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Combined Ph.D.


The Joint Ph.D. in Cognitive Science and another discipline gives the student the opportunity to combine thorough training in a field such as psychology, computer science, linguistics, or philosophy with the interdisciplinary perspective of cognitive science. Students in the Joint Ph.D. Program satisfy all of the requirements for a Ph.D. in their "originating discipline" as well as the requirements for the Joint degree that are specific to Cognitive Science. There are no restrictions on what can count as the originating discipline for the Joint Ph.D., and we encourage students applying to departments such as Anthropology, Economics, History and Philosophy of Science, Instructional Systems Technology, Mathematics, Music Theory, Sociology, and Speech and Hearing Sciences to consider the Joint Ph.D. Students whose main goal is to become proficient in a particular content area, such as Language or Reasoning, that is investigated from the perspectives of multiple disciplines, may prefer to apply for the Stand-alone Ph.D. in Cognitive Science, which focuses on a content area rather than on a single discipline.

Admission Requirements

Acceptance into the Joint Cognitive Science Ph.D. Program is contingent on admission into the originating degree-granting program. Students must apply to the originating degree-granting program informing that department that they also intend to pursue the Joint Cognitive Science Ph.D. The student is required to make such a request prior to their qualification exams. There is no separate admission process through the Cognitive Science Program. Students will need to fill out the ‘Information/Application Form’ and return the completed form to: Cognitive Science Program office, Eigenmann Rm. 819.

Certificates in Cognitive Science

The Cognitive Science Program is extremely broad, ranging from psychology to business to anthropology to computer science, to name just a few. Students may elect to focus on an area or areas within the broad range of Cognitive Science.

Certificates are open to students upon request; certificates are not required for the Joint Ph.D. degree. The student will inform the Cognitive Science office, the student's Cognitive Science Advisor, and the Certificate Director of an intent to pursue a certificate.

Currently five certificates are offered:

  • Certificate in Language and Speech
  • Certificate in Logic, Language, and Computation
  • Certificate in Modeling in Cognitive Science
  • Certificate in Dynamical Systems in Cognitive Science
  • Certificate in Human-Computer Interaction


Students holding bachelors or more advanced degrees are eligible for admission to the Joint Ph.D. in Cognitive Science.

Applicants should have a strong background in a field relevant to the originating discipline. Strength in the natural sciences, mathematics, and computer science or computer programming and usage is highly desirable.

A research background and strong letters of recommendation are also important determinants of admission.

Degree Requirements

Graduate students in any regular discipline offering a Ph.D. degree, termed the "originating discipline," may earn a Joint Ph.D. in Cognitive Science and the originating discipline by satisfying the requirements given below. The Joint Ph.D. degree is awarded to students who are admitted to the Cognitive Science Graduate Program, have an advisor from the Cognitive Science faculty, fulfill all the requirements for a Ph.D. in an originating discipline, and fulfill in addition the following requirements of the Cognitive Science Program:

  • Coursework - A minimum of 90 credit hours, of which 32 hours must be in courses listed in Cognitive Science or courses cross-listed in Cognitive Science. Coursework must include all of the following core courses:

    • Q520 Mathematics & Logic in Cognitive Science (3 credits)

    • Q530 Programming Methods in Cognitive Science (3 credits)

    • Q540 Philosophical Foundations of the Cognitive and Information Sciences (3 credits)

    • Q550 Models in Cognitive Science (3 credits, Q530 and Q560 are pre-requisites)

    • Q551 The Brain and Cognition (3 credits)

    • Q733 Colloquium Series: three semesters at zero credits and one semester at one credit when the required colloquium is given by the student.

    • At least 6 credit hours of breadth coursework NOT in the originating discipline and NOT among the Q-courses or pure research courses (the equivalent of Q799 and Q899). A Q-course which is not cross-listed in any other unit may satisfy the breadth requirement with the approval of the student’s committee.
    • May include a maximum of 6 hours in pure research courses (Q799, Q899, or the equivalent in originating departments)

    Strong encouragement is given to interdisciplinary diversification. Note that courses may count both toward the requirements of Cognitive Science and the originating department.

  • Tool Skills Requirement:
    • Statistics:
      • K300 or K310 Statistical Techniques
      • or equivalent
  • Qualifying Examination - Students must take a qualifying examination under the auspices of an advisory committee. The student's advisory committee must be approved both by the originating discipline and the Cognitive Science Program and contain at least two members of the Cognitive Science faculty, at least one of whom is outside the originating discipline.

    The student may choose either of two options for the qualifying exam:

    • An examination in the originating discipline and a separate comprehensive examination in Cognitive Science (these may be taken at separate times)

    • A joint examination covering relevant areas of both the originating discipline and Cognitive Science, as determined by the advisory committee, and with permission of both the originating discipline and the Cognitive Science Program.

    The examination may be repeated only once.

  • Dissertation - The student needs a dissertation committee, approved both by the originating discipline and the Cognitive Science Program, and containing at least two members from the Cognitive Science faculty, at least one of whom must be outside the originating discipline.

    The dissertation will normally be a single thesis whose content encompasses both the originating discipline and cognitive science. It must be approved by the student's dissertation committee.

  • Final Examination - The public and oral defense of the dissertation will be conducted jointly with the student's originating discipline. Approval by both the originating discipline and Cognitive Science is required for the awarding of the degree.

  • Public Colloquium - The student must give a colloquium as part of the Q733 Colloquium Series, advertised at large to the university community, and covering some aspect of the student's research in cognitive science. The research covered may be from any stage of the student's career, including (but not restricted to) the thesis research.