About the program

The PhD in Health Behavior Science and Promotion (HBSP) provides the highest degree for health promotion and behavioral science professionals, preparing graduates for research careers in many settings, including academia, non-governmental organizations (business and non-profit), allied health fields, and public service at all levels of national government. The curriculum will provide graduate students with the training needed to become effective scientific practitioners with the capacity to conduct independent research in health-related outcomes and promotion, in applied and academic settings. Completion of a high-quality PhD dissertation, based on original research, is a key feature of the academic program. The research emphasis of the HBSP field is on the assessment of individual (including cognitive and affective domains), social, behavioral and environmental determinants of health, and the development of high quality, theoretically-grounded, and evidence-based health promotion interventions to address health problems in diverse populations.

  • A Master’s Degree in a related field from an accredited college or university with a GPA > 3.3 or a Bachelor’s Degree in a related field from an accredited college or university with an undergraduate GPA > 3.3 for the MS to PhD bypass option.
  • GRE scores within the past 5 years
  • TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) score of at least 600 (paper based), or TOEFL Internet Based Test (IBT) minimum score of 100 for international applicants.
  • Applicants must submit all materials directly to the University of Delaware Graduate College using the online admission process before admission can be considered. 
  • Admission decisions will be made by the Health Behavior Science and Promotion (HBS) PhD Program Committee (“HBS PhD Program Committee”). Students will be admitted to the program based on enrollment availability, the availability of faculty mentorship, and their ability to meet the following minimum recommended entrance requirements
  • Applicants are expected to submit:
    • A graduate application essay
    • Current curriculum vitae
    • A minimum of three letters of recommendation (it is recommended that at least two be from academic references)
    • Official transcripts
    • GRE scores and TOEFL if applicable
  • Applicants are strongly recommended to speak with program faculty with whom they share research interests and who could serve as his/her PhD advisor, prior to submitting their application. Applicants should identify two program faculty members that they would like to work with during their Doctoral training in their personal statement.

Applications (all materials) for the HBS PhD Program will be reviewed on a rolling basis between January 15 and March 15 for admission to the program at the beginning of the following fall semester. Since application decisions will be made on a rolling basis within this time frame, applicants are strongly advised to complete and submit applications as early as possible. Directions for the graduate application essay may be found on the University of Delaware’s Graduate College website. In addition, applicants should explain in the graduate application essay how their own research interests relate to those of at least two Health Behavior Science and Promotion faculty members.

The Department of Behavioral Health and Nutrition offers full and partial (full tuition) graduate assistantships to competitive full-time students on a year to year basis. Students on full graduate assistantships will devote at least 20-hours per week in the fall and spring semesters (9-month award) to teaching and working with their faculty advisor on research projects. There may be additional opportunities for doctoral students to have department-funded research time in the summer session.

Admitted HBSP PhD students must register as full-time students (6 credit hours per semester for a student receiving a full graduate assistantship; 9 credit hours per semester for a student not on assistantship) for the fall and spring semesters for the first year in the program. Students are expected to work with his/her faculty advisor during summer and winter sessions on research projects. Part-time students enroll in fewer than nine credit hours per semester.

The HBSP PhD program requires a minimum of 48 credits that are designed to be completed over a 4-year period. Courses must be at the 600-level or higher to count toward the minimum requirements for program completion. Students who have substantially similar courses (at the 600-level or higher) to one or more of those required prior to entering the program may substitute up to 9-credits with approval from the PhD Director.

Year 1


HLPR803: Advanced Health Promotion Programming (3) HLPR804: Advanced Health Promotion Program Evaluation (3)
Statistics Elective (3) BHAN856: Multivariable Statistics for Population Health (3)
BHAN855: Qualitative and Mixed Methods Research in Health Sciences (3) Statistics Elective (3)
HLPR868: Independent Research (1) HLPR868: Independent Research (1)
**Convene Dissertation Committee
Department of BHAN, Research Seminar (0)  

Year 2

Fall Spring
Core Elective (3) HLPR820: Social and Environmental Determinants of Health (3)
HLPR830: Behavioral Change Strategies (3) HLPR813: Health Psychology and Behavioral Medicine (3)
Statistics Elective (3) HLPR868: Independent Research (3)
HLPR868: Independent Research (1) **Summer: preliminary exam and dissertation
proposal defense must be completed by August 1;
Advancement to degree candidacy following successful
completion of preliminary exam.
BHAN, Research Seminar (0)  **Dissertation Committee convened at least once in year to
review progress toward degree.

Year 3

Fall Spring
HLPR969: Dissertation Research (9) Sustaining Dissertation Research
BHAN, Research Seminar (0)  
   **Dissertation Committee convened at least once in year
to review progress toward degree.

Year 4

Fall Spring
Sustaining Dissertation Research Sustaining Dissertation Research
BHAN, Research Seminar (0) **Dissertation Committee convened to review progress toward degree. Final Doctoral Dissertation Defense
  **Application for Advanced Degree submitted by February 15

In the first two years of the program, students are required to engage in independent research under the mentorship of his/her PhD advisor. It is expected that this work will culminate in the students’ dissertation proposal and project. Students can apply for department funds to support independent research work. The dissertation (9 credits) is an original research study, of high academic standard, that uses theoretical and empirical methods to address a pertinent gap or problem in the health behavior science and promotion field. A secondary analysis of pre-existing data to answer original research questions and hypotheses, is allowed.

  • Bioinformatics, latent variable modeling, healthy aging, health disparities (Adam Davey, PhD)
  • Health literacy, program evaluation, use of wearable technology to promote physical activity and other behaviors to improve cardiovascular health (Gregory Dominick, PhD)
  • Policy and environmental change, nutrition and physical activity promotion in early care and education settings (Laura Lessard, PhD, MPH)
  • Physical activity, mind-body practice, health behavior coaching (Michael Mackenzie, PhD)
  • Inclusion, active community living, and cardiometabolic risk factors of individuals with disabilities (Iva Obrusnikova, PhD)
  • Psychosocial determinants of physical activity, aging and health, community based participatory research with eating and physical activity behaviors (Elizabeth Orsega-Smith, PhD)
  • Smoking cessation, sleep health, sedentary behavior, cardiovascular health, multiple health behavior change, 24-hour epidemiology, and population health (Freda Patterson, PhD, MS)
  • Social marketing and health communication, workplace stress, behavior change strategies (P. Michael Peterson, EdD)
  • Developing/tailoring community and technology-based interventions to promote healthier lifestyles, especially with underserved populations, diabetes self-management/diabetes prevention, behavior change theory (Laurie Ruggiero, PhD)
  • Community-engaged research, built-environment/physical activity promotion, community-level physical activity infrastructure, physical activity measurement (Richard Suminski, PhD, MPH