Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

The University of Alberta is the only university in Canada offering a PhD in Human Ecology. Research topics include: Aging, Children, Youth and Families
Material Culture and Textile and Apparel Science.

PhD in Human Ecology

The University of Alberta is the only university in Canada offering a PhD in Human Ecology. It has a long and proud history as an academic discipline and remains tremendously relevant for today's multiple challenges in our daily lives.

Research Topics

The PhD in Human Ecology is a research degree taking a multi-disciplinary approach to studying the interrelationships among people and their near environments with specific research foci in the following four areas:

  • Aging
  • Children, Youth and Families
  • Material Culture
  • Textile and Apparel Science


Human Ecology faculty, collaborating with global scholars, focus on research on the care and support of older adults and adults with chronic illness or disability, costs incurred by family/friend caregivers, contributions and social inclusion of older adults, and age-friendly rural communities.

Children, Youth and Families

Family Science faculty specialize in family theory, and family policy and practice across many dimensions including parent-child relationships, work-family integration, family poverty and marginalized youth and families. In conducting research about family dynamics, and working with government and community partners, the broad aim of the research programs is to enhance the well-being of children, youth and families across the life course.

Material Culture

Material Culture research in the Department of Human Ecology considers the social meaning of objects in relation to their creation, use, circulation and consumption in both contemporary and historical contexts, with a particular emphasis on clothing and textiles. The focus on these particular material goods is enhanced by the Department's museum quality Clothing and Textiles Collection which consists of more than 20,000 textile and garment artifacts. The interdisciplinary research in this field seeks to reveal how material forms are central to the socialization of human beings into culture.

Textile and Apparel Science

Innovative research is pursued by the Human Ecology Department's textile science and apparel design faculty to enhance human comfort and protection through clothing and textile solutions for items ranging from protective gear, uniforms, and sportswear to clothing for disabled persons. This research reflects the critical function textiles and apparel have as our nearest physical environment. Researchers in the department have distinguished themselves in the fields of fiber science with a focus on areas such as material response under various thermal hazards, combustion of textile materials, odour transfer, standards development and functional apparel design.

Length of Program

The time to complete the doctoral degree will vary with the individual candidate; however, for those entering the program with a thesis-based Masters degree in a related discipline, it normally takes three to four years of full time study to complete the Phd. All requirements for the degree must be completed within six years.

Job Prospects

Graduates of the PhD program have secured academic staff positions in a variety of departments (Human Ecology, Clothing and Textiles, Nursing, Rehabilitation Medicine, Canadian Circumpolar Institute, Home Economics) at Canadian and international Universities. Others hold research positions in government and non-governmental organizations, while some do freelance and consulting work.

Graduate Positions