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Interdisciplinary Ph.D. Program

Relationship between Department and Program

There are two Ph.D. Programs in Cognitive Science at UCSD: One given by the Department of Cognitive Science and one given by the Interdisciplinary Ph.D. Program in Cognitive Science. The two Ph.D. programs are cooperative rather than competitive. In fact, both programs are administered out of the same offices and share staff.

There is no easy rule for which program a student should enroll in. A thesis topic appropriate for one program would also be appropriate for the other program. Students in the Interdisciplinary Program usually choose that program because (among other things) they want to retain a name affiliation with the field of their home department.

The Interdisciplinary Program in Cognitive Science has eight participating departments: Anthropology, Communication, Computer Science and Engineering, Linguistics, Neurosciences, Philosophy, Psychology, and Sociology. Students enroll in one of these departments as their "home department" and also enroll in the Interdisciplinary Program. The degree lists both the home department and Cognitive Science; for example, if the home department is Anthropology, the degree title is "Ph.D. in Anthropology and Cognitive Science." For students in the Department of Cognitive Science the Degree reads "Ph.D. in Cognitive Science."


Most of the day to day business of the Program is carried out by the Instructional Advisory Committee and the Director. Additions of new faculty to the Group are voted on by the entire Group. Changes in curriculum must be approved by the Instructional Advisory Committee and by the Graduate Council of UCSD. Major changes are normally voted on by the entire Group. Some changes require approval of the home departments.

Interdisciplinary Program Director

If you have questions about the Interdisciplinary Program, please contact:

Gary Cottrell, Director
Interdisciplinary Program in Cognitive Science
University of California, San Diego
Computer Science 0404
9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla, CA 92093
Telephone: (858) 534-6640

Graduate Staff Advisor

Admission applications can be obtained from the graduate staff advisor in the Cognitive Science Department.
Telephone: (858) 246-5375

Admission to the Program

Students enter UCSD through admission to one of the affiliated departments, which then serves as their home department, and which specifies their primary specialization. The affiliated departments are anthropology, communication, computer science and engineering, linguistics, neurosciences, philosophy, psychology, and sociology. Students may apply for admission to the interdisciplinary program anytime after entering UCSD, typically in the second or third year. Students must have an advisor from their home department who is a member of the interdisciplinary grogram faculty. If a student does not have such an adviser, a member of the instructional Advisory Committee will be appointee as interim adviser. The Instructional Advisory Committee is made up of one interdisciplinary program faculty person from each of the home departments. The committee member that will serve as interim adviser for a student will come from the same home department as the student.

Note: Admission to the interdisciplinary Ph.D. program is contingent upon applying to and being accepted in a home department.

IDP Application: Please email for the application.

Terminological note:

* In this document the Group in Cognitive Science (i.e., the faculty body), is referred to as the "Group" and the Interdisciplinary PhD Program in Cognitive Science itself is referred to as the "Program."

Areas of Study

1. Primary Area of Study

The primary area of study is accomplished through the home department. Students are expected to remain in good academic standing and complete the requirements of their home departments. Students must satisfy all the requirements for the Ph.D. imposed by their home department, unless the home department choose to offer Program students an alternative. Some departments have chosen to allow Program students to use a different set of department requirements than other Ph.D. students in the same department, but this prerogative rests with the home department.


2. Secondary Area of Study

All students in the program must have a Secondary Area of Specialization which is distinct from their main research area.  This consists of 6 courses from outside the home department, taken for a letter grade, or 1 year in someone’s lab outside the home department, or a mix of the two. This is in the student’s secondary specialty, and is designed by the student and his or her advisor, with the approval of the IDP Executive Committee.


3. Effective Fall 2020  Core Courses 

Two out of the three graduate introductory Cognitive Science courses: COGS 201, 202,
203, taken for a grade.


4. Updated: Effective Fall 2020  Cognitive Science 200 

Students in the Program are required to enroll for credit in three quarters of Cognitive Science 200. This need not be for a grade; in fact, Cognitive Science 200 usually is offered S/U only. In some case other courses may be substituted for up to two quarters of Cognitive Science 200. Check with the Cognitive Science Office for details.