Complete your PhD in Behavior Analysis at Simmons University

The 48-credit PhD program in Behavior Analysis is designed to train and position analysts to make significant contributions to the science and practice of behavior analysis. Currently, our PhD in Behavior Analysis program is offered with live online classes to students across the country, ensuring access and collaboration with faculty and peers.

Students sitting in class

What will you learn in the PhD in Behavior Analysis program?

Simmons University’s PhD in Behavior Analysis focuses on developing skills required to design, conduct, and interpret experimental research. To facilitate research skills, each student is accepted into the ongoing Lab meetings of departmental behavior analysis faculty. There, Behavior Analysis PhD students benefit from immersion into the faculty member’s research conducted in collaboration with the doctoral candidates.

Additionally, during enrollment in the Behavior Analysis PhD program each student has access to conduct and publish research in conjunction with our behavior analysis faculty. Areas of faculty research include

  • Stimulus equivalence
  • Conditioned reinforcement
  • The analysis of verbal behavior
  • Induced behaviors
  • Behavioral medicine
  • The analysis and management of negatively reinforced responding
  • Training of BCBAs.

Students benefit from the decades-long professional collaboration between behavior analysis department faculty and discipline-specific clinical and research organizations in New England and beyond. 

Due to Simmons University's longstanding reputation as a pioneer and enduring presence in the behavior analysis professional and academic community, prominent clinical and research groups in the field welcome the opportunity to collaborate in clinical research with our Behavior Analysis PhD students.

Simmons University also offers a Master’s in Behavior Analysis program, which is offered both on campus and online.

What can you do with a PhD in Behavior Analysis?

Many students in our PhD in Behavior Analysis program are employed by Simmons University as teaching assistants, course instructors, and mentors for the Master’s in Behavior Analysis program.

Upon graduation, our Behavior Analysis PhD students have assumed impactful behavior analytic positions in research, education, and clinical intervention and management.

Alumnae/i Outcomes

  • Dan Almeida, ‘12PhD: District Supervisor of ABA Services, Newton, MA Public Schools
  • Jessica Alverson, ‘18PhD: Organizational Clinical Director, Hopeful Journeys Educational Center, Inc. 
  • Nicole Boivin, ‘14PhD: Director of School Services - Early Childhood, Melmark New England. 
  • Terri Bright, ‘07MS, ‘13PhD: Director of Behavior Services, MSPCA-Angell Memorial Hospital
  • Laurel Ciavarri, ‘17PhD: Supervisor of Behavioral Support Services, Bridgewell, Inc.
  • Nicole M. Davis, ‘09MS, ‘16PhD: Director of Supervision & Assistant Clinical Professor, Northeastern University
  • Laurie Denno, ‘12PhD: Adjunct Faculty, Applied Behavior Analysis, Antioch University
  • Laura Dudley, '15PhD: Associate Clinical Professor, Northeastern University
  • Gretchen Dittrich, ‘11PhD: Associate Professor of Practice & Director of Mentoring and Supervision, Simmons University
  • Elisa Hegg, ‘16PhD: Associate Professor of Practice & Director of Intensive Practicum (Former), Behavior Analysis Online, Simmons University
  • Brandon Herscovitch, ‘11PhD: Executive Director, ABACS, LLC
  • Amanda Kelly, ‘07MS, ‘13PhD: Founder, Behaviorbabe
  • Christina King, ‘04MS, ‘16PhD: Executive Managing Director & Chief of Research and Application, RCS Learning Center 
  • Amanda LaPrime, ‘13PhD: Program Director, Center for Children with Special Needs
  • Erin McLoughlin, ‘09EdS, ‘15PhD: Executive Director, South Shore Autism Center
  • Rebecca Markovits, ‘13PhD: Assistant Teaching Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Massachusetts Lowell
  • Noelle Neault, ‘14PhD: Associate Professor of Practice & Chair of the Department of Behavior Analysis, Simmons University
  • Sinead Petersen, ‘11PhD: Founder/Executive Director, The Southcoast Autism Center. 
  • Ginette Wilson Bishop, ‘08MS, ‘13PhD: Executive Director (former), Advances Leaning Center

Learn more about our PhD in Behavior Analysis!

Graduates of our PhD in Behavior Analysis gone on to assume leadership roles in a variety of settings. Apply or request more information about our doctorate in Behavior Analysis today!


Students are actively engaged in professional research, teaming up with Simmons's nationally renowned faculty to implement, write, and publish research, and to present their work at national conferences and in peer-reviewed journals.

