The Behavioral Research at Darden (BRAD) Lab

BRAD Lab Programs


Behavioral Science for Sustainable Systems Program

Ph.D. in Engineering Fellowships

A primary goal of our program is to support Ph.D. Fellows in their interdisciplinary research to advance knowledge at the intersection of behavioral and sustainability sciences. Students will identify fundamental relationships between human-designed outcomes and intergenerational sustainability, stewardship, cognition (psychological and neurological), affect, and behavior.

You can review all the information about our program in the sections below.

  • Overview & News

    We expect students will develop technical and professional skills to become leaders in creating and sharing knowledge in behavioral science for sustainable systems. Students will not only be prepared for faculty roles in a diverse range of disciplines, including engineering and business administration, they will also be prepared for opportunities in policy and companies working at the intersection of behavioral science and sustainability.

    We will accept 3-4 new students into the program each year, maintaining a total cohort size of 15-20 Fellows. All students receive a highly competitive compensation package including: stipend, tuition waiver and health, and other benefits. We welcome the very best applicants from all academic and professional backgrounds whose goals align with those of this Behavioral Science for Sustainable Systems Program.

    If you are interested in the program, please e-mail Leidy Klotz with a resume and brief statement of your interest as soon as possible. Official applications are due by January 15, via the process described here. 

    Our unique program is possible because of the collaborative spirit and generous financial support from Darden and the School of Engineering at UVA. Also providing substantial financial support for program activities are the National Science Foundation (through Grant #1531041). Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed on this website are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of our sponsors.  


    Recent News

    Bethany Gordon, a Behavioral Science for Sustainable Systems doctoral student, recently won a global podcasting competition sponsored by the U.S. National Academy of Engineering and U.K.'s Royal Academy of Engineering, among others. In the podcast, Bethany and her partners with the Red Cross share preliminary ideas for Solving humanitarian crisis through crowdsourcing

    Research from our Behavioral Science for Sustainable Systems program is featured in The Behavioral Scientist article "Using Behavioral Science to Redesign the Built Environment."

  • Program Requirements

    The Ph.D. degree for Behavioral Science for Sustainable Systems Program will be conferred in Civil Engineering. Through the coursework and milestones below, students will satisfy Civil Engineering and SEAS requirements for the Ph.D.

    Advisors and Dissertation Committee

    Students will assemble a dissertation committee of four faculty members, including a co-advisor from Engineering and a co-advisor from Business (through Darden, Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, or McIntire School of Commerce).


    The Ph.D. requires 72 credits of coursework and research beyond the Bachelor’s degree. For students, this must include at least 24 hours of formal course work including:

    • Core courses (9 credits): Judgment and Decision MakingOrganizational Behavior; and Behavioral Design for Sustainability.
    • Research methods and Statistics (at least 6 credits): Selected in collaboration with the dissertation committee and relevant to students’ research interests and career plans.
      Examples include, but are not limited to: Methods of Community Research and Engagement (PLAN 6020), Research Methods & Data Analysis I (PPOL 6150), Quantitative Methods I: Probability and Statistical Inference (PSYC 7710), Qualitative Methods (SOC 5140), Optimization Models and Methods (SYS 6003).
    • Elective courses (6-9 credits): Selected in collaboration with the dissertation committee and will include the option of Darden’s Stakeholder Theory course (taught by University Prof. Ed Freeman). Other elective course choices will be determined based on students’ research interests and career plans.
    • Pedagogy course (3 credits): Course taught by affiliated Post-doc Fellows that will be taken after qualifying exams (i.e., Year 3).

    The remainder of the 72 credits are typically comprised of dissertation research (CE 9999).

  • Unique Program Opportunities

    Ph.D. Fellows in the Behavioral Science for Sustainable Systems program will contribute to and take advantage of the following unique program opportunities:


    Students will have access to the Behavioral Research at Darden Laboratory, including its technical support staff, human subject pool, data collection and analysis software, and fNIRS brain activity machine.

    Embedded "Real World" Research Residencies

    Students will have at least one funded opportunity to conduct research in the real world through embedded residencies. These residencies typically occur in the summer with one of our program partners, including policy groups, private industry, nonprofits, international service organizations, and other academic institutions.


    Our partners provide valuable contributions to our program, ranging from financial support to providing opportunities for embedded research residencies.

    Academic Leadership in Behavioral Science for Sustainable Systems

    Students attend and participate in the coordination of the Behavioral Science for Sustainable Systems workshop series that is held annually at UVA. This workshop series is meant to help create and support a new academic community at the intersection of behavioral science and design for sustainability by nurturing new and prospective researchers from around the world. Students will have the opportunity to invite and host speakers of interest, and will also be invited to present their work when appropriate.


    We are committed to helping students develop both their ability to create knowledge, and also their ability to share it. Students will work with their committee to identify appropriate training in teaching through: formal coursework, observations, teaching assistantships, and course instruction. Ph.D. Fellows will develop qualifications that prepare them to teach in a range of disciplines, including in Business and in Engineering.

  • Milestones

    Year 1

    • Fall: Develop a preliminary research plan in the format of an application to the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program

    Year 2

    • Fall: Paper #1, including data, approved by co-advisors and submitted for publication
    • Qualifying Exam

    Year 3

    • Fall: Paper #2, including data, approved by co-advisors and submitted for publication
    • Spring: Dissertation Proposal Defense
    • Summer: Embedded “real world” research residencies

    Year 4 or 5

    • Paper #3, including data, approved by co-advisors and submitted for publication
    • Teach one course
    • Dissertation Defense
  • Leadership & Program Members

    Lead Faculty, Co-directors

    Dr. Leidy Klotz
    Associate Professor
    Joint appointment: Architecture School and Civil Engineering

    Dr. Morela Hernandez
    Associate Professor of Business Administration
    Darden Graduate School of Business

    Post-Doctoral Research Associates

    Dr. Jasmien Khattab
    Gartner Inc. Fellow
    BRAD Lab Post-Doc Scholar

    Dr. Courtney McCluney
    School of Nursing, ASPIRE Fellow
    BRAD Lab Post-Doc Scholar

    PH.D. Fellows

    Bethany Gordon
    SEAS Distinguished Graduate Fellow

    Undergraduate Researchers

    Our program maintains an active undergraduate research group. Please contact Professors Klotz and Hernandez if you would like to learn more about getting involved.

    Faculty Interest

    We are grateful for the kind support, encouragement and participation of many colleagues across UVA.

    If you are a faculty member eager to get involved, we welcome your participation and support. Please contact co-directors, Hernandez and Klotz to discuss your interests and availability.