. The application deadline for fall admission is January 15.

Description of dissertation work and list of potential advisory committee members, limited to one single spaced page

In addition, all Interdisciplinary Doctoral Program applicants must submit a description of research interests including the proposed area of dissertation work. This should include an explanation of how the project is interdisciplinary beyond what would be possible in a single department. The applicant should list faculty members that might be the principal advisor for the applicant or on the applicant's advisory committee. Applicants are encouraged to initiate informal conversations with potential principal advisors or members of an advisory committee. The description of research interests together with a list of possible advisors should not be more than one page in length.

After completion of Step One the Interdisciplinary Doctoral Committee (IDOC) will review the application to determine how it meets the requirements for the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and the School of Engineering and notify the applicant if it is appropriate to proceed to Step two. Recommendation to proceed to Step Two is NOT acceptance into the program.

Step Two:

When recommended for the second step the applicant should contact faculty members who may be appropriate to serve as the principal advisor or members of the advisory committee and then write a more extensive description of the project.

Description of the project, limited to five single spaced pages

The description of the proposed project must show how the project will make an original contribution to the field of study. It should also indicate how the research involves methods, techniques or theoretical approaches that are characteristic of two or more disciplines. To qualify for the Interdisciplinary Doctoral Program, a study design must realize added value by the very fact of combining two or more disciplinary approaches. The candidate must provide a strong case that the project would not be appropriate for a single doctoral-granting department at Tufts and that the project would not fit easily within a traditional doctoral program at another institution. It is not sufficient that the subject matter of investigation is discussed in the literature of more than one discipline.

Confirmation of an advisory committee

The applicant must assemble an advisory committee consisting normally of at least three faculty members from Arts, Sciences and Engineering or from other schools at Tufts. When an applicant approaches faculty members to serve on his or her advisory committee the applicant should tell each faculty member that they can review the first step application to the Interdisciplinary Doctorate Program. Additional members of the advisory committee may be selected from any school at Tufts or, when appropriate, from other universities. As a component of the admissions process, IDOC must approve the suitability of the advisory committee. One person must agree to serve as the principal advisor and chair of the advisory committee, providing major direction for the student's progress through coursework, examinations and the dissertation. That person must be a full time tenured or tenure track faculty member of Arts, Sciences, and Engineering, situated in Medford and actively engaged in the field of the proposed research. All members of the advisory committee must submit a brief statement declaring their commitment to the project, and elaborating their specific role and responsibilities. The advisory committee should review and approve the candidate's Interdisciplinary Doctoral proposal prior to its submission to IDOC.

IDOC must certify that the criteria for admission entailed by the proposal meet Tufts doctoral standards and the requirements of the Interdisciplinary Doctoral Program. If the principal advisor is a member of a doctoral granting department, the graduate admissions committee of that department may be consulted in order to clarify whether the proposed program of study is suitable for the doctoral program of that department. In the case where the principal advisor is not a member of a doctoral-granting department, it is expected that at least one member of the advisory committee will have mentored doctoral students.

Plan of study

The applicant must compile a list of graduate level courses to be taken for the degree and lay out the schedule in which they will be taken. The applicant, in consultation with the principal advisor, must also specify qualifying examination procedures, which should usually follow the principal advisor's department guidelines. When the proposal is presented to IDOC in its capacity as admissions committee, the candidate, the principal advisor, and at least one other member of the advisory committee must be in attendance. A majority vote of IDOC in favor of the proposal will constitute a recommendation for admissions to the Dean of GSAS and to the Engineering Dean of Graduate Education.

The requirements for completion of the program should conform to the general requirements of the doctoral degree as stated in the A&S and Engineering Bulletin.

The candidate must have at least two semesters of full-time residence on the Medford campus. Some tuition scholarship aid will be available, to be negotiated on an individual basis.

The candidate must meet with his or her advisory committee at least twice a year, and a progress report must be filed with IDOC twice a year. Progress reports are due by the end of the first week of classes of the spring semester and two weeks before the beginning of classes in the fall semester. It is the responsibility of the candidate and the principal advisor to file the progress report, and failure to do so may result in a recommendation by IDOC for dismissal from the program. Any change in the advisory committee makeup or program of study must receive prior approval by IDOC.

Any changes to the qualifying procedures or examinations presented at the time of the Step Two application must be approved by the candidate's advisory committee, including the principal advisor, and by IDOC before the examination can take place. Both bodies may suggest changes.

The Dissertation Defense Committee, which must be approved by IDOC, should consist of at least three members of the student's advisory committee, including the principal advisor. As with other doctoral dissertation defenses this committee must include an additional person from outside of Tufts familiar with the field, who is not a member of the dissertation working committee and is not associated with the student's research.

Application Requirements:

> Application Fee
Personal Statement (including 1-page description of dissertation work and list of potential advisors)
> Official TOEFL, IELTS, or Duolingo English Test, if applicable
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on the availability of standardized testing, GRE scores are currently waived for students applying to this program 
Three Letters of Recommendation
> 5-page description of the PhD project, including names of advisory committee members, planned coursework, and qualifying examination procedures
> Letters of commitment from the Principal Advisor and all PhD Advisory Committee members

For questions regarding the Interdisciplinary Doctoral Program, contact the GSAS Admissions Office at or the Program Director at