New Ph.D program begins this weekend
Published: Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, September 12, 2012 09:09
The university on Friday will kick off its new joint Ph.D program in cognitive science with a three-day conference in Cabot Auditorium.
The program’s inaugural conference titled “Language and Representation” will feature 16 presentations from cognitive scientists who work at Tufts, and other institutions.
“It’s a great opportunity to network and have academic discussions,” Matthias Scheutz, director of the cognitive science Ph.D program and associate professor in the Department of Computer Science, said.
Conference speakers will explain their work and point out challenges in cognitive science research that need to be addressed, a rare experience for students, according to Scheutz. Poster sessions will also give students the opportunity to present and receive feedback on their own work.
Almost 200 people are expected to attend this weekend’s conference, according to Scheutz.
Scheutz said that the conference will showcase strengths of the new cognitive science Ph.D program at Tufts, which was approved last year after he spearheaded the proposal along with other faculty members at the Center for Cognitive Studies.
“The program really formalizes what we’ve been doing for a long time,” Ariel Goldberg, assistant professor of psychology and faculty member in the Center for Cognitive Studies, said.
“We have a strong tradition in teaching and doing research in the cognitive sciences, but this is building up a real cognitive science graduate program.”
Students must enroll in the joint cognitive science Ph.D program through the Departments of Child Development, Computer Science or Psychology, Scheutz said.
Degree candidates will be required to take five core courses that address different aspects of cognitive science, such as computer modeling and philosophical foundations, according to Scheutz.
Students must also demonstrate that they have mastered core methodologies of the field.
The Ph.D’s emphasis on multidisciplinary training will allow students to answer questions about the mind from perspectives beyond their own academic discipline, according to Goldberg.
Daniel Dennett, co-director of the Center for Cognitive Studies and professor of philosophy, affirmed the importance of the new program’s multidisciplinary approach, explaining that the field of cognitive science itself has become more interdisciplinary.
“Many of us had been planning this for years,” Dennett said. “When [Scheutz] came on the scene, the process went into high gear.”
The administration was very supportive throughout the process and expressed an interest in an interdisciplinary program of the kind, according to faculty members at the Center for Cognitive Studies.
“You need the right climate, and Tufts is the perfect place for it,” Scheutz said.
“Tufts is small enough, people have an interdisciplinary orientation and they want to collaborate.”
Scheutz hopes that the Departments of Biology, Mathematics, Education and Mechanical Engineering will participate in the program in the future.
“We’re on the map,” Dennett said. “Now we have a real program of our own, which will add to the luster of Boston as a center for cognitive science.”