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MBDS Industry Affiliates

The Master of Behavioral and Decision Sciences (MBDS) program at the University of Pennsylvania is a training ground for the next generation of applied behavioral scientists. We look for opportunities to partner with industry to shape programs by creating specific skill-focused workshops or lectures that aim to open new perspectives and job opportunities to our students.

Our top priority is to identify industry partners eager to work with our students on Design Challenges and capstone projects, especially if they can be tied to internship opportunities. We also look for partners who can help shape hands-on skill-building workshops and activities to leverage our students' knowledge and interests.

What makes the MBDS program unique is the practical approach to behavioral and decisions sciences, always with an eye in industry applications and scalability. What makes our students unique to your organization is their diverse background, interdisciplinary approach, and eagerness to provide real-life solutions to industry challenges.

2019 MBDS cohort

Percentage of international students, representing 22 countries
Percentage of students matriculating directly from the workforce
Number of undergraduate majors represented
Percentage of women enrolled in this STEM graduate program

There are many ways to collaborate with the MBDS program. As an Industry Affiliate, you can:

Our goal with the Design Challenges is to drive collaboration between student groups and Industry Affiliates who, together, integrate cutting edge knowledge into real-life problems. Design Challenges highlight students’ training and diverse skillsets in behavioral economics, decision sciences, network analysis, and public policy by connecting behavioral insights to industry questions in an immersive and actionable format.

Join us for our 3rd MBDS Design Challenge—Spring 2021. Submit a proposal today »

Read more about 2nd MBDS Design Challenge—Spring 2020 »

The capstone is an independent study where students use behavioral insights to showcase their decision science skillsets in a culminating project. These projects are formatted with the client around a practical real-world problem. Students propose recommendations that are evidence-based, similar to a consultancy project.

The Behavioral Science Consulting course, taught by Zarak Khan, allows students to work directly with Industry Affiliates to better understand applied behavioral science and relevant frameworks, build their portfolio of work experience, and strengthen our student and alumni network. Skills emphasized are client management, teamwork, oral and written communication, and behavioral research and design.

Industry Affiliates can provide institutional support and sponsor the Norms and Behavioral Change (NoBeC) Conference, which brings together researchers studying the relationships between social norms and behavioral change. This conference invites researchers and practitioners working at the intersection of social norms and behavioral changes and its applications in economics, psychology, political science, public health, and other adjacent fields.

As an Industry Affiliate, you have unique opportunities to share your expertise and individual research areas and focus with our students. Your organization can offer internships and employment opportunities to students, or you can provide case studies and data sets to be used in our courses. We welcome specialists on your team to join one of our classes as guest speakers; lead a lecture on a relevant topic in an Action Design Meetup; or conduct one of our professional development workshops.

contact Us

Contact us

For more information, or to partner with MBDS on any of these opportunities, send an email to Daniella Diniz at with the subject line “MBDS Industry Affiliate program.” We will schedule time to discuss your plans and questions and explore your interest in becoming an MBDS Industry Affiliate.

If you’re interested in joining us for our 3rd MBDS Design Challenge—Spring 2021, you can submit a proposal to the MBDS team.

Frequently Asked Questions

The MBDS program selects design challenge proposals and makes the capstone project proposals available to students who then make their selections. In either case, your organization receives professional advice, recommendations, and research at no cost. Get more details on the Design Challenges and capstone projects:

How does a Design Challenge work?

We invite our Industry Affiliates to format questions that address an internal business or client need. The questions should involve how behavioral science or behavioral insights may aid decision-making or foster positive behavioral change.

The questions are presented to our students who select which challenges they want to participate in (students may participate in more than one challenge). Through the course of six weeks, students and the client have three-to-four interactions to ensure teams clearly understand the question and parameters as well as the client’s needs and expectations. At the end of this period, a final presentation is scheduled between clients and students, facilitated by the MBDS program team. The final presentation, delivered as a slide-deck or brief report, offers behavioral science insights related to the initial question.

