Starting this fall, the Department of Cognitive and Information Sciences is offering an honors program for undergraduate students.
Each student who is majoring in cognitive science and enrolled in the program will conduct research for a year and produce an honors thesis before they get a bachelor’s of science or arts degrees with the honors designation.
Admission is selective. Students must meet the GPA requirement and have proposed a research project that a current faculty member has approved.
Professor Tyler Marghetis, who helped write the proposal for the new program, said his lab has up to 20 undergraduates and that most labs in the department include undergraduates in their research activities. He has several graduate students, as well, and each of them runs a team of undergraduates to help with research.
“I want to involve undergraduates as much as possible because I think it's a great learning experience for them,” he said.
An official honors program makes the process of and the pathway to getting involved in research much clearer, especially for first-generation students who are interested in research but may not know how to get involved, he said.
“There's an application form and clearly stated criteria and guidelines, so students will know how to get involved in high-level research,” he said. Students don't have to be in the honors program to participate in research, but those who are accepted into the honors program will have the additional opportunity to take their own projects from inception to completion, write a paper at the end, and have the honors designation on their diplomas.
How many students can take the honors program in any given year depends on faculty and lab bandwidth and whether students have the requisite prior knowledge, as some labs conduct research that requires specialized skills, such as computer programming.
Marghetis said the dozen cognitive science faculty share a collective excitement about the new honors program.
“Our undergraduate students do such fantastic research, but often in a really ad hoc way,” Marghetis said. “We see the honors program as a way to amplify and celebrate the work that students are already doing and reward it with an honors designation.”