History and Philosophy of Science, PhD

In the history and philosophy of science PhD program, you’ll receive foundational training in philosophy, history and the study of science —all together in one, innovative degree.

This program emphasizes interdisciplinary studies of the sciences and their conceptual structure, epistemology, history and impacts on society. You’ll be learning from the very best at ASU – award-winning faculty who are recognized locally, nationally and internationally for excellence in their fields.

Our students can participate in an intensive summer school experience at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts as part of the ASU-MBL History of Biology Seminar. Or, you can help bring big data to bear on history and philosophy of science questions as part of the Digital Innovation Group.

Applicants typically come from undergraduate programs that have included some philosophical, historical, or life science training, or with a master's degree in one of these fields. Our students have an outstanding record in national fellowship competitions including the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship program, USAID Fellowship Programs, and Ford Foundation Fellowships.

Most of our graduates seek careers based in philosophical or historical analyses of the sciences including research and administrative careers in higher education, science communication and other areas related to the life sciences.

35 students
5 years to degree
23 faculty

Degree Overview

This 84-hour program focuses on developing independent researchers. It includes coursework, a written prospectus and its oral defense, and a dissertation.

If you have completed a master’s degree, 30 credit hours from your master’s may apply toward the PhD.

Prospective students should have a relevant background in the areas they intend to study. Or, admitted candidates may complete this work early in the program. 

How to apply

The history and philosophy of science PhD program admits one group of students annually to start the program the following August. Before applying, we encourage you to read our Tips for Applying.

To apply, follow the Apply Now link.
You will be asked to:

  • review university standards, degree program timelines and application requirements
  • complete the graduate admission application
  • send official transcripts and language tests (international students only)
  • complete the academic record form and upload it 
  • submit a non-refundable application fee 

Application deadline
Applications are accepted Sept. 1 - Dec. 15, with a preference date of Dec. 1. There is no guarantee that applications received after Dec. 15 will be reviewed.

In January, the top applicants will be invited to a recruitment event scheduled in mid- to late-February. We will notify you of your admissions status by April 15. 

Desired qualifications:

  • Research experience 
  • Undergraduate GPA minimum 3.0 (on 4.0 scale)

We guarantee 5 years of academic-year funding as a teaching or research assistant. This includes stipend, insurance and tuition support to cover the required 84 hours for the degree.

I learned so many skills valuable for my career but not covered in standard coursework. I mentored student researchers, applied for grants, conducted a sustained job search, designed and taught graduate seminars, led a team, collaborated across disciplines and with folks outside of the university, conducted peer reviews, wrote letters of recommendation, networked at conferences, and planned and prepared for future research projects. I feel prepared to begin my career!

Steve Elliot, PhD, May 2017


Training in the history and philosophy of science follows an apprenticeship model. Students will work closely with a faculty advisor and committee to complete 84 credit hours of required coursework, research training, a prospectus and a doctoral dissertation. The program will prepare you to become an independent and creative researcher.


 Credit Hours

Core courses


Elective courses






Total hours required


Courses and electives

Our training in the history and philosophy of science combines seminars that will introduce you to a wide variety of fields, with an individualized set of electives that will prepare you for major research projects. 

  • HPS 620 Research Prospectus Writing (3)
  • HPS 615 Biology and Society Lab (3)
    • HPS 615 Biology and Society Lab is a one-credit course focused on student presentations of works-in-progress. You must register for it three times during your graduate study.

History of science (6 credit hours)
Sample courses include:

  • BIO 518/HPS 516 History of Biology
  • BIO 591 Embryo Project
  • HPS 511 History of Science

Philosophy of science (6 credit hours)
Sample courses include:

  • BIO/HPS/PHI 598 Philosophy of Biology and Medicine Advanced
  • HPS 512 Philosophy of Science
  • HPS 591 Human Well-Being and Sustainability

History of philosophy (3 credit hours)
Sample courses include:

  • HPS 591 Carnap and Quine
  • PHI 581 Studies in Ancient Greek Philosophy

Value theory (3 credit hours)
Sample courses include:

  • BIO 516 Foundations of Bioethics
  • BIO 527 Environmental Ethics and Policy Goals
  • 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

Advanced logic or other advanced methods (3 credit hours)
Sample courses include:

  • HPS 598 Studying Science: Theory and Methodology
  • PHI 525 Rational Choice
  • PHI 532 Experimental Philosophy
  • PHI 556 Advanced Symbolic Logic
  • PHI 565 Probabilism

Approved courses in philosophy, history or life sciences (9 credit hours)
Sample courses include:

  • BIO 522 Populations: Evolutionary Ecology
  • BIO 530 Scientific Teaching
  • BIO 570 Fundamentals of CAS (Complex Adaptive Systems) Science
  • BIO 591 Embryo Project Editing Seminar
  • BIO 591 Embryo Project Illustration
  • HPS 520 Masters of Nonfiction
  • HPS 591 Literary Nonfiction
  • HPS 799, Dissertation