Western University PsychologyFaculty of Social Science

Cognitive, Developmental and Brain Sciences Program Requirements

Psychology Department Graduate Training Module in Cognitive, Developmental, and Brain Sciences

The new area, called Cognitive, Developmental, and Brain Sciences, merges the Cognition and Behavioural & Cognitive Neuroscience Areas, and the Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience component of the Developmental Area.

1. Members

Faculty: The combined area has approximately 30 faculty members, including those who are less than 100% in psychology (e.g., joint appointments).

Graduate students: Currently ~51 MSc and PhD students are members.

2. Graduate student selection

New graduate students are selected by a faculty supervisor, and admitted contingent upon approval by the department Graduate Selection committee.

The selection process is co-ordinated by the Area Chair (or delegate) in consultation with area members. Concerns about the number of students supervised by individual faculty members will be handled by the Associate Chair (Graduate Affairs) and the Graduate Affairs Committee.  

3. Graduate Advisory Committees

An advisory committee should be formed for each new graduate student (MSc or PhD) by November 1 of their first year in the program. The committee will consist of the supervisor (or co-supervisors) and two other faculty members, with at least one of them having Psychology as the home Department. The committee will meet in the first term of the student’s first year. At this meeting, the student should present his or her plans for thesis work – a broad proposal –the research question that they wish to address, with an idea of their general methodological approach. The committee will meet again by the end of second term of the first year (late April). Students will summarize their research progress, present their goals for the upcoming year, and, through discussion with committee members, a set of specific goals for the summer and broader goals for the following year.

Thereafter, meetings should occur at least once a year. At each committee meeting, the goals set in the previous meeting will be revisited. The student will describe to the committee their progress in meeting those goals, explain why any goals were not met, and describe any additional achievements. The student will also come to the meeting with a proposed set of goals for the upcoming year, which will be discussed by the committee. Following each meeting, the CDBS Advisory Committee Meeting Report Form will be submitted to the Graduate office that summarizes the progress that was made on the previous year’s goals and indicates the goals for the upcoming year. Department progression guidelines will inform the goals that are set.

The committee meeting at the end of the PhD1 year will include a formal proposal component. The student will submit a 5-page written proposal (not including references) to each of their committee members at least 2 weeks prior to the meeting. At the meeting they will give a 15-20 minute presentation on their proposed research. The reason for requiring the PhD proposal early in the program is to facilitate timely progression on this critical component of the PhD.

The members of a student’s advisory committee may also serve on examination and comprehensive committees (described in more detail below). One committee member will serve on the MSc examination committee. One committee member will serve on the PhD Departmental examining committee, and the other on the Senate oral examining committee. The purpose of having an advisory committee member on the student’s comprehensive examining committee is to ensure that the advisory committee is well informed about the student’s performance on comprehensives. This connection between the two committees is expected to be especially beneficial in the event that the student does poorly on their comprehensive exams.

If a student wishes to change any members of their advisory committee, a written request must be submitted to the Area Chair and Associate Chair (Graduate Affairs).

Advisory Committee Yearly Report Form

4. Course Requirements

MSc (3.0 credits)

1.0 credits in research design/statistics. (department requirement)

0.5 credits- Area Pro Seminar

First year students only (MSc or PhD). This seminar course will be led by a course co-ordinator, who will invite different faculty members from the area to talk about an issue in their research field and engage students in a discussion of the topic based on assigned readings. Every faculty member in the area will be expected to participate approximately every other year.

0.5 credits- a graduate course chosen by the student in consultation with their supervisor and/or committee

1.0 credits Seminar/Brownbag  

Students are expected to present their research (or a proposal) once per year, to attend regularly, and to submit feedback on other students’ presentations. The seminar will be one hour per week over the academic year, and is worth 0.5 credits. Students will get specific feedback on their presentation and a pass/fail grade in the course. Faculty will also be expected to attend regularly. Students who complete their MSc research in 1 year can have .5 of this credit waived.

PhD (3.0 credits)

Students who have not completed the statistics/design requirement or the pro-seminar will need to take those.

1.0 credits – two graduate courses chosen by the student in consultation with their supervisor and/or committee.

2.0 credits Seminar/Brownbag  

Students are expected to present their research (or a proposal) once per year, to attend regularly, and to submit feedback on other students’ presentations. The seminar will be one hour per week over the academic year, and is worth 0.5 credits. Students will get specific feedback on their presentation and a pass/fail grade in the course. Faculty will also be expected to attend regularly. Students who complete their PhD research in 3 years can have .5 of these credits waived.

Additional courses may be required by the student's Advisory Committee to prepare the student for the comprehensive examination and/or to provide background for the student's particular area of research.

5. Comprehensive Examinations

Students, in consultation with their advisory committee (which includes their supervisor), will choose the format of their comprehensive exam from one of the options listed below. The topic(s) on which these activities are based must be different from the student’s thesis topic, and will be chosen in consultation with the student’s advisory committee. Once the topic(s) are chosen, and mentors/examiners set, the student will be encouraged to meet regularly with mentors. All options involve both a written component and an oral exam. Comprehensive exams must be completed within one term and by the end of the PhD2 year. The examining committee will be selected by the student’s advisory committee and approved by the Area Chair. The examining committee will consist of three members (not including the supervisor), at least one of whom is a member of the student’s advisory committee, and at least one person who is not on the student’s advisory committee.

Option A.  One topic will be chosen and explored in depth. The format of the written component will be selected from the list below. The student’s examining committee will assign some background readings to get them started. The general expectation is that at least 20 research/review papers will be referenced.

1)    A grant proposal in NSERC format. The proposal must include all components expected for a Discovery Grant application.
2)    A synthetic review paper in the style of Trends in Neuroscience/Trends in Cognitive Sciences.
3)    A detailed critique of an experimental method that discusses the assumptions, strengths, and weaknesses of the method.
4)    The student will read a classic book/major work (published more than 20 years ago) and write a paper discussing the impact that the work has had on subsequent work in the field.
5)    Another written format, involving a similar amount of effort as the above, to be approved by the examining committee.

Option B. Two topics will be chosen. For each topic, the student will have a list of 10-20 readings, selected by the examining committee in consultation with the student. The written component is a take-home exam. The student will be given a choice of two questions for each topic by the examining committee and will be expected to produce a 10 page essay on each topic within 2 weeks.

Grading
Grading is pass/fail, and is based on the quality of the final essay(s) and subsequent oral defense. In the case of an examination with multiple written and/or oral components, the student must pass all components to have passed the exam. In the case of a failing grade on one or more component, the student is given one opportunity to repeat those that were deemed insufficient. The final result (pass/fail) is adjudicated by the examining committee and communicated to the graduate administrator.