Requirements for the PhD in Cognitive Science

Program requirements are subject to change. The Office of Graduate Studies requires students to enroll as full-time graduate students, to carry a minimum enrollment of 12 units of graduate-level courses each quarter, and to maintain a grade point average of 3.0.

Important

Be sure to review the department's grading policy.

Coursework

Each student completes a plan of study recommended by their advisor. The normal plan includes:

3 Foundations Courses

COGS 201, 202, 203

  • Students complete three foundation courses, one in each area of brain, behavior, and computation, by the end of the second year.

  • The department may waive some or all courses for students who already have the required knowledge.

6 Issues Courses

Chosen from the Issues Course List

  • A minimum of six issues courses are required, at least one in each of the areas of brain, behavior, and computation.

  • At least four of the issues courses should be taken within the department. Issues courses taken outside the department require the approval of the advisor in conjunction with the graduate committee. Petitions can be found on the Resources Page.

  • The department recommends completion by the end of the second year.

  • Five of the six issues courses must be taken for a letter grade.

3 Methods Courses

Chosen from the Methods Course List

  • Three methods courses are required, one of which must be an approved statistics course.

  • Students should obtain approval for all three courses from their advisor. 

  • Students may petition courses not on the approval list. Such petitions must be approved by the student's advisor and graduate committee. Petitions can be found on the Resources Page.

  • All three courses must be taken for a letter grade.

3-4 Laboratory Rotations

COGS 290

  • A total of three quarters of laboratory rotations in at least two different faculty laboratories are required. Each rotation is for one to two full quarters as required by the faculty laboratory.
    • Three one-quarter rotations in three different laboratories, or
    • One one-quarter rotation and one two-quarter rotation in two different laboratories, or
    • Two two-quarter rotations in two different laboratories for a total of four quarters enrolled in COGS 290.

  • All rotations should be completed by the end of fall quarter of the second year.

  • If you wish to fulfill this requirement in a lab outside of the department, you must fill out a Lab Rotation Petition and submit it to the graduate coordinator. Petitions can be found on the Resources Page.

Second-Year Research Project

COGS 210A-B-C and 211 A-B-C

  • In the summer between the first and second year, students work with their advisor and a faculty committee to develop a prospectus for a research project. The year-long research project culminates with written and oral presentations to the faculty at the end of spring quarter.

  • Concurrent enrollment in COGS 210A-B-C and COGS 211A-B-C is required as part of the Second-Year Project.

  • For full project details and timeline, see our Second-Year Project page

  • Upon completion of Second-Year Projects, students may be eligible for a Master's degree.

Third-Year Research Project

COGS 205

  • This requirement is met by satisfactorily completing a talk to the entire department on their thesis topic by the end of the third year.

  • Enrollment in COGS 205 during winter and spring quarter is required as part of the Third-Year Project.

  • For full project details and timeline, see our Third-Year Project page

3 Cognitive Science Seminars

COGS 200

  • Students must enroll in this seminar for at least three quarters while in residence, though frequent participation is encouraged.

Important: COGS 200 Grading Option

This course can be taken for P/NP or for a letter grade, however, the letter grade option may result in additional course workload.

Teaching Requirement

Teaching Assistants enroll in COGS 500 during fall, winter, and spring quarters.

The undergraduate program offers a special challenge to instructor and student alike, and experience with the teaching of that program can provide a valuable part of the education of a cognitive scientist. The department works closely with the Center for Teaching Development to design effective training and development programs for its Teaching Assistants.

All graduate students must serve as a Teaching Assistant for at least one quarter of each academic year in residence (students must TA for two quarters per academic year in years 1-4 for guaranteed funding).

Teaching assistantships performed in other departments must be approved by petition to the graduate committee to count toward the requirement (petitions can be found on the Resources page). At the end of each quarter, instructors prepare evaluations of all teaching assistants.

Language Requirement

The goal of the language requirement is to give all students firsthand experience with some of the differences in structure and usage of languages and the several issues involved in the learning of second languages. This requirement can be satisfied by demonstrating satisfactory proficiency, by prior study in a language (e.g., two years of high school study), or by satisfactory completion of one quarter of study in a language course approved by the department.

Departmental Service

Participation in Departmental Events and Committees. Students participate in departmental special events and committees and serve as student representatives for faculty meetings, and the campus-wide Graduate Student Association. 

Spring Evaluations

A formal evaluation of performance and progress for all students takes place at the end of spring quarter every year, with special attention given to the first and second years of study and at the time of qualification. The first-year evaluation is based in large part on the performance in foundations and issues courses. The second-year evaluation is based on the student's total performance, with heavy weight given to the student's second-year research project. The third-year evaluation focuses on the competency and depth requirements, and the fourth year on the progress made toward completion of the dissertation.

Advancement to Candidacy

There are four components to advancement to candidacy:

  1. Competency. This requirement is met by satisfactorily completing all foundation, methods, and issues coursework, laboratoy rotations and the second year project. Students must also have an advisor, and an approved plan of study.

  2. Depth. This requirement is met by satisfactorily completing a talk to the entire department on their thesis topic by the end of the third year. A first draft of the thesis proposal must be submitted to the student's advisor by the end of the third year. Students enroll in COGS 205 during winter and spring quarter of the third year (Third-Year project guidelines).

  3. Dissertation Topic/Advancement Exam. The student prepares a proposal of the dissertation topic that must be approved by the student's doctoral committee. A written proposal is submitted to the committee at least two weeks prior to an oral defense of the proposal. The doctoral committee consists of at least five faculty members: three from the department and two from outside the department; one of the outside members must be tenured. Student must advance to candidacy by the end of the fourth year.

  4. All students must have a primary advisor in the department. A co-advisor may be adjunct faculty or from another department, but the primary advisor must reside in the Cognitive Science Department.

Ph.D Dissertation & Defense

Candidates prepare a written dissertation demonstrating a substantive contribution to our understanding of cognition. An oral defense follows. For full details and timeline, see our Dissertation & Defense guidelines