Joint PhD Program in Computer Science and Learning Sciences

Northwestern University

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The Joint PhD Program in Computer Science and Learning Sciences builds on enduring and growing connections between research on learning and computation. Rapid technological advances continue to create new and exciting ways to both understand and support learning in all settings and in all stages of life. This program is intended for students with an interest in both fields who would otherwise be forced to choose one area or the other.

Areas of Interest

The possible areas of study are broad and draw from the diverse expertise of affiliated faculty. However, all research must have clear relevance to both Computer Science and Learning Sciences. Example areas of interest include educational data mining; computational modeling as a means to understand complex scientific phenomena; adaptive technology for learning; equity issues in computing; intelligent tutoring systems; and interaction design to support learning.

  • Interaction Design
  • Computational modeling and simulations
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Programming language design
  • Machine Learning
  • Crowd Sourcing
  • Social Computing
  • Cognitive Modeling
  • Learning Analytics
  • Game Design
  • Educational Data Mining
  • Computer Science Education
  • Visualization
  • Learning at Scale
  • Tangible and Ubiquitous Computing
  • Robotics

Learn more about our program by registering for an upcoming virtual information session.


Core Faculty

Affiliated Faculty


Program Events

Joint CS + LS & CS Colloquium

Monday, December 4th, 2:00 PM
Ford ITW

Designing for Irrational Curiosity

The learning sciences tend to present science education as a deeply sensible and rational enterprise, in which youngsters acquire scientific knowledge for clear, socially approved, understandable reasons. In this view, the basic obstacles to scientific pursuits are either cognitive (e.g., children must overcome scientific misconceptions) or rooted in classroom socialization (e.g., children must be engaged in the right sorts of conversations in school settings). Educational design, it follows, must be focused upon strengthening scientific cognition and/or improving classroom practice.

Neither the history of science nor the state of science in current American culture is particularly supportive of this traditional view. Scientific pursuit is best understood as a deeply irrational choice––never more so than now. As a consequence, the design of educational technology must take its fundamental goal as supporting the pleasures and easing the discomfort of a type of humane but (to the rest of the world) suspicious madness. This talk will discuss research themes and potential design projects in line with this perspective on science education.


Michael Eisenberg is Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Institute of Cognitive Science at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where he has been on the faculty since 1992. He received a BA in Chemistry from Columbia University in 1978, and a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from MIT in 1991. He is the author of a programing textbook (Programming in Scheme, MIT Press) and a published play (Hackers, Samuel French Ltd.), and was co-editor (with Yasmin Kafai, Leah Buechley, and Kylie Peppler) of the book Textile Messages (Peter Lang Publishing). He is a member of the President’s Teaching Scholars at the University of Colorado and has been the recipient of several major teaching awards at the university.


Deadline: December 31

Applications for the PhD program are accepted for fall quarter matriculation only.

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Application Materials

All application documents are required to be submitted electronically. We do not accept paper copies of application documents. The following application documents are required:

Writing Sample

The writing sample should be academic in nature and provide evidence of your ability to conduct scholarly inquiry. There is no length limit, but the file size must not exceed 2MB in order to upload. Students typcially submit documents such as research papers, honors theses, and course papers.

Academic Transcript

Copies of unofficial transcripts may be submitted during the application process. However, official transcripts are required of all admitted students before the start of the first quarter.

Find out more about post-secondary official transcripts

GRE Scores

GRE scores must be sent directly from ETS and must be no older than five years at time of matriculation.

More information about GRE scores (send scores via code #1565)

Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)

English proficiency scores are required of all international applicants. If you are have earned a graduate or undergraduate degree from an accredited institution of higher education where the primary language of instruction is English, you are not required to submit a TOEFL score. For the TOEFL, you must score 600 or higher on the paper-based test, 250 or higher on the computer-based test, 100 or higher on the internet based test. For the IELTS, you must receive a score of 7.0 or higher.

Learn more about English proficiency scores for non-native English speakers

Applicants interested in the PhD program are encouraged to contact program assistant Andy Wolanski at any time.

Contact Us

Questions about the program may be directed to the program assistant:

Joint PhD Program in Computer Science and Learning Sciences
Northwestern University
c/o Andrew Wolanski, PhD Program Assistant
2120 Campus Drive
Evanston, IL 60208