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The mission of the Doctor of Philosophy in Design program in the College of Design at North Carolina State University is to advance knowledge in design through research and scholarship. This mission is built on the recognition of fertile common ground between the design disciplines and on the need for specificity and depth within them. The PhD program, therefore, values a broad range of research interests that aim to improve the human condition. Click here to download a list of dissertation topics by our PhD candidates. Many of our graduates go on to find rewarding positions in academia.


Special research interest in sustainability

Buildings account for 40-50% of our national energy consumption and cause 40-50% of the carbon dioxide emissions. Improving the energy performance of buildings through better design represents one of the most promising opportunities to make radical near-term reductions in consumption and emissions.

The PhD in Design interest in sustainability includes research collaborations with the College of Engineering in advanced modeling systems for simulating the performance of built environments and in sustainable energy and material exchanges, ranging in scale from building components and subsystems to strategies for cities.

Interested students should contact Dr. Wayne Place,

Special research interest in natural learning

Increasing numbers of children are losing contact with the natural world through childcare that does not support children’s development needs; rapid growth of domestic air-conditioning; apprehensive parents who keep children close to home; state-mandated curricula that do not allow time for study outdoors; and the overly structured, harried lifestyle of today’s children.

The PhD in Design interest in natural learning focuses on research that informs the design of stimulating places for play, learning, and environmental education.

Interested students should contact Professor Robin Moore,, and visit the Natural Learning Initiative website at

Special interest in cross-disciplinary design history

Traditionally, doctoral study in design history has focused in disciplinary specialization. The PhD in Design faculty has expertise in the history of architecture, graphic design, industrial design, and landscape architecture and has special interest in students who wish to conduct investigations that cross disciplinary boundaries.

Interested students should contact Dr. Kristen Schaffer,, or Professor Martha Scotford,

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