PhD in Biodefense

PhD in Biodefense

Gain a background in the science and technology of biodefense and specialized areas of threat assessment, non-proliferation, and medical and public health preparedness, preparing you to serve as a scholar and professional in this rapidly evolving field.

2020 U.S. News and World badge ranking for public affairs, national security and emergency management

Mason developed the biodefense doctoral program in response to biological threats: biological warfare, bioterrorism, and infectious diseases. The PhD program in biodefense is designed to prepare you to serve as a scholar and a professional in the fields of biodefense and biosecurity. Other areas of biodefense including nonproliferation, intelligence and threat assessment, and medical and public health preparedness are integral parts of the program. Because of the breadth of the program, students with backgrounds in science and other areas, such as international affairs, political science, law, public policy, and conflict resolution, are encouraged to apply. In 2019, U.S. News & World Report ranked the Schar School No. 2 best in the U.S. for security studies programs.

Coronavirus/COVID-19 Notice:
Mason has moved to virtual instruction for its on-campus programs for the spring 2020 semester. Faculty and staff who normally work on-campus are teleworking and are fully available to support students. Visit Mason's Coronavirus Information page for more information, including affected dates and frequently asked questions. For questions as a prospective student, please don't hesitate to contact the Schar School Office of Graduate Admissions at


Biodefense doctoral students take on a broad range of topics and biodefense challenges, bridging the gap between scientists and policy-makers. As a part of the program, students can select one of three fields for their specialization: 

  • International Security
  • Technology and Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)
  • Terrorism and Homeland Security


The biodefense doctoral program requires 72 credits of coursework. This is divided among core courses, a field of specialization, supporting courses that can be taken outside the department, and dissertation guidance. The program may be completed on either a part-time or full-time basis. Learn more about the course schedule and details in the current PhD Student Handbook.


  • Six required courses in core biodefense, international security, and public policy fields
  • One additional Advanced Research Course focused on qualitative or quantitative research
  • Two required field seminars and 2 elective courses in one of the three fields of specialization (International Security; Terrorism & Homeland Security; Technology & WMD)
  • Two elective courses from fields other than your chosen field of specialization
  • Additional Electives (typically 3 to 7 courses, chosen in consultation with an advisor) to complete the remaining 72 credits required for degree completion
  • Dissertation focused on biodefense topic to be presented to PhD committee

Browse course descriptions and learn more about the biodefense doctoral program's degree requirements.

Brian Mazanac, PhD in Biodefense '14

"A program like biodefense—with its cross-cutting interdisciplinary content—exists nowehere else. It was flexible, innovative, and provided great balance between the policy realm and technical issues associated with biological threats—a truly unique program."
—Brian Mazanac, PhD in Biodefense '14

Saskia Popescu, PhD in Biodefense '19

"The program brings it all together to understand the complexities of health security. We have experts from both fields coming to the classroom who can speak to all aspects, which is huge."
—Saskia Popescu, PhD in Biodefense '19

Craig Wiener, PhD in Biodefense '16

"Mason had the only program of its type in the world that offered a PhD in Biodefense that dealt with both the scientific aspects, as well as the policy and nonproliferation and counter-proliferation aspects of [chemical, biological, and nuclear warfare]."
—Craig Wiener, PhD in Biodefense '16


Contact the Schar School graduate admissions team at or (703) 993-8099. 


Saskia Popescu, PhD in Biodefense '19

PhD in Biodefense Student, From Hazmat Costume to Occupation

These days, the hazmat suit isn't a costume but a part of her occupation: Saskia Popescu is a real-life epidemiologist, working to control infections, in Phoenix, Arizona, pediatric hospitals.


Robert Kadlec DHHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response

Biodefense Leader Kadlec Praises School Program at 15th Anniversary Lecture

Hosted by the biodefense graduate program and the Schar School Alumni Chapter, Kadlec, assistant secretary for preparedness and response at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, was the guest of honor for the 15th anniversary celebration of the Schar School's biodefense program.


Photo of Professor Gregory Koblentz

Gregory Koblentz Named Top Potential PhD Supervisor

Gregory Koblentz, director of the Schar School of Policy and Government's graduate programs in biodefense, is named as one of the top potential PhD supervisors in the biodefense and global health security fields. 


Photo of the Ebola virus

The Pandora Report: The Blog for All Things Biodefense

The Pandora Report is a faculty- and student-run blog that provides commentary and analysis of biodefense news, policy, and research. Read the CBRN Policy Briefs for timely analyses of US CBRN policies, book reviews on biodefense and biosecurity, research notes, and more.