A special thanks to Eman Tarif for editing and compiling this Professor Spotlight Compilation Video!
Cognitive Modeling with clinical applications
Development of Fairness and Number Concepts
Predicting Human Decision Making using EEG
Drug Addiction and Decision Making
A special thanks to Eman Tarif for editing and compiling this Professor Spotlight Compilation Video!
SSARC provides a Research Guide for walking you through understanding what academic research entails, finding your research interests, learning more about those interests, and talking to professors about working in their lab. The SSARC also offers consultations to answer any remaining questions you have about joining research and contacting professors.
UROP provides advising through both appointments and drop-in hours, on & off-campus research opportunities/scholarships, workshops, and annual undergraduate research symposiums. There are calls for faculty mentored research project/funding proposals in the fall, spring, and summer (the Summer Undergraduate Research Program or SURP).
Honors students need to complete an honors thesis and will have to enroll in a 190, 198, or 199 research course with an advisor. They are advised to meet with faculty advisors early in their first year in order to finalize a research lab to do their research in. In their first year, students get to be introduced to research done on and around campus. In their second year, they are attending seminars that teach them how to complete their thesis and to prepare for symposium presentations.
Participate in a minimum of two quarters of research, which culminates in the production of an honors thesis, creative project, or publication-quality paper. Associate Dean of Campuswide Honors Ted Wright teaches a set of research courses that provides honors students who are not participating in an upper division school or major honors program with extra support during the honors thesis process: University Studies H176A (Fall) and H176C (Spring). [Note: These courses do not replace the required two quarters of research with your thesis advisor.] NOTE* Many Campuswide Honors students choose to participate in upper division school or major honors programs in fulfillment of this requirement.
When speaking with professors, we noticed a common theme: coding, calculus, statistics and experimental psychology knowledge were required skills in many of the cognitive science research labs. Below, we have created a list of classes that can help you gain necessary skills to be successful in most labs, as well as some “teach your own” tips. We would like to emphasize this is a student made resource to summarize commonly heard information, these classes are not required by the Department of Cognitive Sciences, nor the Professors.
Virtually all research labs we have reviewed require some level of coding knowledge in order to create, run, and analyze a variety of experiments. Above all, professors emphasize the ability to understand code, versus mastering the specific language learned in the lab. Coding skills can transfer from one language to another, but you have to be willing to put in the work!
One common coding language is Matlab Programming. In the Department of Cognitive Sciences, students are given the opportunity to take PSYCH 114M - Matlab Programming. If you are unable to take the course for any reason, you could try learning basic Matlab skills at these resources from MIT and Youtube.
Another common coding language is Python. Students are able to take courses I&C SCI 31 - Introduction to Programming and COGS 14P - Python for Cognitive Science and Neuroscience Research. If you are unable to take the course for any reason, you could try learning basic Python skills at either of these resources: Python.org and Youtube.
Having knowledge of Experimental Psychology will give you a strong foundation of basic methodology, technology, and writing techniques used in common research settings. Taking classes in various topics of Psychology can help you gauge your research interests, and decide if you would work well with the professor teaching the course.
Psychology and Cognitive Science Students have the opportunity to take an Experimental Psychology Series: PSYCH 112A - 112C (also known as H111A-C) - Experimental Psychology. The first two quarters focus on understanding and replicating two foundational experiments in psychology: the Stroop task and Flanker task.
Statistics has been suggested in the context of understanding some of the probabilistic formulas that students will encounter while coding. Statistical exposure can happen during the creation of experiments and in analyzing results.
UCI students are given the opportunity to enroll in Stats 7 - Basic Statistics. If you are unable to take the course for any reason, you could try learning basic calculus skills at either of these resources: Udemy and Youtube.
Single variable calculus has been suggested in the context of understanding some of the mathematical formulas that students will encounter while coding. Mathematical exposure can happen during the creation of experiments and in analyzing results.
UCI students are given the opportunity to enroll in Math 2A and Math 2B - Single Variable Calculus. If you are unable to take the course for any reason, you could try learning basic calculus skills at either of these resources: MIT and Paul’s Online Notes.
Learn about the experiences and advice from recent Research Assistants and see if research is right for you!
