Big Brain Brotherhood: Cognitive Science Association | New university


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The UCI Cognitive Science Association (CSA) was founded by cognitive science alumnus Angelina Quagletti with just three board members and a single mission in the summer of 2019.

“[The founding members] I felt like there wasn’t enough community within the current majors in cognitive science, and we were kind of left in the dark, ”said Tommie Huynh, current ASC president and third year student in cognitive science. “It was difficult to navigate the courses and the major because it’s a fairly small major.”

According to Huynh, these challenges stem from the ambiguous and interdisciplinary nature of cognitive science.

“Academia hasn’t really defined it yet,” Huynh said.

Huynh described cognitive science as being based on five academic pillars: computer science and artificial intelligence; neuroscience; psychology; linguistic; and philosophy. With such a wide range of studies, students in the program may find it difficult to pinpoint their interests and where to go.

“[Quagletti] wanted more of a peer support network, ”Huynh said. “We can help you with advice on graduate studies… and [help with] CV and volunteer opportunities.

In addition to extracurricular and professional support, the ASC also provides academic resources to its members. One event is ‘Course in Cognitive Science’, where students learn more about the Cognitive Science program and chat with students who have already taken the course.

With such an interdisciplinary subject, crossovers are inevitable and celebrated. Even though CSA is focused on creating a welcoming base for cognitive science students, Huynh said the organization is open to everyone.

“I think if you like cognitive science, it doesn’t matter what specialty you’re in. We’re not gatekeepers, you know,” Huynh said.

For example, the domain exhibits close collaboration with IT.

“They use our theories that we derive from cognitive science, but computer science executes them and implements them,” Huynh said. “We can apply their code that they create in our experiments to study human behavior.”

Many of the unions between cognitive science and related disciplines are most evidently seen in the laboratory, which is the cornerstone of the cognitive science curriculum.

The CSA held its first major in-person function, the “Research Participation Event” on October 7th. President Gloria Cheng, third year cognitive science student. The presentation, which featured Professor Ramesh Srinivasan, director of the major’s department, undergraduate director Dr Michael Lee and six student panelists, gave insider tips on how students might get into a research lab and what they could get out of it.

The ASC is a tight-knit unit that works together to ensure that students and their peers are successful. In the spring of 2021, ASC students came together to make their voices heard against the Cognitive Sciences Department’s curriculum requirement B-minus for compulsory courses.

The UCI course policy states that students can retake courses in which they obtain a C-minus or less. However, this posed a major problem when combined with ministerial policy.

If cognitive science majors got a C or C-plus in a compulsory course, they could not retake the course because it violated university policy. Students were completely excluded from the cognitive science major if they were unable to reach the B minus threshold.

The policy had a tough loophole that allowed students to deliberately fail classes in order to retake them and stay in the cognitive science major.

“It was unnecessary,” Huynh said. “It’s not something you want in academia. You want someone to try their hardest, most honest and fair job.

Thanks to unification, petitions and testimonials from ASC students, the B minus policy has been rescinded as of fall 2021. Cognitive science students are no longer required to earn a C or higher only to pass the required courses, which aligns with campus-wide policy.

“I think it was a direct consequence of what [the] The Cognitive Sciences Association did it. I really loved it in the cognitive science major: we did it, all student-based. We saw the results, and it made me feel empowered, ”said Huynh.

Lauren Le is a STEM intern for the fall 2021 term. She can be reached at [email protected]

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