UC Merced Graduate Studies: Cognitive and Information Sciences

UC Merced Graduate Studies: Cognitive and Information Sciences


Cognitive science is the study of the mind
seen as a kind of information processing device. So it integrates psychology, philosophy, computer
science, anthropology — so lots of different disciplines. It’s very natural for UC Merced,
which is an interdisciplinary campus. The PhD program in Cognitive and Information
Science at UC Merced primarily focuses on training in research and cognitive science
being an interdisciplinary program. Students are expected to develop a wide variety of
skills that will cut across a variety of different disciplines. I studied social distances so I study how
people conceptualize social relationships in terms of space. Currently what I’m working on is you know
some projects involving semantics, mainly network approaches to semantics, how we can use data
from like Wikipedia to understand memory, semantic memory as well as playing with a
lot of you know cool low price toys to EEG, motion tracking, other work like that. I study interpersonal synchrony or alignment,
which is the study of people as they’re interacting grow to have similar behavior and cognition
and emotion. So I went to Stanford University for undergraduate
and Master’s. I study math cognition and math learning and metacognition. I look at how
students gauge how much they know mathematics and how it guides their study time which also
affects their performance later in the classroom. In this particular program, students might
acquire computational training, training in large-scale data analysis, there will be training
in experimental methods and methods in linguistics and observational methods, and really the
program can become catered to the specific interest of the graduate student. So here at UC Merced, it’s a very flexible
program and in none other have I heard that you can just walk up to a faculty member’s
door and just start up a conversation, get some help with a project or just start a collaboration
with them. It’s so open ended, you get to pick and choose
the classes that are going to end up helping you, where you need to go. There are a few
required courses that are great breath courses, after those you get to say, oh well this programing
class really fit with my research interests and it’s great because it affords you this
opportunity to weave in your research interests with the courses that you’re doing. The cognitive scientists in this group are
so excited about cross-disciplinary research that they will encourage students to independently
seek out new opportunities to do new cutting-edge research in collaboration with engineers or
potentially, even going on already with molecular biologists who use novel advanced bioinformatics
techniques. Creating brand new kinds of collaborations between folks, and this is something that
is really in the spirit of UC Merced. You get a lot of one on one time with your
PI, and so that can help you tremendously when you’re in your dissertation stage and
looking for jobs later. They may also get actively involved in the
graduate community here, primarily in the form of attending interesting talks, giving
presentations and things like that, but the program really is focused on developing a
student’s own independent line of academic research. I get the impression that they view us, not
as a student per se but as a future colleague, so they’re investing in us because they’re
investing in, you know, in our career, but also in the future of the field. You also have a community that you can turn
to for help so you’re not really ever alone. Obviously you need a break from work every
once in a while, and Merced does offer opportunities to take those breaks. We are pretty centrally
located for being in Northern California so you are a couple hours from a lot of different
places. You are two hours from Yosemite, couple hours from the Bay Area, couple hours from
Santa Cruz, couple hours from Sacramento. And I love that all that is so accessible,
but at the same time I’m able to be a little bit removed that and focus on my studies.
I’m able to, you know, put in my time at work and take care of my work the way I need to
and then just the same, it’s Saturday and I’ve been busy all week I just want to, you know,
go wine tasting in Napa and have amazing food, it’s just incredible and I love that opportunity. It’s a, it’s just a very tight-knit, close
community, everybody really gets along together well, we’re very close amongst one another,
with the grad students, and we have really world-class research so it’s an opportunity
to pursue, you know, world-class research in a very intimate setting.

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