BS in Cognitive Science
Cognitive science is the scientific study of cognitive phenomena such as reasoning, decision making, memory, learning, language, perception, and action.
This young and emerging interdisciplinary field lies at the intersection of psychology, computer science, and philosophy, and has further important links to neuroscience, linguistics, anthropology, mathematics, biology, and education.
Not only does cognitive science try to understand one of the most complex and fascinating entities in the known universe - the human mind – but cognitive science also tries to understand other kinds of minds, whether they be animal minds, alien minds, or artificial minds. Thus, cognitive science promises to be the next 'basic' science, in line with physics, chemistry, and biology, as much of the research being conducted is aimed at discovering fundamental principles that underlie all minds.
Further, just as the technologies based on physics, chemistry, and biology have had a tremendous impact on our lives, technology based on our understanding of cognitive systems has the potential to profoundly change the way we live and who we are. From using knowledge of human cognition to build 'cognitively ergonomic' tools and environments, to building devices to repair and augment cognitive skills and capacities, to creating artificially intelligent computers and robots, the applications of this discipline are right in line with Rensselaer's slogan: "Why not change the world?".
Finally, the Cognitive Science Department at Rensselaer is perfectly positioned to offer one of the very best degree programs of its kind in the world. While many cognitive science programs in the country have a definite focus on one of the contributing disciplines – whether this be psychology, computer science, philosophy, neuroscience, or linguistics – the cognitive science program at Rensselaer is truly interdisciplinary in that it carefully balances all of the important contributing fields. Moreover, students have ample opportunity to perform undergraduate research in any of the associated laboratories and research groups.
Graduates from our program will have a rich skill set that should allow for a wide spectrum of career paths. By going through an interdisciplinary curriculum that touches on many diverse fields of study, we expect our graduates to clearly and effectively communicate, have excellent critical thinking and reasoning skills, and be able to collect and analyze empirical evidence and data. Graduated students will also be able to generate and test hypotheses, conceptualize and evaluate complex systems, program and use computers, and conduct abstract mathematical analyses. And finally, our graduates will have a unique understanding of the human mind and how human cognition can impact, and be impacted by, its environment. In sum, graduates from our program should be highly skilled and therefore highly marketable.
We foresee graduates from our program entering all areas of employment, whether this be industry, academics, government, or not-for-profit. More specific career fields include the information industry, human factors engineering, artificial intelligence, human performance testing, and education. Specific job titles may vary from professor to psychologist to lawyer, from computer programmer to user interface designer to technical writer, and from systems analyst to human resource manager to consultant.
We also expect a substantial number of the graduates to continue with graduate education, whether this be in a dedicated Cognitive Science graduate program, or a graduate program in Computer Science, Psychology, Philosophy, Neuroscience, Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Human-Computer Interaction, Decision Sciences, Information Technology, Economics, Linguistics, Anthropology, Education, or Law.
The Cognitive Science department has various research labs and research groups that undergraduates can join. In fact, with cognitive science being such a young discipline, it isn't hard for undergraduates to get to the 'frontier' of the field and make worthwhile contributions to the field.
Here are some presentations on the research being done:
More research groups and labs can be found on the Cognitive Science Research Page
Cognitive Science is a new and young field that in many ways is still trying to define itself. It is a field about an exciting topic: the mind, and it has a very rich potential for applications. It is fairly easy to get to the 'frontiers' of the field, but you will have to be motivated to do so. Moreover, it will take sharp, deep, quantitative, qualitative, conceptual, empirical, creative, and critical thinking to be able to get a good handle on some of the most complex entities in the known universe!
As such, the student we are looking for has the following ideal student profile:
- Just a first-rate thinker: top of the class!
- Good with Math and Science: not just good formal and quantitative skills, but also an affinity to conduct empirical research and qualitatively reason over complex and messy real-life data
- Excellent communication skills: being able to organize and express ideas and arguments in a clear and concise way, both orally and written
- Very good critical thinking skills: comfortable challenging ideas and seeking evidence for or against existing theories and beliefs; truth-seeking!
- Great with concepts: being able to generate new concepts and applying existing concepts to new domains
- Curious: asking questions, exploring new ideas, not afraid to explore new waters and take risks, innovative, and creative
- Motivated: engaged and interested in the actual material, not just there for getting a degree and subsequent job; wanting to make a contribution!
Actual application materials for RPI can be found here: RPI Admissions