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Designated Emphases

Designated Emphases

A Designated Emphasis (DE) is an area of specialization, such as a new method of inquiry, important field of application, or focus that maps near the edges, or overlaps with, the traditional disciplinary boundaries that define existing Ph.D. programs. The curriculum of a DE thus tends to focus on emerging fields or technologies that are interdisciplinary in nature and, by definition, are relevant to more than one doctoral program. DEs are interdisciplinary in nature and organized in a manner that resembles a Graduate Group, with Bylaws, a Chair, Executive Committee, curriculum, admissions policy, and faculty from more than one Ph.D. program. However, the DE may exist only in affiliation with existing Ph.D. programs, and not independently. Completion of the requirements for a DE and an affiliated Ph.D. are reflected in the notation on the Doctoral Diploma: “Ph.D. in X with Emphasis in Y”.

African American and African Studies

The Designated Emphasis in African American and African Studies will increase students' understanding of the breadth of past and present research in the subject areas of African American and African Studies. It will also provide the institutional means by which students and faculty already working on areas of inquiry touching upon African American and African Studies can be channeled or concentrated together for interaction and collaboration extending beyond their respective regional homes across the UC Davis campus.

Biology of Vector-borne Diseases

The academic focus of the Designated Emphasis in the Biology of Vector-borne Diseases is the scientific study of pathogens, the diseases they cause and the arthropod vectors that transmit these pathogens to plants, animals, and humans. Students trained in this DE will be well poised to design, implement and evaluate methods and interventions to interrupt and control pathogens of agricultural, veterinary, and medical importance.

Biophotonics and Bioimaging

The designated emphasis in Biophotonics and Bioimaging, housed in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, is intended to serve as a hub of biophotonics and bioimaging research and education at UC Davis and includes members across the Davis and Sacramento campuses, including the College of Engineering, School of Medicine, and College of Letters and Science. The DE in Biophotonics and Bioimaging offers specific training in fundamental principles of the interaction of light with biological organisms, tissues, cells, and molecules and develops new technology for basic science and applications based on these principles in biology and medicine.


The designated emphasis in Biotechnology provides a very effective multidisciplinary biotechnology concentration, which includes exposure to bioethics, business and legal aspects of biotechnology as well as a 3-6 month internship in a biotechnology company or research laboratory in another college or national laboratory. Dr. Kjelstrom, the Program Coordinator assists the students in locating internships, preparation of a strong cover letter and curriculum vitae, and the development of professional skills related to the business environment.

Classics & Classical Reception

The Designated Emphasis in Classics and Classical Receptions explores the civilizations of Greek and Roman antiquity, and focuses on the influence exerted by the achievements of the Greeks and Romans on later centuries. Students whose interests lie in areas where knowledge of Greek and Roman literature, history, and culture has direct impact on their research program will benefit from systematic training in both the theory and methodology of research in Classics and Classical Receptions. (formerly Classics and the Classical Tradition)

Computational Social Science

Digital technology has not only revolutionized society but also the way we study it. For one, an increasing part of human interaction leaves a massive digital footprint. Studying it allows us to gain unprecedented insights into what society is and how it works, including aspects that had long been evasive, such as intricate social networks and behavioral dynamics through time. Additionally, today’s computational power allows us to both detect hidden patterns through artificial intelligence and to simulate social dynamics. The latter enables us to explore hypothetical situations that may not even exist in reality, but are useful to understand generative mechanisms and causality. Computational social science provides scholars with the tools to deepen the understanding of long–standing questions in the social sciences, as well as explore new ones. As suggested by the term itself, the approach is per definition interdisciplinary and the DE in Computational Social Science is both interdisciplinary in terms of requiring foundations in computational methods, data analysis, and social science theory, and it is multidisciplinary in terms of blurring the traditional boundaries between disciplines in the social sciences. Across its diverse departments, UC Davis offers many of the required courses to become a leader in the exploitation of the current opportunities. This DE aims at creating synergies among the existing courses and research initiatives by bringing them together in a coherent way. It allows students with computational and mathematical skills to deepen their understanding of social science theory and to study unanswered social science research questions; and it allows students from the social sciences to improve their analytical skills in areas like big data analysis, computer simulations, network analysis and machine learning. We live in an economy where nine out of the ten most valuable companies in the world are built on business models that are driven by computational social science approaches, most of them headquartered not far from UC Davis. This DE provides new and complementary dimensions to existing graduate programs, creates synergies and increases UC Davis’ visibility in a field of inquiry that has much more demand than supply of human resources. This increases the competitiveness of our students for employment and of our faculty projects for external funding.

