Broaden your experience and impact with a research PhD.

All of Northeastern’s 34 research doctoral programs invite you to pursue research projects outside of your primary research group with industry, government, or academia. These immersive placements—part of what we call the “Experiential PhD”—can inform your dissertation work, expand your network, and lead you to a career in or beyond the academy.

Customized opportunities

The Experiential PhD affords many ways to carry out special research projects in Portland, the state of Maine, or elsewhere that complement your dissertation work. You’ll be mentored by both a faculty advisor in Boston and an industry professional. If you’re a researcher employed in industry with master’s-level training, you may be able to pursue a PhD while working full or part time.


Mission-driven industry research

On the way to a doctorate in computer science, Everlyne Kimani has spent four years working with Professor Timothy Bickmore as a research assistant in Northeastern’s Relational Agents Group. The group’s goal is to develop virtual agents or coaches that perform health-related tasks and “build a relationship with the user,” she says.

In 2018, Kimani did a summer internship with Microsoft’s HUE (Human Understanding and Empathy), a research group dedicated to inventing technologies that promote emotional resilience and well-being. The experience piqued her interest in industry research. The work was “very similar to academic research, but also focused on developing a product that could reach a lot of people.” It was a good experience, she says, “something I could definitely see myself doing.”


A right turn toward AI

Xuezhu Cai came to Northeastern to earn a doctorate in bioengineering in the heart of Boston and its biotech industry. Fascinated by neurodegenerative diseases, she has published research linking Parkinson’s disease with traumatic brain injury, circadian rhythms, brain temperature, and damage to the brain’s waste-draining glymphatic system.

In 2018, Cai did an internship at Sanofi Genzyme, studying diseases with neurofluorescent and micro CT imaging. Recognizing the promise of data and AI technology, she spent 2019 earning online certificates in programming, machine learning, and AI. Through an experiential PhD program at Northeastern called LEADERs, she’s leading a project at Merck focused on digitized histopathology and high content screening images. She envisions her future beyond the wet lab, exploring biological processes with computational tools.


GSK scientist earns PhD on the job

Jing Chai, a scientist at the pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline, has not one, but two master’s degrees—one in chemical engineering, another in organic chemistry. But what she’s aiming for now is a PhD. So in 2018, Chai enrolled in a pioneering experiential PhD program designed by Northeastern with GSK to allow Chai to earn a doctorate in chemistry while working full time.

Chai’s PhD research project builds upon her prior work in DNA-encoded chemical library synthesis, a technology that accelerates drug discovery. Chai has studied the medicinal chemistry behind this technology in coursework that translates directly to her research project in the lab. Discovering new ways to make chemical bonds could inform the development of novel drugs to fight disease.

“This experiential PhD program has given me the opportunity to explore drug discovery with a deeper and broader view,” says Chai. She aims to finish her degree by 2022—and hopes will open doors to professional advancement.

Contact us to explore your options.

Interested in learning how the Experiential PhD can magnify the impact of your research—and help define your career path? Speak with us.