Interdisciplinary Programs

Cognitive Science

There are four aspects to graduate study in the Cognitive Science Interdisciplinary Program (IDP): (a) a primary specialization in one of the established disciplines of cognitive science; (b) a secondary specialization in a second field of study; (c) familiarity with general issues in the field and the various approaches taken to these issues by scholars in different disciplines; and (d) an original dissertation project of an interdisciplinary character. The degree itself reflects the interdisciplinary nature, being awarded jointly to the student for studies in the home department and cognitive science. Thus, a student in psychology will have a degree that reads "Ph.D. in Psychology and Cognitive Science".

Primary Specialization

Primary specialization is accomplished through the home department. Students are expected to maintain good standing within their home departments through qualification for candidacy for the Ph.D. degree.

Secondary Specialization

The power of an interdisciplinary graduate training program lies in large measure in its ability to provide the student with the tools of inquiry in more than one discipline. Students in the Cognitive Science Interdisciplinary Program are expected to gain significant expertise in areas of study outside of those covered by their home department. Such expertise can be defined in several ways. The second area might coincide with that of an established discipline, and study within that discipline would be appropriate. Alternatively, the area could be based upon a substantive issue of cognitive science that spans several of the existing disciplines, and study within several departments would be involved. In either case, students work with their advisor and the Instructional Advisory Committee to develop an individual study plan designed to give them this secondary specialization. This requirement takes about a year’s worth of study, and can be fulfilled by taking regular courses, or by spending a significant amount of time performing an individual research project sponsored by a faculty member in a department other than the student’s home department.

Familiarity with General Issues in Cognitive Science

This part of the requirements is fulfilled by enrolling in six quarters of the Cognitive Science 200 seminar, a seminar series that covers different issues of Program faculty interests, depending on the faculty member leading it each quarter. Previous Cognitive Science 200's have covered issues as diverse as Face processing, the History of Cognitive Science, Hemispheric Specialization, and Time and Cognition.


It is expected that the dissertation will draw on both the primary and secondary areas of expertise, combining methodologies and viewpoints from two or more perspectives, and that the dissertation will make a substantive contribution to the field of cognitive science.

Time Limits

Grads enrolled in the Cog Sci Interdisciplinary Program receive a 2 quarter extension to departmental deadlines; please note that support time limit and total registered time limits are assessed at the shorter of the two discipiines. This results in limits of 7 years, instead of 8 as in Psychology.


The program can be summarized in this way: In the first years, basic training within the student's major discipline provided by the individual departments; In the middle years acquisition of secondary specialization and participation in the Cognitive Science Seminar; In the final years, dissertation research on a topic in cognitive science supervised by faculty from the Interdisciplinary Program. Questions regarding this program should be directed to the Graduate Coordinator in Cog Sci.


This is a transdisciplinary graduate specialization in Anthropogeny with the aim of providing graduate students the opportunity to specialize in research and education on explaining the origins of the human phenomenon. The aim is to rectify the absence of existing training programs that provide such a broad and explicitly transdisciplinary approach – spanning the social and natural sciences– and focusing on one of the oldest questions known to humankind, namely, the origins of humans and humanity. This specialization is not a stand-alone program, but aims to provide graduate students who have just embarked on their graduate careers with the opportunity to interact and communicate with peers in radically different disciplines throughout the duration of their PhD projects. Such communication across disciplines from the outset is key to fostering a capacity for interdisciplinary “language” skills and conceptual flexibility.

Admission to the Specialization

The Psychology graduate program will advertise the specialization to those students in our program who have an interest in human origins. Qualifying applicants will have the opportunity to enroll for the Specialization. Please contact the Graduate Coordinator in Psychology for more details. Find out more information about the Anthropogeny specialization.

Specialization Requirements

Students pursuing this Specialization will be required to take a series of courses in addition to research rounds over 4 years of study. It is advised that students begin their coursework in their second year.

  1. Coursework: Introduction to Anthropogeny (BIOM 225) and Advanced Anthropogeny (BIOM 229) are each taken once, in the Winter and Spring of the student's 2nd year. Current Topics in Anthropogeny (BIOM 218) is to be taken every quarter for 4 years.
  2. Research Rounds: Monthly seminars during which all participating students talk about their respective research.

Qualifying Examination

Psychology students in the Anthropogeny Specialization must meet the departmental requirement for advancement to candidacy, including the qualifying paper/exam and dissertation proposal. In addition, students must meet internal deadlines, mentoring provisions, and proposal standards of the Anthropogeny Specialization track.


Ph.D. students must complete a dissertation, which meets all requirements of the home program. In addition, it is expected that the Ph.D. dissertation is broadly related to human origins and will be interdisciplinary in nature.

Time Limits

It is expected that students will retain the same time to degree as students not pursuing this Specialization. Additional course load consists only of two regular courses (two quarters 20 lectures each). The third proposed course takes place only three times a year from Friday noon to Saturday evening.