Recent research topics include:

  • Cameron, M.J., Maguire, R.W. & McCormack, J. Stress-Induced Binge Eating: A Behavior Analytic Approach to Assessment and Intervention. J Adult Dev18, 81-84 (2011).
  • Lamprime, A. B., & Dittrich, G. A. (2014). An evaluation of a treatment package consisting of discrimination training and differential reinforcement with response cost and a social story on vocal stereotypy for a preschooler with autism in a preschool classroom. Education and Treatment of Children, 37, 407-430.
  • Kelly, A. N.., Axe, J. B., Allen, R. F., and Maguire, R. W. (2015) Effects of presession pairing on challenging behavior and academic responding for children with autism. Behavioral Interventions, 30, 135-156
  • Axe, J. B., & Laprime, A. P. (2017). The effects of contingent pairing on establishing praise as a reinforcer with children with autism. Journal of Developmental and Physical Disabilities, 29, 325-340.
  • Almeida, D., Allen, R., Mannion, C., Maguire, K., & Maguire, R. W. Identifying Community-Based Reinforcers. (2018). Journal of Behavioral Education
  • Yorlets, C., Maguire, R.W., King, C.M. and Breault, M. (2018) Acquisition of complex conditional discriminations in a child with autism spectrum disorder. The Psychological Record, 68, 219-229. DOI 10.1007/s40732-018-0283-2
  • Dudley, L.L., Axe, J.B., Allen, R.F., Sweeney-Kerwin, E. (2019). Establishing praise as a conditioned reinforcer: Pairing with one versus multiple reinforcers. Behavioral Interventions, 1-19.
  • Axe, J. B., Phelan, S. H., & Irwin, C. (2019). Empirical evaluations of Skinner's analysis of problem solving. The Analysis of Verbal Behavior, 35, 39-56.
  • Irwin, C., & Axe, J. B. (2019). Overview of applied behavior analysis and early intervention for autism spectrum disorder. In S. G. Little & A. Akin-Little (Eds.), Behavioral interventions in schools: Evidence-based positive strategies., 2nd ed. (pp. 205-226). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. doi:10.1037/0000126-012
  • Bird, Z. & Chase, P.N. (2020). Student pacing in a master's level course: Procrastination, preference, and performance. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis,
  • Axe, J. B., & McCarthy-Pepin, M. (2021). On the use of the term, "discriminative stimulus," in behavior analytic practice. Behavioral Interventions, 36(3), 667-674.
  • Davis, C. R., & Axe, J. B. (2021). Analyzing consequence variables within the high probability request sequence for a child diagnosed with CHARGE syndrome. Behavior Analysis in Practice, 14(2), 352-359.
  • Meleshkevich, O., Axe, J. B., & Espinosa, F. D. (2021). Effects of time delay and requiring echoics on answering questions about visual stimuli. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 54(2), 725-743.
  • Palmer, S.K., Maguire, R.W., Lionello-DeNolf, K.M., & Braga-Kenyon, P. (2021). Expansion of Sidman's Theory: The inclusion of prompt stimuli in equivalence classes. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 115-255-271.
  • Frampton, S. E., Guinness, K. E., & Axe, J. B. (in press). Parallel treatments design: A systematic review. Behavioral Interventions.


In some sense, the dissertation process begins with admission to the doctoral program. Students are accepted into labs matching mutual research interests between faculty and students during the second semester. With the acceptance of the student into a faculty member’s lab, the requirements and landscape of the dissertation process become clear. Each student begins to discuss their research ideas with their lab faculty (chairperson of their doctoral committee) and literature reading is undertaken and experimental design conceptualized. In general, research is conducted at off-campus clinical, educational, or healthcare sites. Additional members of the student’s doctoral committee are sought and identified. In concert with lab participation, the doctoral proposal will be completed and submitted to the doctoral committee for approval. Following project approval by the Simmons Institutional Review Board (IRB), research proper can be initiated.

Lab Meetings

Students are actively engaged in professional research, teaming up with Simmons's nationally renowned faculty to implement, write, and publish research, and to present their work at professional conferences and in peer-reviewed behavior analytic journals.

To facilitate the shaping of research skills, each faculty member hosts a weekly lab meeting. During this meeting, students engaged in research with that faculty member discuss research progress and problems, and share insights. In addition, methodologies of behavior analytic research and important experimental results from behavior analytic literature are discussed. For each participant, the meeting acts as a verbal community shaping their scientific repertoire.  

Lab Groups:

  • Dr. Ron Allen’s Lab
  • Dr. Judah Axe’s Lab
  • Dr. Phil Chase’s Lab
  • Dr. Gretchen Dittrich’s Lab
  • Dr. Russell Maguire’s Lab
  • Dr. Noelle Neault’s Lab
  • Dr. Kylan Turner’s Lab

Admission options and prerequisites vary by program. Learn more about the requirements for the PhD in Behavior Analysis.

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Behavior Analysis at Simmons University

Our Behavior Analysis program prepares students for leadership roles in the implementation, evaluation and administration of applied behavioral analytic principles and methods.

Graduate Program Videos

Our Faculty

Ronald Allen photo

Ronald Allen

  • Associate Professor of Practice and Director of the Doctoral Program for Behavior Analysis
Gretchen Dittrich photo

Gretchen Dittrich

  • Associate Professor of Practice, Chair of the Behavior Analysis Department and Director of the Master's Program