Cognitive Science Distinguished Majors Class of 2022

Student  Mentor Affiliate School(s)/ Department
Ian Adoremos John Van Horn College of Arts and Sciences (Psychology) and Data Science
Pranusha Amancherla Heather Ferris School of Medicine
Carolyn Bennett Jacob Resch School of Education
Mary Byron Wendy Lynch School of Medicine
Avery Dahl Megan Puglia School of Medicine & Center For Healthy Brain
Zuhaad Hameed Xiaorong Liu College of Arts and Sciences (Psychology and Biology) and SOM
Natalie Homnyom Panagiotis Apostolellis School of Engineering and Applied Science (Computer Science)
Leah Kiely Dan Meliza College of Arts and Sciences (Psychology) 
Emily Leventhal Bethany Teachman College of Arts and Sciences (Psychology) 
Carlos Rodriguez Xiaorong Liu College of Arts and Sciences (Psychology and Biology) and SOM
Meg Smith Xiaowei Lu School of Medicine

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.


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.

How to Apply

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.

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 graduation. Fall graduates should submit their applications by October 31st of the year prior to graduation. (These are not currently hard deadlines due to COVID 19) 

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.


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.

Research Experience

Participation in research is highly encouraged for undergraduates in Cognitive Science. You can find links to different research opportunities below. The course work required for the major provides you with exposure to all of the areas of Cognitive Science, and research should enhance that experience rather than replace it. While research experience is very important to your education, it does not count towards your 30 credit hours for completion of the major.

Psychological Research Labs across UVa Grounds

Undergraduate Student Opportunities in Academic Research (USOAR)

UNLEASH Undergraduate Research Program