The Science of Everyday Living
Occupational science was established at the University of Southern California in 1989 to study the benefits of engaging in purposeful activities — “occupations” — on health, development, and quality of life and to provide the profession of occupational therapy with its own scientific and research base for informing clinical practices. (Historical documents from the founding of occupational science at USC can be viewed at the USC Chan Archive.) The discipline has since spread from USC and there are now 20 academic programs in occupational science throughout the world.
An Interdisciplinary Science
Occupational science has also developed dynamic interdisciplinary links with other disciplines including psychology, neuroscience, physiology, preventive medicine, biomedical engineering, rehabilitation science, anthropology, sociology, gerontology and public health. Each of these disciplines contributes a unique perspective to our understanding of the underlying and diverse forces that shape human occupation and consequently affect a person’s or population’s overall health.
Occupational Science Research
Occupational science research examines the complex array of personal, social, community, behavioral, developmental, sociocultural, and environmental factors that influence how we engage in life’s activities and how our participation shapes our health, identity, sense of purpose, and fulfillment. Outcomes that affect the community include further innovation and discovery within the health professions, clinical interventions for occupational therapists, and other health practitioners that are cutting-edge and cost-effective, an enhanced educational curriculum for students, and a better-informed public healthcare consumer thanks to the generation and mobilization of scientific knowledge.
Through our interdisciplinary USC Chan research programs, we are generating new knowledge that impacts how people live and learn in everyday life, developing health-promoting and rehabilitation interventions, and preparing future career scientists. Our faculty have received over $22 million in federal funding for active research projects. More importantly, our research agenda pursues — and generates — knowledge with relevant outcomes for real-world interventions that improve human health, quality of life, and well-being. USC Chan’s portfolio includes research grants, training grants, and contracts.
PhD in Occupational Science
Today, more than 75 scholars have graduated from USC Chan’s occupational science PhD program, with most holding leadership positions at distinguished research universities around the world. These scholars are shaping the future of the profession by infusing the clinical arena with cutting-edge research and science-driven interventions. Learn more about our current PhD students and view the occupational science PhD dissertations of our graduates.
Occupational Science Symposium
The USC Occupational Science Symposium was established in 1988 as a forum to disseminate and celebrate the academic discipline of occupational science. The 2019 Symposium, “Celebrating the past and mobilizing the future,” celebrates 30 years of occupational science with a founders keynote panel and other exciting speakers. The Occupational Science Symposium is USC Chan’s longest-running academic event.