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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

Chris Bates is an engineer-turned-brain scientist, slated to defend his thesis in 2020. He chose Rochester with the strong encouragement of many well-known researchers at various institutions.

Chris is interested in bridging the gap between artificial intelligence and cognitive science, and Rochester provides valuable resources to develop this focus. Chris, like many current and past lab mates, will obtain a specialization in computer science, making him more competitive on the job market. He was also supported by a multi-department training grant from the National Science Foundation, which has established new coursework, research symposiums, and professional development workshops to foster connections between computer science, data science, cognitive science, and industry.

It is clear that the BCS department has worked hard to design coursework to be helpful, but allow students to focus on their research. Rochester BCS is unique in requiring a grant-writing course, which provides some transparency into a process which is usually opaque to new applicants, yet crucial for any academic career. Students (and even the occasional post-doc) acknowledge that it is hard work, but the payoff is large. The department also offers a first-year seminar with more general, insider academic career advice. Finally, Chris appreciates the peace-of-mind that comes with department-wide, guaranteed five years of funding. Its structure is unique—it puts all students on an equal playing field, requiring students to TA for three classes, regardless of where their funding comes from.

Shirlene Wade is a fifth-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 sixth-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.”