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Interdisciplinary Ph.D. Program in Cognitive Science 

Note: The Interdisciplinary Ph.D. Program in Cognitive Science is no longer enrolling new students as of 2023-2024. The program is being redesigned as a Degree Specialization (Graduate Specialization in Cognitive Science), and, pending Graduate Council review, plans to begin enrolling new students in 2025. For questions regarding the new specialization, please contact the incoming co-directors Matthew Fulkerson ( and Caren Walker (  What follows is information for existing students in the Interdisciplinary Ph.D. Program.

The Interdisciplinary Program in Cognitive Science has eight participating departments: Anthropology, Communication, Computer Science and Engineering, Linguistics, Neurosciences, Philosophy, Psychology, and Sociology. Students enroll in one of these departments as their "home department" and after initial admission to their home department enroll in the Interdisciplinary Program. The degree lists both the home department and Cognitive Science; for example, if the home department is Anthropology, the degree title is "Ph.D. in Anthropology and Cognitive Science."

Program Requirements

The Interdisciplinary Ph.D. program is distinct from the Cognitive Science Ph.D. program, both in admissions and graduation requirements. The Interdisciplinary program consists of:

  1. A primary specialization in one of the established disciplines of cognitive science, accomplished through the home department (maintain good standing, qualify for candidacy in home department including any adjusted requirements for IDP students the home department has established).
  2. A secondary specialization in a second field of study – providing tools of inquiry in an additional discipline outside of the home department. More on this below.
  3. Breadth requirement – five total classes to provide familiarity with general issues in the field and the various approaches taken to these issues by scholars in different disciplines.  Composed of COGS 200 Cognitive Science Seminar (3 quarters) plus two of: COGS 201 Neural Dynamics of Cognition, COGS 202 Cognitive Science Foundations: Computational Modeling of Cognition or COGS 203 Theories and Methods in the Study of Cognitive Phenomena.  Students may substitue a quarter of COGS 260 for one quarter of COGS 200.
  4. Qualifying Examinations as specified by the home department; the student must demonstrate familiarity with the approaches and findings from several disciplines relevant to the proposed dissertation research and must satisfy the committee of the quality, soundness, originality and interdisciplinary character of the proposed research.
  5. A dissertation possessing an interdisciplinary character, drawing on the primary and secondary specializations as verified. The thesis committee must include at least three members from the student's home department, including the student's adviser and at least three members of the Interdisciplinary Cognitive Science Program, at least two of whom are outside the student's home department, and otherwise follows typical appointment procedures. 

Secondary Specialization

Expertise beyond home department disciplines can be defined in several ways, within or across participating departments. All existing IDP students should have an individual study plan determining how they will meet their secondary specialization which takes the equivalent of a full year of study, optionally spread over several years.  Ideally, students who elect to do research in their areas of secondary interest will be able to accomplish a substantive piece of work, either of publishable quality or that will be of significant assistance in their dissertation projects.  If a secondary area consists entirely of courses, it will typically consists of 6 or more graduate courses, taken for a grade unless the plan justifies taking the course S/U.

Two, of essentially unlimited, possibilities for secondary specialization are below:

Cognitive Psychology: Get a basic introduction to cognitive psychology through the Proseminar in Cognitive Psychology (PSYC  218) and acquire or demonstrate knowledge of statistical tools and experimental design through the statistics sequence PSYC 201AB.  Finally, and, perhaps of most importance, the student should do a year-long project of empirical research in psychology with the guidance of a member of the Department of Psychology.

Philosophy:  Focus on philosophy of science, philosophy of mind, philosophy of psychology, philosophy of neuroscience, or philosophy of language, depending on their area of primary specialization. Courses suitable for this program include PHIL 234. Philosophy of Language, PHIL 236. Philosophy of Mind, PHIL 250. Philosophy of the Cognitive Sciences, and PHIL 285. Seminar on Special Topics, which will frequently focus on issues relevant to cognitive science. Students will prepare a research paper (preferably originating in one of the above courses) that demonstrates control of the methodology and knowledge of important issues in their area of specialization.

For adjustments to existing plans, or for examples of ways to meet the secondary specialization, contact the Program Directors ( or


The program can be summarized in this way:

  1. In the first years, their home department provides basic training within the student's primary specialization.
  2. In the middle years, acquisition of secondary specialization and participation in the Cognitive Science Seminar (Cog Sci 200) and other coursework requirements.
  3. In the final years, dissertation research on a topic in cognitive science, supervised by faculty from the program.

IDP Faculty


Steven Parish

Katerina Semendeferi


Gert Cauwenberghs:  Computational neuroscience, neuromorphic engineering, brain-machine interfaces.

Bioengineering and Computer Science & Engineering

Terrence J. Sejnowski: Computational neurobiology; the representation, transformation, and storage of information in the nervous system.

Cognitive Science

Benjamin Bergen: Mental simulation in language understanding; embodiment of linguistic constructions; processing of literal, abstract, and metaphorical language; language acquisition.

Lera Boroditsky: Relationships between mind, world and language. How we create meaning, imagine, and use knowledge. How the languages we speak shape the ways we think.

Andrea Chiba: Spatial attention, associative learning, acetylcholine, amygdala.

Seana Coulson: Cognitive electrophysiology, cognitive semantics, experimental pragmatics, gesture comprehension, synesthesia.

Sarah Creel: Language development, word recognition, eye tracking, cognitive control, music perception.

Virginia de Sa: Computational modeling, psychophysics, machine learning, visual and multi-sensory perception.

Steven DowHuman-computer interaction, social computing, and design. Understanding and creating tools to support creativity for individuals, groups, and crowds.

Jim Hollan: Cognitive ethnography, distributed and embodied cognition, human-computer interaction, multimodal interaction.

