History and Philosophy of Science, PHD

At a Glance: program details

This program offers you a valuable opportunity to study the history and philosophy of science while embedded among biologists within ASU's School of Life Sciences. You can benefit from participating in the university's interdisciplinary culture and integrate coursework from the sciences into your education.

Program Description

Degree Awarded: PHD History and Philosophy of Science

The history and philosophy of science is an interdisciplinary field that traces its origin to foundational works such as Thomas Kuhn's "Structure of Scientific Revolutions." The field is based on the idea that the best way to understand science is to study how it changes over time, along with careful analysis of its concepts and fundamental principles.

The PhD program in history and philosophy of science combines training in the core areas of history and philosophy of science with an emphasis on interdisciplinary studies of the sciences, including:

  • computational history and philosophy of science
  • foundations of evolutionary theory
  • general philosophy of science and epistemology
  • history and philosophy of applied ethics and science policy
  • history of 19th and 20th century biology

The program is especially appropriate for students with an undergraduate or master's degree in philosophy, history, or the sciences and for those who seek to broaden their disciplinary studies. Science students who have not taken relevant undergraduate humanistic core courses can make up these courses during their first years in the program.

Courses and electives

Some options for elective study, listed by focus
History of science (6 credit hours)
  • BIO 591 Embryo Project
  • BIO 591 Embryo Project Editing
  • BIO 598 Big Data in Context: Ethics, Policy, History and Philosophy
  • HPS 598 Advanced History of Science
Philosophy of science (6 credit hours)
  • BIO 598 Advanced Philosophy of Science
  • BIO/HPS/PHI 598 Philosophy of Biology and Medicine Advanced
History of philosophy (3 credit hours)
  • HPS 591 Carnap and Quine
  • PHI 581 Studies in Ancient Greek Philosophy
Value theory (3 credit hours)
  • BIO 516 Foundations of Bioethics
  • BIO 527 Environmental Ethics and Policy Goals
  • BIO 598 Advanced Bioethics
  • BIO 598 Big Data in Context: Ethics, Policy, History and Philosophy 
  • BIO 610 Introduction to Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) in Life Sciences
  • BIO 611 Current Topics in Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) in Life Sciences
  • PHI 521 Bioethics
  • PHI 591 Human Well-Being and Sustainability
  • POP 633 Population Health Ethics
Advanced logic or other advanced methods (3 credit hours)
  • BIO 532 Recent Papers in Discipline-Based Education Research
  • BIO 591 ESSA Reading and Reflection
  • BIO 591 Innovations of Conservation Lab
  • BIO 591 Papers in Inclusive Teaching in College
  • BIO 598 Biology Education Research
  • BIO 598 STS Reading Group
  • BIO 791 Science Education Research Seminar
  • HSD 601 HSD I: Human Dimensions of Science and Technology
  • PHI 570 Higher Order Modal Logic
Approved courses in philosophy, history or life sciences (9 credit hours)

These courses provide expertise in your individual research area. Any courses offered under one of the prefixes BIO, ELS, EVO, HPS, MCB, MIC, and PLB, or any courses taught by biology and society graduate faculty members fulfill the requirement.

Application and admission information

Applications open September 1 for admission in Fall of the following year. The application deadline is December 1. We accept applications for Fall semesters only. We cannot guarantee that applications received after the December 1 deadline will be considered for admission.

All applicants must apply by filling out ASU's Graduate Admissions application. All application materials must be submitted through the application or to Graduate Admissions directly. Please do not mail or email any documents to the School of Life Sciences. 

Required materials and information include the following:

  • 1-2 page personal statement
  • An up to date CV or resume
  • Writing sample
  • The names of relevant SOLS faculty you have been in touch with who you might be interested in being supervised by
  • Unofficial transcripts and English proficiency test scores (if applicable)
  • The names and emails of at least 3 recommenders to write you letters of recommendation

Following the December 1 deadline, faculty will begin reviewing applications. Applicants should monitor their My ASU priority tasks to ensure there are no missing materials in their application.