Critical Theory

The DE in Critical Theory at UC Davis provides doctoral students a double opportunity: to participate in interdisciplinary seminars focusing on the rich tradition of critical thought, both ancient and modern; and to add a formal credential in critical theory to their degrees. Our faculty, drawn from various affiliated programs in the humanities and social sciences, offer a wide range of expertise across multiple historical periods and theoretical approaches. Our seminars bring together students and faculty from across this broad disciplinary spectrum, providing a rare opportunity to compare perspectives, and to interrogate the fundamental axioms and principles of social, political and cultural practice.

Environmental Humanities

The Designated Emphasis in Environmental Humanities allows UC Davis graduate students from affiliated departments to concentrate their studies on questions related to the environment as a philosophical concept, a historical and cultural category, a venue for ethical and political struggle, the material context of social reproduction, and the terrain of all creative work. Using tools adapted from the humanities and humanistic social sciences, affiliated faculty lead graduate students in the study of the relationships between and among humans and animals, societies and ecosystems, global economies and the Earth system.

Feminist Theory and Research

The Designated Emphasis in Feminist Theory and Resesarch affords graduate students in affiliated programs the opportunity to augment their Ph.D. in a given discipline with a specialization in Feminist Theory and Research. Typically a graduate student in good standing can enroll in Designated Emphasis in Feminist Theory and Research Courses. Those students in affiliated Ph.D. programs who complete the requirements of the Designated Emphasis will have this noted in their transcripts and their Ph.D. diplomas will indicate the Ph.D. training in the DE as "Special Emphasis in Feminist Theory and Research."

Global Nutrition

The Institute for Global Nutrition of the University of California, Davis was established in 1987 to coordinate research and training activities concerning human nutrition problems of low-income countries, and of ethnic minorities and disadvantaged groups in the United States. In 1994, the Program became an Organized Research Unit (ORU) under the Office of Research.

Host Microbe Interactions

We live in a world teeming with microbes. One of the most influential areas of modern biomedical science is elucidating the ramifications and complexity of host-microbe interactions that affect animal and plant health, and dramatically influence micro- and macro-ecosystems. Fueled by technological advances, we are entering a new era of interdisciplinary approaches that enable investigators to delve deeply into the reciprocal influence of host and microbes. Training new scientists in this area will fill an unmet potential for UC Davis graduate education. The DE-HMI will synergize the campus' scholarly power to train scientific leaders that will drive new technological transformation both in the academic and private sector arenas. In addition, training students to work within an arena of interdisciplinary investigation will enable them to tackle pressing and difficult problems that they will encounter throughout their scientific careers. The DE-HMI will train students with various backgrounds to engage in science that requires a multidisciplinary approach. No graduate program at UC Davis provides the necessary educational background to enable students to rigorously investigate the complex mechanisms that underlie host-microbe interaction. The DE-HMI fills that need.

Human Rights

Human Rights is a new field, but one that allows us as students and scholars to examine enduring and important questions about suffering, revolution and social change, the destruction of culture, injustice, and power and powerlessness in ways that transcend established disciplines. New forms of knowledge, artistic expression and social criticism are being constituted around Human Rights in ways that are attracting a great deal of scholarly attention. Furthermore, the study of Human Rights has important implications for confirming the relevance of the university to society. The study of Human Rights has achieved the markers of an established field through the formation of dedicated scholarly organizations and academic journals. Endowed chairs, centers and programs in Human Rights have been created at many American and foreign universities.

