About the LIFE Course Program at UVa

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The University of Virginia became a member of the LIFE Research School in the Fall of 2004 as part of our commitment to international research and collaborations at the highest level. Our founder and a founder of our nation, Thomas Jefferson, knew the value of research: "A patient pursuit of facts, and cautious combination and comparison of them, is the drudgery to which man is subjected by his Maker, if he wishes to attain sure knowledge." By collaborating with the Max Planck Institute and our other partner institutions, we are on the road to sure knowledge.

The theme of the International Max Planck Research School is the study of the systematic changes in human behavior over time. Aspects of these changes have been taught to students around the world from the point of view of one or another sub-discipline. In contrast, the goal of the International Max Planck Research School "The Life Course: Evolutionary and Ontogenetic Dynamics (LIFE)" is to take an integrative and interdisciplinary approach to the problem. This approach connects evolutionary, ontogenetic, historical, and institutional approaches, and focuses on the evolution and interaction of individual and institutional development. The Research School offers students unique training in the dynamics of human behavior on different time scales. These include long-term changes, such as in the evolution of culture and emergence of institutions of learning, and short-term changes, such as in individual education processes, lifespan development, and institutionally regulated life-course processes.

Since the inception of the notion of human development in the 18th century (e.g., the two major works by Tetens, published in 1777, that are considered the forerunners of modern developmental psychology) and the 19th century advancement of fields such as biological evolution and child development, researchers have wrestled with how to combine processes of evolution with processes of ontogenesis. Earlier attempts, such as the classical "ontogenesis as recapitulation of evolution" hypothesis, were typically one-sided in emphasis. Work in recent decades, however, with advances in evolutionary anthropology, cultural psychology, evolutionary psychology, developmental behavior genetics, gerontological biology, developmental, and life-course psychology, as well as historical sociology, suggests a new and more integrative orientation. Theories and methods have become available that permit a more systematic analysis of the evolution-ontogeny interface in human development than has been the case until now. The International Research School aims to make a contribution to these new transdisciplinary developments and opportunities.

Graduate students who intend to pursue a doctorate in one of the relevant disciplines (biology, psychology, sociology, anthropology, educational science) are permitted to apply to LIFE. As a collaborative Research School, LIFE offers students unique training in the dynamics of human behavior on different time scales in addition to opportunities for research abroad at a cooperating institution. LIFE faculty are renowned experts in their fields and provide unparalleled guidance and support.

Curriculum | How to Apply