Apr 17, 2024  
Rensselaer Catalog 2021-2022 
Rensselaer Catalog 2021-2022 [Archived Catalog]

Cognitive Science Ph.D.

Return to {$returnto_text} Return to: Programs

The doctoral program in Cognitive Science trains the next generation of world-class cognitive scientists to make seminal contributions to the field. Cognitive Science is a multidisciplinary field – which means that various parent disciplines such as computer science, psychology, analytic philosophy, or linguistics (to name just four) view parts of what they do as “cognitive science.” However, all research in the department emphasizes the use of quantitative methods from mathematics, experimental design and analysis, statistics, analytic logic, computational linguistics, or other formal methods.

Our faculty and our students are known for their work in the following areas:

  • Advanced Synthetic Characters
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Cognitive Psychology, Cognitive Engineering, and Human Factors
  • Cognitive Robotics and Joint Action
  • Computational and Statistical Cognitive Modeling
  • Computational Linguistics
  • Human and Machine Reasoning
  • Perception and Action

Because of our multidisciplinarity we do not have qualifying examinations as is traditional for other programs; rather, students become engaged in research in one or more of our areas from the beginning of their first semester. Students work closely with individual faculty as well as teams of faculty, post-docs, and graduate students who share their research passions. The department has excellent research facilities, such as eye tracking equipment, an array of robotics equipment, and a large-scale immersive virtual environment lab. The department also emphasizes the development of communication skills such as writing and publishing of conference and journal papers, as well as the spoken and visual presentation of talks to various professional audiences.

Outcomes of the Graduate Curriculum

Students who successfully complete this program will be able to:

  • demonstrate knowledge and familiarity with theory and content of Cognitive Science, including computational models of human cognition, artificial intelligence, and cognitive agent environment interactions.
  • apply advanced Cognitive Science research methods to research design, data analysis, and data interpretation, including statistical evaluation and logical and mathematical analysis of complex problems.
  • demonstrate ability to program in production of cognitive science systems so as to demonstrate novel application and original contribution to the field of Cognitive Science.
  • communicate results of original research effectively to a variety of audiences via a variety of media.

Graduation Requirements

  • Seventy-two (72) credit hours beyond the bachelor’s degree or 48 credits beyond a prior MS, including at least 12 course credits and at least 24 research credits.
  • At least two-thirds of the total credit hours, excluding dissertation credits, must contain the course numbers 6000-7999.
  • Annual writing. Refer to Cognitive Science Graduate Program Guide for details.
  • Continuous research. Refer to Cognitive Science Graduate Program Guide for details.
  • Annual presentation at the Wednesday speaker series. Refer to Cognitive Science Graduate Program Guide for details.
  • Successful completion of the Research Qualifying Exam (RQE), Candidacy Exam, and Dissertation Defense.
  • For students admitted without a prior master’s degree, the faculty advisor may recommend or require the completion of a Master’s Thesis/degree.
  • Individual course requirements can be waived or substituted - in exceptional circumstances - by the Department without decreasing the total number of credits required for the degree.



  • COGS 6960 - Research Problems in Cognitive Science Credit Hours: 2
    • To be taken every semester
  • COGS 6960 - Professional Seminar Credit Hours: 4
    • Typically taken in the fall of year 1 [see footnote 1]
  • ARTS 9990 - Dissertation Credit Hours: Variable, minimum:1/no maximum
    • Typically taken every semester after successful completion of the Research Qualifying Exam


  • 4000- or 6000-level Electives & Independent Studies [see footnotes 2 & 3]
    • To be taken any semester


  1. Can be delayed by permission of the Graduate Program Director and consent of the student’s advisor.
  2. No more than 15 credits at the 4000-level are to be allowed. Additionally, credit(s) from 1000- and 2000-level coursework cannot be applied to the Plan of Study.
  3. All course selections must be made in consultation with the Faculty advisor.

Return to {$returnto_text} Return to: Programs