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PhD Research at Segal


PhD students at Segal work in the Design Cluster, an interdisciplinary doctoral cluster program jointly sponsored by Segal, the McCormick School of Engineering, and The Graduate School at Northwestern.

This multi-school cluster brings together dynamic faculty from the Segal Research Faculty Council with PhD students from a variety of disciplines.


Design Cluster Overview

In the Design Cluster, PhD students:

  • discover, develop, teach, and practice the common principles and techniques underlying design and idea creation
  • engage faculty in collaborative, interdisciplinary research to pursue new funding opportunities
  • participate in an alternative intellectual community for design faculty and doctoral students at Northwestern

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 directed by Professor Liz Gerber from the Schools of McCormick and Communication. Professor Darren Gergle from the School of Communication and Wei Chen and Malcolm Maclver from the School of McCormick comprise the Segal Research Council executive committee. 



The cluster’s interdisciplinary curriculum covers three core areas:

  1. human-centered design
  2. computational thinking and computational design
  3. design skills and methods

Cluster students are expected to take at least one course from each core area.

Learn more about the Design Cluster curriculum

Who Should Apply?

The Design Cluster is intended for gifted doctoral students eager to work on cutting-edge design research that spans multiple disciplines and schools. 

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

Fellowships are awarded only to current Northwestern PhD students interested in research projects involving faculty advisers from at least two different schools. Students are also expected to work on joint publications with their co-advisers based on the research resulting from the fellowship support.

Learn how to apply to the PhD Design Cluster

Contact Us

If you have additional questions about the Segal Design Cluster, please fill out the form below or contact Darren Gergle at or 847-467-1221.