Skip to main content

Graduate Program

Student Perspectives

Students in our PhD program come from a range of backgrounds and work in an array of domains within the brain and cognitive sciences, but all seek to understand behavior and how it depends on underlying mechanisms.

You can learn more about our body of outstanding students by browsing their web pages. To make it easier to appreciate the variety of students' backgrounds and interests, we offer snapshots of students who are at different stages in their careers, who came to the program with different backgrounds and expectations, and whose research falls in different parts of our domain.

Student Snapshot

Sam Cheyette is a second year graduate student working with Steve Piantadosi. Sam went to Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh for undergraduate, where he became interested in using statistical and computational methods to study the mind.

"Two professors at CMU independently recommended University of Rochester as an excellent place to continue my studies. I understood why when I visited BCS: not only are the faculty, post-docs, and graduate students outstanding researchers, they share a collaborative mindset to research that makes the department vibrant and exciting. It’s buzzing from the exchange of ideas between people of hugely varying backgrounds.

In general, the separation between disciplines, labs, and advisors is extremely loose here, something I greatly appreciate. For example, in our weekly lab meetings, we will often have researchers from two or three other labs join us. I have been able to pursue research opportunities with two professors other than my advisor in my first year alone. BCS is truly an outstanding place to study the mind and brain."

Ben Chernoff is a third-year graduate student working under Brad Mahon and studying the neural correlates of semantic and lexical access. He’s interested in the causal role of connectivity in neurobiological models of speech production, and how neuropsychological impairments that occur with diaschisis can eventually inform existing models of normal cognition. He uses structural and functional MRI as well as neuropsychological assessment to longitudinally study neurosurgery patients- before, during, and after their surgery. Ben came to Rochester after earning a BA in psychology from George Washington University in Washington, DC.

"I studied visual expertise as an undergraduate student and became interested in conceptual representations, which was what originally inspired me to apply. It was the opportunities that were available in Dr. Mahon’s lab and here in the brain and cognitive science department that really excited me about coming here. Having the opportunity to not only work with multiple neuroimaging modalities, but also to gain experience working with patients and designing experiments that can be taken out of the lab and into the operating room made me realize that I would come out of graduate school here with a comprehensive skillset that would position me to succeed. Our lab’s collaboration with the department of neurosurgery was another big factor in my decision to enroll here. In Dr. Mahon’s lab, the environment is very conducive to gaining new skills and building independent research, but also receiving guidance and feedback when you need it. I feel like that is the best kind of lab environment to be a graduate student in- both when you are new and also later on.

When I visited the department to interview, I was impressed by how much the graduate students and faculty seemed to care. It seemed like people were genuinely interested in prospective students, rather than showing up because they had to. That stuck me, especially in comparison to other interviews I had. This feeling continued into my time here, where I often notice the effort that people all over the department put into fostering collaboration and new opportunities. I feel like multiple faculty members are advisors for me, not necessarily just for my research, but also for professional development and guidance in general. From that kind of general support to specific research opportunities, and from research funding to a generous stipend, I feel like this program offers everything that I was looking for when I was considering graduate school.”

Shirlene Wade is a fourth-year graduate student studying learning and development with Celeste Kidd. She came to Rochester after earning a BA in psychology and linguistics from the University of California, San Diego.

“Coming from California, I had no idea I’d end up in Rochester, New York, for graduate school. I initially considered the BCS program because it had a strong reputation as a graduate program and I had overlapping interests with many faculty members. It wasn’t until I attended the prospective weekend that I realized how much the BCS program embodied all of the qualities I looked for in a graduate program: invested faculty; a supportive and collaborative research environment; and successful alumni in academia.

The BCS department was a tight-knit group of highly motivated students and faculty members. By the end of the prospective weekend, there was no doubt in my mind that I would attend U of R. Since coming to Rochester, I have been working on multiple projects with an incredibly supportive advisor. On my graduate stipend, I can afford to live in my own one-bedroom apartment that is a quick shuttle ride from campus!"

Nicole Peltier is a fifth-year graduate student under Greg DeAngelis.

“I studied brain and cognitive sciences as an undergrad at the University of Rochester, and I decided to stay in Rochester for my PhD because my professors were so passionate about their research. They enthusiastically engaged in discussions with students about new research questions and how to explore them, encouraging them to pursue independent research projects. I had the chance to learn a number of research techniques with different professors, a unique opportunity that my friends did not have in other departments and at other universities. I knew that staying in Rochester for graduate school would provide me with the support I needed to develop into a successful researcher.

In my time as a graduate student, it has been clear that the BCS program at U of R builds well-rounded academics. Faculty members encourage students to collaborate with other academics and embark upon interdisciplinary research projects. There are always opportunities to learn outside of the classroom and lab, including lunch talks, symposia, and cognitive science dinners. While learning to be independent researchers, students take a grant writing course so that they will be able to fund their own research in the future. Rochester provides a truly enriching environment to develop the tools needed to flourish in academia, and I am excited to see where these skills take me.”