Doctor of Philosophy Admissions

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How to Apply to ISD’s Doctor of Philosophy in Design Science Program

The Design Science PhD program leverages our novel integrative culture to produce unique leaders in design research, practice, and teaching.

This degree is only available on-campus here in Ann Arbor, Michigan

Design Science is an interdisciplinary doctoral program. Design Science students must pursue an appropriate course of study with the right mix of disciplinary depth and interdisciplinary breadth. Each student defines a custom program of study tailored to their background and interests in consultation with faculty advisors and the program committee.

An individual student’s curriculum is structured so that knowledge from at least two disciplines permeates their program of study. This is the guiding principle for the DESCI program requirements. This path integrates disciplines from top programs at the University of Michigan to balance rigorous coursework, trend-setting research and practica.

Students are required to take a core set of classes that teaches them integrative design processes and research methods, and then deepen their knowledge in two or more disciplines by leveraging courses available across the university. Advised by two faculty in their respective fields, students integrate their disciplines through cutting-edge research to advance the field of design science in their dissertations.

Students are expected to complete a one semester equivalent of practicum or internship with an industrial or academic partner to further deepen their learning experience. Our unique approach to integrating design across disciplines provides a culture of support to ensure graduates become “the leaders and best” in design science.


There can be several degree paths that a student may follow applying for the doctoral program:

  1. A student with an MS/MA/MFA degree may be directly admitted to the DESCI PhD program.
  2. Alternatively, a student can apply to a separate discipline-based MS/MA/MFA program, and seek admission to the DESCI PhD program. After one semester of full time enrollment in the Master’s program, the student can apply for admission to the DESCI PhD program as a dual degree student.
  3. Finally, a student can apply for formal admission to the DESCI PhD program without a master’s degree, but must complete 24 credits of ‘master’s equivalent’ coursework in addition to the 24 required credits for the DESCI PhD Program. The choice of courses will be subject to approval by the Program Committee.

In all cases, DESCI students must have completed the Master’s degree by the time they reach doctoral candidacy in the program. A DESCI student is expected to have good mathematical and analytical skills to be able to conduct rigorous scientific research in design. A good minimal set of mathematical skills for all students are equivalent to the material covered in the following courses: Calculus 1, Calculus 2, and Introduction to Probability and Statistics.

Students admitted to the program must be paired with faculty advisors from two different disciplines. In this way, each student will have dual mentorship throughout their studies at University of Michigan. Identifying faculty advisors who are interested and available to work with a student is a critical part of the admissions process.

Apply Today

Applicants for the Design Science PhD program should use the application administered by the Rackham Graduate School.

Apply to ISD’s Doctor of Philosophy in Design Science