Computational Cognitive Science Track

This is a specialized track within the PhD program in Cognitive Science.

Admissions Prerequisites

Students entering this track should already have programming and math skills that would allow them to take the basic computation courses (e.g. experience with python or MATLAB, linear algebra, calculus, etc.). Visit the Cognitive Science PhD program admissions web page.


Students in this track will obtain a depth of focus in computational coursework, not achieved in the PhD in Cognitive Science general requirements. Accordingly, some of the breadth coursework has been replaced with basic computational courses, while aiming to retain the spirit of the breadth requirement.

Coursework Requirements

View the Degree Checklist for CCS Track.

Courses may not be double-counted. Each course may only be used to satisfy a single degree requirement, even if it may qualify for more than one requirement.

  • Breadth (3-4 courses): These courses should be offered by the Department of Cognitive Science and they must collectively develop sophistication in both (1) theoretical approaches to cognitive science (e.g. theory in linguistics/psychology) and (2) (human) experimental approaches to cognitive science.
    • At least one course in language area
    • At least one course in vision area
  • Basic computation (3 courses): Examples of courses that apply include Machine learning, Foundations of Neural Network Theory, Bayesian Inference, Mathematical Models of Language, and Data science.
  • Integration (2 courses): Foundations of Cognitive Science and Professional Seminar in Cognitive Science, or Departmental Seminar, or other dept-wide seminar explicitly offered in lieu of these.
  • Responsible Conduct in Research
  • Depth (6-8 courses): Selected in conjunction with adviser(s) to achieve depth and expertise in specific areas of computational cognitive science. Adviser may consult with Director of Graduate Studies. Examples of courses that apply include Natural Language Processing, Probabilistic Models of the Visual Cortex, Events Semantics in Theory and Practice, and Vision as Bayesian Inference.

TA Assignments

  • AS.050.849 Teaching Practicum, 5 semesters. Students register for each term they are assigned to an instructor as a TA. Each instructor has a distinct Teaching Practicum section. Students are not typically expected to TA in their first semester or in the last two semesters of residency (5th year).

Research Papers and Dissertation

Emphasis is placed on producing two research papers prior to writing a dissertation. These two research papers are typically presented at conferences and often lead to separate journal publications. Students are encouraged to incorporate the two research papers into their dissertation.


  • Nov. 1 (2nd year): First Research Paper*^, completion of which marks achievement of an MA within the PhD program
  • May 1 (3rd year): Second Research Paper*^, completion of which signals readiness to discuss a career path with an adviser
  • May 1 (4th year): Dissertation Proposal detailing a significant research project and the methods to be used
  • Aug. 1 (5th year): Graduate Board Oral Exam defending a PhD dissertation that presents an original contribution to some areas of cognitive science in a format approaching publication standards.

*Together, the first two research papers must involve research employing two different methods, supervised by two appropriate faculty members.

^To request a project deadline extension, submit a written request to your adviser(s) and the Director of Graduate Studies. The request should include a proposed new deadline and a narrative explanation of the reasons for the extension and the goals for the new deadline (e.g. what the student will accomplish by the proposed new deadline). This request will become a part of your departmental file.