Faculty will decide which applicants they would like to invite to our Graduate Recruitment Weekends (GRWs), typically held in February. Applicants will hear from the School of Life Sciences in January if they are invited to participate in the GRWs.

Admission decisions will begin after the GRWs, and applicants typically receive final decisions by April 1.

Minimum requirements for admission include the following:

  • Cumulative GPA of at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale
  • International applicants must satisfy university minimum requirements for English proficiency (TOEFL, IELTS, Duolingo, PTE)
    • There are other ways to demonstrate English proficiency beyond the tests, so please refer to ASU's English proficiency webpage to review how you might satisfy requirements.

Desired qualifications typically seen in competitive candidates:

Please note that the GRE is not required.

Students offered admission to a PhD program in the School of Life Sciences will typically receive a funding offer as well. While individual funding offers may differ to some degree, they typically include teaching assistant and/or research assistant positions each semester (summer optional) for 5 years. These positions provide financial coverage through the following:

  • A standard salary stipend paid biweekly
  • Tuition remission covering enrollment in 6-18 credit hours for fall and spring semesters and 1-14 credit hours for summer semesters
  • Health insurance coverage

To discover more, check out the ASU Graduate College's funding opportunities!

Degree Requirements

Curriculum Plan Options

  • 84 credit hours, a written comprehensive exam, an oral comprehensive exam, a prospectus and a dissertation

Required Core (6 credit hours)
HPS 615 Biology and Society Lab (3)
HPS 620 Research Prospectus Writing (3)

Restricted Program Electives (30 credit hours)

Program Electives (24 credit hours)

Research (12 credit hours)
HPS 792 Research (12)

Dissertation (12 credit hours)
HPS 799 Dissertation (12)

Additional Curriculum Information
An individual student program is developed in consultation with the student's advisor and committee.

HPS 615 Biology and Society Lab is a one-credit-hour course focused on student presentations of works in progress. Students must register for it three times during their graduate study.

Admission Requirements

Applicants must fulfill the requirements of both the Graduate College and The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Applicants are eligible to apply to the program if they have earned a bachelor's or master's degree from a regionally accredited institution of recognized standing in a related field such as history, philosophy, or history and philosophy of science, as well as a demonstrated background and interest in one or more sciences.

Applicants must have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.00 (scale is 4.00 = "A") in the last 60 hours of their first bachelor's degree program, or a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.00 (scale is 4.00 = "A") in an applicable master's degree program.

All applicants must submit:

  1. graduate admission application and application fee
  2. official transcripts
  3. academic record form
  4. personal statement
  5. curriculum vitae or resume
  6. writing sample
  7. three letters of recommendation
  8. proof of English proficiency

Additional Application Information
An applicant whose native language is not English must provide proof of English proficiency regardless of their current residency.

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Learning Outcomes

  • Able to articulate an understanding of current literature on scientific developments and their relevance to society in scholarly writing.
  • Able to communicate history and philosophy of science research results in presentations.
  • Able to contribute to original history and philosophy of science research in scholarly writing.

Career Opportunities

A doctorate in history and philosophy of science provides strong preparation for academic careers at every level from community colleges to research universities, including research, teaching and administration, and science communication. The skills and knowledge obtained in this program are also valuable for government careers in federal and state agencies responsible for management and conservation, and for careers in industry and nongovernmental organizations.

Career examples include:

  • food, agriculture and health care scientists in academic, private and industrial labs
  • principal investigators and policymakers in government labs and nonprofit organizations
  • professors or instructors in universities and colleges
  • science teachers in elementary and high schools
  • wildlife, animal and conservation scientists

Program Contact Information

If you have questions related to admission, please click here to request information and an admission specialist will reach out to you directly. For questions regarding faculty or courses, please use the contact information below.