University of Rochester

Graduate Program

Ranked among elite Cognitive Science and Psychology programs.

According to the most recent National Research Council rankings, the graduate program in Brain and Cognitive Sciences at the University of Rochester is ranked as high as 4th nationally among 236 PhD programs in Cognitive Science and Psychology (based on both the S-range and R-range measures). The BCS faculty ranked as high as 3rd nationally for research according to the Faculty Research Activity measure. The complete ranking information can be found at A sortable list of rankings can be found here.

Our Approach

Graduate education is a central part of academic life in the department. All of our faculty are invested in research structured to include graduate students as essential partners. Graduate students in the department are our junior colleagues and future peers—people who enrich our academic lives as much as we enrich theirs—and we commit a great deal to their training.

The essence of our graduate program is training for research in the disciplines that constitute the brain and cognitive sciences. Initially a student's research is likely to be undertaken with close guidance from a member of the faculty, but we expect and encourage students to develop rapidly into independent researchers, and to become major contributors to the intellectual life of the department.

We attach great importance to the collegiality of contact among graduate students, post-doctoral fellows and faculty, and the department fosters this by encouraging students to work with several faculty members, concurrently or sequentially, and with one another.

We also value the public discussion of our science, and through a range of research meetings, colloquia, and lecture series sponsored by the department and other associated centers, students and faculty are regularly brought together. We encourage students to discuss their work in the larger scientific community, and the department supports students' attendance at scientific meetings.

Research Approaches
Research Areas

Our PhD Program

The continued growth of the brain and cognitive sciences results in large part from their capacity to draw on techniques and inspiration from a range of disciplines. The domain is quintessentially interdisciplinary. For this reason our doctoral program emphasizes training in the range of research methods that drive the field.

While our focus is on behavior and the brain activity that underlies it, we encourage students to undertake projects in several laboratories that use different research methods, and we provide courses that introduce students to the range of methods we use (see below).

At the same time, we do not expect students to master all domains, and we recognize that disciplinary specialization is necessary and desirable, so we try to ensure that while all become familiar with a range of methods, each develops real expertise in those that best serve the chosen field of specialization.

In providing a program that is both broad and deep, we draw not only on our own resources but also on those of associated research centers and departments. It is not uncommon for graduate students seeking to understand particular aspects of behavior to undertake projects with faculty and students from outside the department. Conversely, our faculty often work closely with graduate students from other programs and departments. This fluidity of our program is one of its greatest strengths, and we work hard to maintain it.

Although research training is paramount, we recognize that we are training future academics, many of whom will combine teaching with research. All graduate students therefore also undertake some teaching, usually as assistants to faculty in lecture or laboratory courses.

Note: The department does not offer a program leading to a master's degree.