Native American Studies

The Designated Emphasis in Native American Studies focuses hemispherically upon the indigenous peoples of the Americans, that is, upon the peoples, nations, tribes, and communities whose ancestors have lived in North, Central and South America from earliest times. This unique hemispheric approach includes attention to the increasing dislocation and diaspora of indigenous people throughout the Americas, and calls upon the authority of Native intelligence (Native voices, Native texts) in all its forms and manifestations to address the issues that concern Native peoples, including the creative strategies for continuance they have developed over the centuries.

Nuclear Science

The designated emphasis in Nuclear Sciences derives its faculty membership from six departments, and provides access to the Crocker Nuclear Lab, McClellan Nuclear Research Center, and a host of other laboratories involved in nuclear science. This interdisciplinary program serves as a hub for research and education in nuclear science and engineering at UC Davis.

Reproductive Biology

The DE in Reproductive Biology offers research opportunities ranging from molecular to organismal, and from basic research to applied studies in agricultural and health related sciences. The astonishing breadth and depth of the campuses research programs in this field have created a dynamic research environment that promotes collaborative investigations and provides outstanding opportunities for graduate education.

Science & Technology Studies

The DE in Science & Technology Studies offers graduate students in PhD programs the opportunity to augment their studies with an understanding of the variety of methods and theoretical approaches of STS. Any PhD student in good standing is eligible to enroll. In particular, those students whose topic of research includes an aspect of the interactions of science, technology and society will greatly benefit from the wealth of case studies of other interactions collected in the STS literature, and from the focus in STS on the relevance of understanding the ways in which the practices of scientists and engineers and the travel of facts and technologies are intricately social and themselves an inseparable part of the "impacts" of science and technology. The curriculum is flexible with courses being offered across many disciplines. Students are able to choose courses from the DE offerings to widen their range of approaches and enable cross-training as interdisciplinary scholars. DE students will benefit from the thriving community of STS scholars on campus, the STS colloquia series, and may attend the annual STS Summer Retreat.

Second Language Acquisition

The Designated Emphasis (DE) provides doctoral students with both a theoretical and practical knowledge of language acquisition and technologically-based language instruction. Graduate students who more fully understand the process of second language acquisition contribute to improving the overall delivery of undergraduate language instruction. Graduate students that complete the DE will significantly increase their prospects in the foreign-language and ESL job market.

Studies in Performance and Practice

The DE in Studies in Performance and Practice presents a critical way of thinking about practices of communication, from film and stage, to sports, religion, and everday behavior, among many other areas. This DE is inherently interdisciplinary and collaborative, and interacts closely with the proliferating new media for communication. Studies in Performance and Practice engages students in critical approaches to theory and practice.

Study of Religion

The DE in the Study of Religion provides graduate students with an interdisciplinary understanding of how religion in general has been conceptualized and studied historically and how these understandings continue to inform basic categories of thought, behavior and identity across the world and especially in the West. Rather than approaching religion as a fixed entity that informs change in other more dynamic fields (e.g. literature, culture, society, behavior), this program helps students think about the study of religion as historically variable, contextualized, and itself constitutive of the subject of inquiry.

Translational Research

The Designated Emphasis in Translational Research (DETR) is an inter-graduate group program that allows Ph.D. students to receive and be credited for training in the area of translational research. This training is a key component of a larger UCD strategy for creating a groundbreaking translational research program that is team-based and multidisciplinary and to make bold new changes in how we train our basic scientist students to discover answers to medical challenges. The overarching goal of the initiative is to provide an innovative, cost-effective, and sustainable model for training a new cadre of PhD biologists who will have productive careers in clinically-relevant basic research.

Writing, Rhetoric, and Composition Studies

The Designated Emphasis (DE) in Writing, Rhetoric, and Composition Studies (WRaCS) offers PhD students the opportunity to prepare for leadership roles in writing research, teaching, and program administration. This DE provides both a theoretical and practical knowledge of writing instruction, program administration and research. Developing pedagogical strategies and assessment programs which respond to local needs have applications for graduate students interested in researching student writing in both secondary and postsecondary environments.