Join us for our 3rd MBDS Design Challenge—Spring 2021. Submit a proposal today »

Read more about 2nd MBDS Design Challenge—Spring 2020 »

The capstone project is an independent study where students use behavioral insights to showcase their decision science skillsets in a culminating project. They are formatted with the client around a practical, real-world problem, where students propose recommendations that are evidence-based, in a similar fashion of a consultancy project. Students complete their capstones during the fall, spring, and summer semesters.

Capstone projects can be completed remotely and require at least one MBDS instructor as a reader and commentator who provides academic feedback and a final grade for the project.

What kind of capstone projects should Industry Affiliates submit?

We encourage all private, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies to submit proposals! Submissions and matches are encouraged for community partners with limited resources, strong technical assistance needs, and missions to serve disadvantaged populations.

All projects must focus on a clearly defined problem or need. The MBDS program encourages an interdisciplinary approach to understanding behavioral decision-making and requires exposure to core courses and electives offered in the social sciences, humanities, business, and health-related disciplines. As a culminating exercise, students must complete an individual capstone project that demonstrates their ability to define a project or identify a problem; demonstrate critical thinking; develop appropriate methods; complete research; and present the results clearly and concisely. MBDS students can select a more research-based or applied format for this project representing the profession they hope to enter.

Our students may also be taking classes while completing their capstone projects, so the project should be narrow enough in scope that it can be completed in about three months by a single student working about five hours per week.

Organizations are welcome to submit multiple projects, but community partners with two or more matched projects may be capped in their participation.

What should MBDS Industry Affiliates expect from the final capstone project?

There are two common approaches to completing the project. Each approach has some general guidelines.

  1. In the first approach, the capstone is an extended research paper, based on primary and/or secondary sources, demonstrating the student’s ability to understand and synthesize complex behavioral and decision science problems. In this approach, the capstone should reflect the student’s MBDS coursework and may also build upon the student’s previous academic or professional experience.
  2. In the second approach, the capstone is a professional report that serves as a portfolio of professional skills. A student may prepare a consultant’s report based on an internship experience that identifies and addresses key issues from the internship experience that need to be examined in depth using training from the MBDS program.

The capstone length varies depending on the student and capstone readers' scope and format.

What kinds of capstone projects are students most likely to select?

MBDS seeks out a diverse set of projects, but since unique student interests drive the project matching process, some projects may be more likely to match interests than others. Based on a recent student interest survey, we believe that MBDS Industry Affiliate projects involving consumer behavior, behavioral dynamics and social norms, policy analysis, strategic planning, social impact and sustainability, and program evaluation have the highest likelihood of student selection.

How much time will my organization need to invest if selected?

Students and partners should determine how frequently, and whether in-person meetings, fieldwork, and other on-site trips should occur. If the project is based near Philadelphia, a student may seek to meet with a community partner in-person regularly. At a minimum, students should actively keep in touch with partners via regular video conferences and email exchanges. Students work remotely most of the time but must have reliable and consistent access to information and contacts at the organization.

How can my organization best provide support to the student completing our project?

Industry partners can best support students by clearly identifying a need, setting expectations regarding project deliverables, giving access to all relevant information or data, being responsive throughout the project, and offering feedback on interim or final products. Partners should help students understand their perspective and meet their goals without closing themselves off to external, objective review. Students engaging with partners as MBDS Industry Affiliates will be doing so as a part of their final capstone project. Students completing the project as a capstone project should not be paid for their efforts.

When can I expect a project deliverable from the student to be submitted?

Most MBDS Industry Affiliate projects are completed in fulfillment of students’ capstone requirements. Students complete their capstones during the fall, spring, and summer semesters. Please indicate in your project proposal what completion timeline works best for your project. Partner organizations are encouraged and invited to come to campus to hear their student’s capstone presentations on the last day of class.

My project might be better for an intern rather than a student’s capstone project—how should I proceed?

If your organization needs support, but those needs are not as focused on a singular project as an MBDS Industry Affiliate should be, you may simply benefit from an MBDS intern. We are always looking for internship opportunities to share with our students. Please send your internship job description to Daniella Diniz at to add to our internships listing.

2019-2020 MBDS Industry Affiliates

capitol one
irrational labs
pattern health