Before applying to a research lab, review background research on potential labs that you are interested in, so that you may learn and gain the most skills and techniques to apply in your future career. To find more information on each faculty member's research lab in the Department of Cognitive Science, please click on this link: https://www.cogsci.uci.edu/research/index.php.
Openings for research labs vary quarter to quarter, so it’s best to email professors about lab openings prior to when a quarter begins.
Most professors prefer to have students email them to get into a lab, however, please avoid emailing professors during Week 1, as they are in the process of managing their classes. You can also find more information to apply to researcher’s labs via their webpage.
Be aware that some labs may require an application form, a resume, CV form, and/or cover letter, to find out your background on material such as in mathematics and programming, and whether you understand and review their research lab.
Ability to have a flexible schedule as time commitment is very important, and you may experience unexpected meetings, especially during remote learning due to the pandemic of COVID-19.
Typically, RA’s work at a research lab ranges from 8-12 hours per week. Students can enroll their research labs for graded units, and can choose up to 1 - 4 units. Usually students enroll in 4 units, which means 12 hours of work per week, as 1 unit is equivalent to 3 hours of work.
Please keep in mind that faculty members have different requirements of minimum hours per week for RAs to work. For example, in Professor Chernyak's Development of Social Cognition Lab, she requires RAs to work a minimum of 10 hours per week, while Professor Liljeholm's Learning and Decision Neuroscience Lab requires RA’s to work a minimum of 8 hours per week.
Make the most out of your time: try to learn as much as you can, as you will apply what you learn in your future independent projects, including your own research lab, UROP, and experience as a professor.
Ask Questions! It takes time to develop new skills in a research setting, so get as much learning and opportunities through your lab, PI, and research. This will you’re your interests in learning, becoming a respected researcher, and building a stronger connection with your mentor and other networks. Some examples of questions to ask are:
What is the process of getting your research published?
How to build a strong independent lab?
What key ideas do you recommend to receive a grant for a UROP?
What are some opportunities I should apply for graduate school?
Time Management: Make sure you are able to commit to a flexible time schedule, as it’s very important to have a healthy and balanced schedule to balance between work and life. Also, be aware that your researcher may request your presence on different occasions.
“Give yourself a lot of Slack!”: Being an RA might not be easy to grasp at first, as it is a steep learning curve, but don’t worry! You’ll be able to achieve and master your skills and goals throughout the quarter. A helpful tip is to record your protocols and keep it on hand during lab sessions, so you are aware on what to do
Background in Mathematics, such as Statistics and Calculus
Experience in computer programming, such as MATLAB, C/C++, Python, and/or R studio.
Applying coding skills into Excel and Google Sheets for Data Analysis
Social and communication skills for connecting with lab members, PI’s, and researchers.
Flexible time schedule
“Have a look at the Professor’s website and read a couple of articles to see what you find interesting. Almost all professors are very delighted to have students who are genuinely interested in their research and motivated. In terms of reaching out to Professors for research, include a couple of paragraphs, what you are interested in and why, and relevant skills in your email.”
“If you are interested in working with a Professor go to their website, find 3 recent published papers, look and see which are the most interesting to you, and read them and try to understand them. In your email, include what you are interested in.”
“Definitely try emailing the Professor you are interested in working with, and do not get discouraged if you do not hear back immediately. If you do not hear back after a while, try checking in. If you get the opportunity to talk to the Professor, make sure that you understand why you want to join the lab, treat the conversation like an interview, and explain how you can contribute to the lab.”
“Make sure that you have a strong interest in the research conducted in the lab and to include a resume or cover letter when emailing Professors.”
Dear Dr./Professor (name),
My name is (name) and I am a (class year) majoring in (major). I am writing to ask about opportunities for undergraduate research in your lab for the upcoming (term). I looked over your webpage and was really interested in your research around (research topic). I was especially interested in your article “(Article Title),” because it (additional relevant information about the article).
Would it be possible to schedule a day and time to meet and further discuss (research topic) and my possible involvement in the research? My available times are (dates and times). I’ve also attached a copy of my CV/Resume below. Please let me know if you would like me to provide any additional information. I look forward to hearing from you. Sincerely,
Searching for opportunities to become involved in a lab? Here, you can find everything you need to know: professors and lab websites, their research focus, lab openings, how to apply, the skills required, and any supplementary materials requested by the professor.