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UCSD Cognitive Science – Cognitive Science Ph #cognitive #psychology #phd #programs



Cognitive Science Ph.D. Program


This program provides broad training in neurological processes and phenomena; the experimental methods, results, and theories from the study of psychology, language, and social and cultural issues; and the studies of computational mechanisms. The first year is devoted to familiarizing the student with the findings and current problems in cognitive science through Foundations and Issues courses.

In the second year, basic courses and laboratory rotations are completed, with the major emphasis on the completion of a year-long research project. Future years are spent completing the advancement to candidacy requirements and doing the thesis research. Throughout the program, there are frequent faculty-student interactions, including special lectures by the faculty or invited speakers and the weekly informal research discussions and cognitive science seminar.


An interim adviser is appointed to serve as general adviser and counselor for each entering student. The adviser helps chart a set of courses that fulfill the content area requirements, taking into account the student’s prior training and interests. Students may change the interim adviser at any time (as long as the new interim adviser is willing). At the time of advancement to candidacy, students choose a permanent adviser who also functions as the chair of the dissertation committee.

Background Knowledge

It’s assumed all entering students posses basic prerequisite knowledge within the field of cognitive science; incoming students will be presented with a reading list that covers these topics. Students lacking this background can acquire it through self-study preceding his or her arrival at UCSD or by taking self-paced study courses or relevant undergraduate courses at UCSD.


  1. Foundations Courses
  2. Approved Study Plan
  3. Second-Year Project
  4. Language Requirement
  5. Advancement to Candidacy
  6. Teaching
  7. Participation in the Cognitive Science 200 Seminar Series
  8. Participation in Departmental Events and Committees
  9. Ph.D. Dissertation and Defense

Master’s Degree

The Department of Cognitive Science does not offer admissions to a master’s program. However, candidates for the Ph.D. who do not hold a master’s degree from another institution may be granted the M.S. degree after fulfilling the first three requirements listed above. This is usually at the end of the second year. Duplication of advanced academic degrees, e.g. one at the same level, is not permitted at UCSD. Likewise, a professional degree at the master’s or doctoral level, e.g. M.Ed. M.P.I.A. MD. or Pharm.D. is not regarded as a duplicate of an academic degree.

Evaluation of Performance and Progress

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.

Acceptable Progress

  • 2-3 quarters of lab rotations
  • 3 foundation courses
  • 2-3 Methods Courses
  • 0-2 Issues Courses
  • 1 TA’ship
  • Up to speed on neuroscience, programming, math, and any other area needed for core competency
  • Complete all coursework except COGS200
  • Satisfactory completion of 2nd year project
  • Course Work Completed
  • Draft Dissertation Proposal
  • Journal Submissions
  • Conference Presentations
  • Establish at least 3 members of thesis committee
  • Advance to candidacy
  • Collect data for dissertation
  • Journal Submissions
  • Conference Presentations
  • Apply for Dissertation Grant
  • COGS 200 requirement fulfilled
  • Dissertation completed
  • Dissertation defended
  • Conference Presentations
  • Journal Submissions
  • Apply for post-docs, industry jobs, and/or faculty positions

Unacceptable Progress

  • 0-1 quarters of lab rotations or 4
  • 0-1 foundation courses
  • 0-1 Methods Courses
  • 0 TA’ships
  • Math, programming language proficiency not addressed 9 courses towards MS (not including TA)
  • Missing 1 from lab rotations, foundations, methods
  • 2nd year project does not show research potential consistent with continuation in the PhD program
  • Missing 3 issues
  • Any course requirements unfilled (except COGS 200)
  • Not having an advisor or one internal plus one external member who serve as co-advisors on dissertation research
  • Not having a plan for the dissertation
  • Lose contact with advisor/committee

Special Events

The Department enhances student-faculty interaction and current awareness of active research issues by means of special events, which include:

  • Lectures by invited speakers or faculty members.
  • A full day of faculty/student overview and information at the start of each year, with emphasis on ongoing research activity.
  • Presentations of second-year research projects to the entire faculty at the end of each year.
  • Final defense of the dissertation accompanied by a public lecture and celebration.

Time Limits to Ph.D.

Students must be advanced to candidacy by the end of spring quarter of their fourth year. Total university support cannot exceed seven years. Total registered time at UCSD cannot exceed eight years.

Financial Aid

Financial support is available to qualified students in the form of fellowships, loans, and assistantships.

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