Graduate Catalog
Policies, Procedures, Academic Programs
Individual Interdisciplinary PhD
Interdisciplinary Academic Programs

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Degree(s) Offered:
• PhD
PhD Degree in Individual Interdisciplinary PhD
Minimum GPA: 3.5
Offered In:
Email Contact(s):
Phone Number(s):
Application Deadlines:
Fall: Aug 01
Spring: Sep 30
Summer I: Jan 20
Summer II: Jan 20
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Department Head : Karen DePauw
Graduate Program Director : William Huckle (Associate Dean)

Individual Interdisciplinary PhD

The Individual Interdisciplinary Doctoral Program (IPhD) is designed to prepare exceptional graduate students who wish to pursue and attain an individually customized interdisciplinary doctoral degree. The purpose of the IPhD is to provide an option for highly qualified students whose educational goals are uniquely interdisciplinary and cannot be met by a single discipline or degree-granting academic unit at Virginia Tech. The IPhD offers a distinctive opportunity for students seeking a breadth of knowledge, in addition to disciplinary depth, not available within one discipline.


IPhD students are taught and advised by existing Virginia Tech faculty with the appropriate terminal degree for the topic of study. All tenure-track and tenured faculty (assistant professors, associate professors, and professors), and faculty in research, clinical, or other ranks approved by the academic departments relevant to the student’s areas of study and by the Graduate School are eligible to chair and serve as members of IPhD advisory committees.

Many faculty members are already involved in interdisciplinary teaching and research, for example, through Interdisciplinary Graduate Education Programs (

In addition, the university sponsors 7 interdisciplinary research institutes, each of which involves faculty from multiple colleges and academic units (

  • Fralin Life Sciences Institute
  • Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology
  • Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science
  • Institute for Culture, Society, and Environment
  • Biocomplexity Institute of Virginia Tech
  • Virginia Tech Carillion Research Institute
  • Virginia Tech Transportation Institute

Faculty lists may be found in the Academic Programs section of the Graduate Catalog( and their credentials are displayed on the program web pages which are linked to the above Internet site.

Offered In ()

Degree Requirements

Minimum GPA: 3.5
Institution code: 5859
Testing Requirements:

The Graduate School offers the individualized interdisciplinary PhD (IPhD) program for highly motivated students in excellent academic standing whose primary education and research goals are truly interdisciplinary and not readily accommodated by a single existing discipline. The IPhD program is specifically designed for students who seek to study across two or more disciplines in a combination not available through a conventional degree-granting program. For successful admission to and completion of the IPhD program at Virginia Tech, the student must demonstrate the need for the interdisciplinary research dissertation and identify a major professor and advisory committee members who will provide the appropriate guidance.  The composition of the advisory committee should reflect the particular academic disciplines and realms of expertise being bridged by the IPhD, but typically stems from the student’s original programmatic affiliation(s).

In identifying potential advisors and areas of study, prospective IPhD students may elect to apply for a unique degree focus, or may affiliate with faculty participants in an existing Interdisciplinary Graduate Education Program (IGEP). For applicants to the IPhD program who are not currently enrolled as graduate students at Virginia Tech, it is essential first to identify a major professor and advisory committee members willing and able to serve in these capacities. Typically, this step will necessitate a visit to campus.

Admission to the IPhD is highly selective. The Graduate School will expect completion of an especially rigorous set of courses and dissertation research project for this degree. A prospective student who wishes to pursue the IPhD degree must be near completion or have completed a master’s degree. Prospective students without a master’s degree may be approved by the Vice President and Dean of the Graduate School to submit an application under special circumstances. Because of the rigor and intensity of the IPhD program, a graduate GPA of 3.5 or higher is required. Students currently enrolled in a graduate degree program at Virginia Tech who are interested in the IPhD are encouraged to apply as early as possible in their program, to maximize the duration of their unique interdisciplinary training experience.

Prospective IPhD students should contact Bill Huckle, Associate Dean and Director of Interdisciplinary Graduate Education by email ( for information and guidance in preparing the IPhD application. Candidates will prepare their application, including a program of study and dissertation proposal, in consultation with the major advisor and advisory committee members.

Formal applications for admission to the IPhD program are submitted to the Graduate School and are evaluated on a rolling basis. New admissions can start in Fall, Spring, or Summer terms.  The Commission on Graduate Studies and Policies (CGS&P) serves as the admissions committee and reviews applications during their twice-monthly meetings throughout the academic year.

Application materials include the following:

  1. Results of standardized tests such as GRE or GMAT, if required by the academic units with which the student principally will be working.
  2. For international students, acceptable TOEFL (iBT = 80 total and 20 on each subtest) or IELTS (6.5) scores.  Other credentials can satisfy Graduate School requirements for competency in English (e.g., earned a degree from an international university that provides all instruction in English).
  3. A letter from a Virginia Tech faculty advisor describing the student's potential for success and ability to conduct independent interdisciplinary research, and expressing willingness to chair the student's advisory committee.
  4. Letters or email messages from three or four VT faculty members willing and qualified to serve on the student’s advisory committee. The committee should be comprised of faculty representing at least two colleges.
  5. For new applicants, three letters of recommendation from faculty commenting on the student's ability to pursue an interdisciplinary doctoral degree
  6. For new applicants, at least one example of scholarly writing (e.g., introduction and conclusion of master's thesis, published research paper)
  7. Student's statement of career goals and rationale for pursuing the IPhD degree.
  8. An IPhD degree proposal document of no more than 20 pages that includes the components indicated below. An example proposal document is available upon request.
  • Proposed interdisciplinary degree program title.
  • Advisor and list of advisory committee members, including rationale for their inclusion on the committee and identification of areas of expertise relevant to the proposed research program.
  • Completed and current coursework (unofficial transcripts are acceptable).
  • Coursework plan of study for the IPhD degree. Plan of study must include courses from multiple colleges and departments and must be distinct from plans of study of existing degree programs at Virginia Tech.  A table including rationale for each course and their contribution to the interdisciplinary objectives should be included.
  • Career goals and personal motivation for pursuing an IPhD
  • A description of the format and content of the preliminary examination, including topic areas to be covered from various disciplines involved and an assessment of the success of disciplinary integration.
  • Detailed timeline from enrollment to graduation.
  • A brief description of the research topic, methodology, and nature of the final product(s) that will constitute the archival manifestation of the IPhD work. The products should include, but need not be restricted to, a written document that explores the scholarly history and context of the interdisciplinary work.

The proposal should be written with a general, interdisciplinary academic audience in mind.  A short literature review along with a summary of objectives or anticipated products must be included. The description should make the case: 1) that the proposed project is truly scholarly in nature (i.e., worthy of a PhD dissertation) and 2) that the proposed dissertation can only be accomplished from an interdisciplinary standpoint.

The Graduate School does not provide funding to support students earning the IPhD. Students are encouraged to seek funding through faculty grants, departmental funds, and/or other funding opportunities such as scholarships and fellowships from VT or external sources.


The IPhD program is housed in the Graduate School located in the Graduate Life Center.  Additional facilities may be available depending on those available to the advisory committee members.

Graduate Life Center

The IPhD is housed administratively in the Graduate Life Center.  Facilities available to IPhD students will depend on those available to the advisory committee members and the nature of the research.