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What is Research?

The definition of research provided below on the Citizen Scholar website aligns with how we approach research within Cognitive Science.

What is research?

We use this term to encompass academic research and creative inquiry, which are active experiences of discovery. Everyone who pursues research will have a unique experience. Research can include numerous types of activities including: background reading and inquiry, formulating questions, developing and using methodologies, analyzing data, creating works of art, communicating new knowledge, or otherwise contributing to a field of study. These are just a few of the more common facets of research, and depending on a number of factors, your experience may include one (or more) pieces of the research ecosystem just described.

Another important part of research are the people with whom you work. Students work under the direction of a mentor, who advise and guide them through the research or creative process. Some experiences include collaboration with peers, graduate students, staff, or members of a community. Strong researchers possess curiosity, purpose, initiative, sincerity, professionalism, and an openness to serendipity.

Intangible Benefits of Research

While you can (and should) expect to learn new material under the guidance of a mentor, you’ll also learn a lot about yourself. Your interests and direction may change, and your engagement in research can help you clarify what it is you ultimately want to pursue. Whether you end up in a research-based profession or not, you will walk away from your experience more prepared to work with others and with a better understanding of yourself than before you began.

Prepare for Research

Did you know that you can start learning research skills before finding a mentor? Visit the Learning Resources available from the UVA Library to access tutorials like finding and using published works, thinking like a scholar, and starting the research process. These are found under the Do research heading, and they are free and accessible to you anytime.

COGS Distinguished Majors Class 2023






Affiliate School




Ashley Ban

Xiaorong Liu

College of Arts and Sciences




Natalie Baumeister

Jazmin Brown-Iannuzzi

College of Arts and Sciences




Kaitlyn Cheng

Jayakrishna Ambati

School of Medicine




Madeline Ford

Meghan Puglia

School of Medicine




Victoria Kim

Elise Cope

School of Medicine




Sabrina Lee

Elise Cope

School of Medicine




Madelyn Nance

Meghan Puglia

School of Medicine




Madelynn Park

Kevin Pelphrey

School of Medicine




Caroline Raymond

James Morris

College of Arts and Sciences




Shivani Reddy

Michelle Bland

School of Medicine




Jason Yu

Per Sederberg

College of Arts and Sciences




The students listed above have all shown exceptional promise in their major field of study and have the required 3.400 cumulative and major GPA. DMPS  complete a thesis based on two semesters of empirical or theoretical research. Upon successful completion of the program, students will be recommended for a baccalaureate award of Distinction, High Distinction, or Highest Distinction.

Process for the COGS Distinguished Majors Program

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DMP Requirements

Students applying to the Distinguished Major Program must have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.4 and have completed 18 credit hours towards their Cognitive Science major by the end of the semester in which they apply. Students wishing to do an empirical study with humans, requiring data collection and analysis, need to take PSYC 2005, or provide some other proof that they can analyze their data. In addition to the major requirements for Cognitive Science, students must register for two semesters of supervised research in COGS 4970 and COGS 4980: Distinguished Major Thesis. DMPS for the current academic year will sign up for COGS 4970 with Per Sederberg. Students admitted to the DMP will continue their supervised research with labs and mentors designated on their applicaions. Based on their independent research, students must complete a thesis at least one month prior to graduation. Please note: The DMP credits do not apply towards the 30 credit hours required for the major.

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How to Apply to the COGS DMP

1) Decide on a project.
Before applying to the DMP, students should decide what project they would like to complete in the program. They should compose a general description of the project, including what type of research they will complete (empirical or literature review) and what the final product will be (thesis or review paper). The project proposal need not be very detailed as long as the essential elements are included.

2) Enlist a faculty advisor and second reader.
Next, students must secure a faculty advisor and reader for the DMP project. These should be selected from the Cognitive Science faculty (those faculty members from the five areas of Cognitive Science who teach courses for the Cognitive Science program) or some other faculty members who are specifically suited for advising the project. The selected faculty should sign the application form after approving the project proposal. 

The advisor and reader should be in different areas of Cognitive Science.  For example, if the student's advisor is in the Neuroscience area, the reader may be in the Cognitive Psychology, Computer Science, Linguistics or Philosophy area. A third reader may be brought in from the same field as the advisor if it would be beneficial to do so (e.g., for a highly specific thesis topic that would be most thoroughly understood by someone in that field).

3) Complete and submit the Distinguished Majors Program Application Form
Submit the application with the project proposal to the Cognitive Science Program electronically to Notification regarding acceptances will follow program review of the proposals.

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When to Apply

Students usually apply by the third semester prior to graduation. Spring graduates should submit applications by May 31st if possible of the year before graduationFall graduates should submit their applications by October 31st of the year prior to graduation. (These are not currently hard deadlines due to COVID 19) 

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DMP Procedure

Upon acceptance to the program, candidates should register for COGS 4970 for the first semester of participation. Students should then register for COGS 4980 for the second semester of participation.  Distinguished Major candidates should arrange to meet regularly with their mentor during both semesters to obtain guidance with their work and feedback on their progress. By the last day of final exams of the fall semester, students may prepare a progress report and discuss the report with their mentors. Early in the second semester, DMP candidates will be asked to share their projects with their fellow candidates and advisors in a formal meeting of COGS 4980.

The thesis must be completed and submitted with an evaluation form to the thesis advisor and reader at least thirty days prior to graduation. Following consideration of the submitted evaluations, Cognitive Science program recommendations for levels of distinction will be sent to the registrar for addition to diplomas.

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Students will usually receive a recommendation for a baccalaureate award of Distinction, High Distinction or Highest Distinction upon successful completion of the Distinguished Major Program. The thesis advisor and second reader will each give an independent rating to the thesis based on the following: 3 = exceptional thesis (in the top 10% of all DMP theses); 2 = very good thesis; 1 = good/acceptable thesis; and 0 = marginal thesis.  The student's GPA will be assigned a value that will be averaged in with the two scores to arrive at the final rating. 

GPA scores are determined as follows: 3 = 3.8 and above; 2 = 3.6-3.79; and 1 = 3.4-3.59. Students who fall below a 3.4 GPA are no longer eligible to be distinguished majors