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Design Research Cluster

Co-sponsored by the McCormick School of Engineering and The Graduate School, the Design Research Cluster brings together interdisciplinary faculty and PhD students from across Northwestern to advance research in three core areas: human-centered design, computational thinking and design, and design skills and methods. 

In the Design Research Cluster, researchers seek to understand and design the relationships between technology and society, and lead research efforts focused on high-impact complex problems including information access, personalized health and well-being, income inequality, online privacy and security, and life-long learning. 

Design Research Cluster Overview

The Design Cluster is not a degree program. Doctoral students participate in the Design Cluster through their faculty advisers and receive PhD degrees from their home department. Those interested in pursuing a PhD degree need to apply to the PhD programs with whom their faculty adviser is affiliated.

In the Design Cluster, PhD students do the following:

The Design Cluster also organizes social events, seminar series, and research symposium featuring Northwestern faculty and students and researchers from other institutions and industry.


The Design Cluster is led by the following individuals:


The Design Cluster’s interdisciplinary curriculum covers three core areas:

  1. Human-centered design
  2. Computational thinking and computational design
  3. Design skills and methods

Learn more about the Design Cluster curriculum

Who Should Apply?

Students interested in joining the Design Cluster should apply to join upon their arrival on campus. In the past, doctoral students in the following doctoral programs have actively participated: Technology and Social Behavior, Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Learning Science, and Theater and Drama. However, we are open to all scholars interested in design.

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