Terry L. Jernigan: Relationship of brain development, genetic factors, and experience to developing behavioral phenotypes in children. Individual differences in learning and in neural architectures.

David Kirsh: Design, cognitive ethnography, distributed and embodied cognition, thinking with things, e-learning.

Scott Klemmer: Human-computer interaction and design. Empowering more people to design, program, learn, and create: example and data-driven design tools; unearthing ingredients of creative excellence; fostering social learning online.

Eran Mukamel: Computational analysis of large-scale neural data, electrophysiology of sleep and general anesthesia, computational epigenomics in brain cells.

Douglas A. Nitz: Neural basis of spatial cognition and episodic memory, hippocampus, parietal cortex, premotor cortex.

Zhuowen Tu: Visual computing, machine learning, neuro imaging, statistical modeling/computing, medical informatics.

Cognitive Science & Neurosciences

Ayse P. Saygin: Cognitive neuroscience, neuropsychology, neuroimaging, visual perception, attention, multisensory integration, biological motion, social neuroscience, language comprehension, human-machine interaction, social robotics.

Bradley Voytek: Oscillatory network communication, automated science, data-mining, aging, attention, working memory, cognitive brain-computer interfaces, brain/cognition/society interactions.


Morana Alac: Science and technology studies, ethnography of scientific laboratories, ethnomethodology, human technology interaction, embodiment, gesture.

Carol Padden: Development of writing systems in young children, interaction of language and cultural systems, including writing, drawing and reading, sign language.

David Serlin: Historical and contemporary approaches to disability and multimodal communication; tactile and olfactory forms of mediated experience; modalities of mind and body in queer and gender nonnormative subject formation.

Computer Science & Engineering

Gary Cottrell: Neural networks as a computational model applied to problems in cognitive science and artificial intelligence, engineering and biology.

Charles Elkan: Automated reasoning, machine learning, cognitive architectures, foundations of artificial intelligence.

Yoav Freund: Computational learning theory and related areas in probability theory, information theory, statistics and pattern recognition.

Sanjoy Dasgupta: High-dimensional statistics, clustering, algorithms for finding underlying patterns in high-dimensional data, machine learning.

Lawrence Saul: Machine learning, pattern recognition, voice processing, auditory computation and methods for high dimensional data analysis.

Electrical & Computer Engineering

Nuno Vasconcelos: Statistical signal processing, computer vision, machine learning, multimedia.


Cathy Gere


Farrell Ackerman

Eric Baković':Phonological theory, optimality theory, Spanish.

Andrew Kehler: Computational linguistics, discourse interpretation.

Robert Kluender: Neural substrates of language, sentence processing, language and cognition, syntactic theory.

Rachel Mayberry: Sign languages and deafness to model the critical period for language psycholinguistically and neurolinguistically.

John MooreSyntactic morphology, Spanish, lexical semantics.

Sharon Rose: Phonological analysis, descriptive fieldwork. African and Semitic languages, tone.


Jonathan Cohen: Philosophy of mind, cognitive science, philosophy of language, metaphysics.

Matthew Fulkerson: Perception, pain, motivation, and justification; nature of lived human experience, constrained and informed by work in neuroscience, cognitive psychology, computer science, and linguistics. Touch and haptic exploration; bodily awareness and experience of the world, multisensory interactions, perceptual justification, and sensory pleasures and pains.

Rick Grush: Theoretical cognitive neuroscience, linguistics, philosophy of language.

Clinton Tolley: Phenomenology, cognitive semantics, history of philosophical psychology and philosophy of mind.


Stephan Anagnostaras: Memory consolidation, intelligence, and addiction.

Leslie Carver: Development of the brain basis of social cognition and memory in infancy and early childhood, ERP, Autism Spectrum Disorder

Tim Gentner: neural mechanisms governing sensory, perceptual, motor, and cognitive processing of natural sounds, especially animal communication signals. Neural coding, representational plasticity, high-level decision mechanisms, and motor control of natural behavior. 

Christine Harris:  Human Emotion, including its interaction with cognitive processes (memory, attention and decision making).

Gail HeymanSocial Cognition, Social Categories and Implicit Bias, Self-Presentation and Reputation Management, Reasoning about Traits and Abilities, Achievement Motivation, Moral Behavior, Interpersonal Trust, Culture and Development

Tim Rickard: Human learning and knowledge representation, memory retrieval processes, acquisition and transfer of skills, and mathematical cognition. Sleep in learning and memory, optimization of children's learning in arithmetic and other domains, cognitive processes underlying recall from long-term memory.

John Serences: How behavioral goals and other attentional factors influence perception, memory and decision making. Psychophysics, computational modeling, EEG, and fMRI.

Caren Walker: How children learn and reason about the causal structure of the world, and acquire abstract representations beyond direct observation, simply by thinking.  Development of scientific thinking and reasoning. 

Piotr Winkielman:  Interplay between emotion, cognition, embodiment and consciousness, particularly in the domain of social cognition.  Unconscious affect, affective influences on decisions, and embodiment of affective processing.  Cognitive feelings, such as processing fluency or recall difficulty in a variety of judgments, ranging from attractiveness to memory. 

John Wixted: Episodic memory. Cognitive mechanisms underlying recognition memory, signal detection theory representation in the human hippocampus, work that is based mainly on single-unit recording studies performed with epilepsy patients. Applied implications of signal detection-based models in eyewitness memory.


Eric Halgren

Rady School of Management

Ayelet Gneezy

Craig McKenzie: Decision making, reasoning, and learning.

Christopher Oveis: Emotions, Power and Status, Empathy and Compassion, Social Psychophysiology


Akos Rona-Tas: Economic sociology, political sociology, social change, social stratification, survey and quantitative methodology.