What is cognitive science?
Cognitive science is the study of the mind, of how we come to know the world and how we use that knowledge. Cognitive scientists use theories and methods drawn from many disciplines including cognitive psychology, neuroscience, philosophy of mind, linguistics, computer science, artificial intelligence, physics, mathematics, biology, and anthropology. They ask questions such as: How do people acquire language? What are the neural bases of perceiving, learning, and remembering? What is the nature of knowledge? Can machines think? How do experts differ from novices? Are there innate ideas? How did human intelligence evolve?
What is special about cognitive science at GU?
Focus on research experience. We encourage students to learn about and work on faculty research projects. For example, in our spring core course (ICOS-202) students spend time in faculty laboratories, during which they read about, discuss, and experience first-hand the research projects underway at Georgetown. In addition, Cognitive Science minors may choose to conduct a senior thesis in Cognitive Science, working with a faculty member who agrees to supervise the research.
Faculty from the Main Campus, the Medical Center and the Law Center. Our program involves faculty from several main campus departments (including Biology, Computer Science, Linguistics, Mathematics, Philosophy, Physics, and Psychology) and from the Medical Center (including Neurology, Neuroscience, Pediatrics, Pharmacology, and Psychiatry). We also maintain close ties with Georgetown’s Interdisciplinary Program in Neuroscience (IPN), a Ph.D. program based in the Medical Center. A number of our faculty are closely involved in work on language acquisition. We help students to take advantage of the exciting research being conducted on the three campuses at the University. In our spring core course, students visit laboratories, and when students opt to do theses, they may work with faculty.
Team-taught core courses. Both of our core courses are team-taught and interdisciplinary, so that students get to meet professors and students from a range of departments. This offers the chance to experience an unusually large range of perspectives and disciplines, all in a single course. For this reason, our core courses can help students to choose a major during their first years at Georgetown or to widen their horizons in their later years.
Focus on connecting graduate and undergraduate students. We believe that undergraduate and graduate students benefit and learn from each other, and our program works to facilitate such encounters. For example, we offer a course entitled Drugs, the Brain, and Behavior, which was created by a group of Ph.D. students from GU’s Interdisciplinary Program in Neuroscience. Undergraduates who take the course get to learn about brain disorders from advanced Ph.D. students who are doing their dissertation work on these topics, and so our undergraduates see neuroscience from the perspective of eager young scientists. We also have a growing list of GU graduate students who are eager to act as advisors, mentors, or contact people for our undergraduates who are thinking about careers and graduate school.
Bridging the sciences and humanities. Cognitive science is a scientific enterprise, but it has strong ties with the humanities, especially with philosophy, and so our minor and our courses help to bring these approaches together.
Enhancing a premed program. Our minor works well for pre-med students. Many of the science courses pre-meds take can be counted toward the minor. Our minor offers a venue for bringing these various disciplines together, as well as an opportunity to meet a group of students from several majors, all of whom are interested in the mind and human cognition.