Course Curriculum | Research Requirements | Teaching Experience Requirements | Other Requirements | Time Limit in the Program
Highly Recommended but NOT Required | Receiving an MA Degree | Two Routes to the Dissertation | Calendar

Program in Cognition & Perception: Ph.D. Degree Requirements

The Program course requirement for the Ph.D. is 72 credits, the equivalent of 24 one-semester, three-credit courses. A student must earn at least 30 of these credits - approximately 10 courses - with a letter grade of B (not B-minus) or better. At any given time, to remain in good standing (i.e., not to be on probation) the student is expected to be maintaining an overall grade point average of at least B (3.0) and must have at least 66% of the credits attempted over prior semesters at NYU successfully completed. A student cannot have more than three IPs or Ns (combined) on his/her transcript that are more than 2 semesters old or else the student will not be eligible for any university aid.

Note: Pass/Fail grades do not count as letter grades although they do count for credit. For more details on the grading system, see the Bulletin of the Graduate School of Arts and Science (GSAS).

Students who are supported as Teaching or Research Assistants normally take three courses each semester, typically two content courses and 3 points of predoctoral research credit. In addition, students must attend the Area Seminar in Cognition and Perception (for those students specializing in developmental psychology, the Area Seminar in Developmental Psychology is also required). Finally, the C&P students are expected to attend the "Brown Bag" research meeting that is organized and hosted by them and which provides a forum for their and the faculty's current research strategies, methods and data.

Course Curriculum

There are each worth 3 credits per course unless otherwise noted. Each core course must be earned at a grade of B (not B-minus) to count toward fulfilling the requirements of the C&P Program. Course information can be looked up on the web at various addresses. For Psychology PhD course-listings, click here. For each course we indicate how often it is typically offered (e.g., A=annually, 2-3 = every 2 or 3 years, O = occasionally/rarely, F = in Fall, S = in Spring).

Quantitative Methods

Students are required to take two courses in quantitative methods for research. Most students in our program satisfy one of the two semesters of this requirement with Mathematical Tools for Cognitive Science and Neuroscience. This course covers core mathematical tools used in our field, including linear algebra, probability, estimation, linear systems and Fourier analysis, and includes an introduction to the theory as well as hands-on computation using Matlab. However, with the agreement of your advisor, you may satisfy this requirement with courses from the list below or with other courses available in our department or the graduate departments of Mathematics or Statistics (in the Leonard N. Stern School of Business). Here are some of the courses that might be used to satisfy this requirement:

  • PSYCH-GA.2211 Mathematical Tools for Cognitive Science and Neuroscience (= NEURL-GA.2207) (AF)
  • PSYCH-GA.2228 Intermediate Statistics (Shrout, AF)
  • PSYCH-GA.2229 Regression (Shrout, A-2S)
  • PSYCH-GA.2233 Simulation and Data Analysis (Maloney, 2-3)
  • PSYCH-GA.2236 Linear Systems (Maloney, O)
  • PSYCH-GA.2239 ANOVA (Cohen, AS)
  • PSYCH-GA.2240 Psychophysics (Landy, 2-3)
  • PSYCH-GA.2244 Multivariate Statistical Analysis (Maloney, O)
  • PSYCH-GA.2245 Functional magnetic resonance imaging lab (Heeger, 2F)
  • PSYCH-GA.2247 Advanced Seminar: Structural Equations (Shrout, O)
  • PSYCH-GA.2248 Analysis of Change (Shrout, O)
  • PSYCH-GA.340X Linear and Generalized Linear Models (Maloney, O)
  • MATH-GA.2962 Mathematical Statistics (non-psych course)
  • STAT-GB.3301 Introduction to the Theory of Probability (non-psych course)
  • STAT-GB.3302 Statistical Inference and Regression Analysis (non-psych course)

Content Courses

Students are required to take four core content courses. One of these is satisfied by the first-year research requirement (the first-year talk and paper) which is graded and the grade is logged as the grade to a pre-doctoral research course. The other three courses may be chosen from among the following four options:

  • PSYCH-GA.2221 Behavioral & Cognitive Neuroscience = NEURL-GA.2205 (AS)
  • PSYCH-GA.2223 Perception (2F)
  • PSYCH-GA.2209 Cognitive Development (2-3)
  • One of the following cognitive courses
    • PSYCH-GA.2207 Categories and Concepts (2-3)
    • PSYCH-GA.2212 Neuroeconomics and Decision (2)
    • PSYCH-GA.2226 Psycholinguistics (2-3)
    • PSYCH-GA.340x Neurolinguistics (1-2)
    • PSYCH-GA.340X Learning and Memory (2-3)

These courses are generally given once every year or two. It is advisable for students to complete these three courses by the end of the second year in the Program. Only one of the cognitive courses counts as a Core Content course. If a student takes more than one, the additional ones count as advanced electives.

Advanced Electives

To achieve a total of 30 graded credits, students must also complete four advanced electives. One of these is satisfied by the second-year research requirement (the second-year talk and paper) which is graded and the grade is logged as the grade to a pre-doctoral research course. The other three courses can be satisfied by any courses approved by your advisor and advisory committee, including additional quantitative courses, additional Core Content courses, and other advanced electives. Here are some of the courses you might consider for your advanced electives:

  • PSYCH-GA.2012 Physiological Basis of Behavior (MA)
  • PSYCH-GA.2201 Cellular, Molecular & Developmental Neuroscience (4 credits) = NEURL-GA.2201 (FA)
  • PSYCH-GA.2202 Sensory and Motor Neuroscience (4 credits) = NEURL-GA.2202 (SA)
  • PSYCH-GA.2203 Laboratory in Neural Science I = NEURL-GA.2203 (FA)
  • PSYCH-GA.2204 Laboratory in Neural Science II = NEURL-GA.2204 (SA)
  • PSYCH-GA.2207 Categories and Concepts (2-3)
  • PSYCH-GA.2208 Neuroanatomy (January term, annual)
  • PSYCH-GA.2209 Cognitive Development (2-3)
  • PSYCH-GA.2212 Judgment and Decision Making (O)
  • PSYCH-GA.2214 Language Acquisition (O)
  • PSYCH-GA.2245 Functional Magnetic Imaging Lab (2)
  • PSYCH-GA.3210 Seminar in Psycholinguistics (O)
  • PSYCH-GA.3214 Social Development
  • PSYCH-GA.3220 Seminar in Cognitive, Perceptual and Language Development (O)
  • PSYCH-GA.3233 Seminar in Perception (O)
  • PSYCH-GA.3326 Seminar in Memory and Cognition (O)
  • PSYCH-GA.340X Attention (O)
  • LING-GA.1110 Phonetics
  • LING-GA.1310 Syntax
  • LING-GA.1340 Semantics
  • LING-GA.2350 The Interface of Language and Cognition
  • NEURL-GA.3042 Special Topics: Memory Systems

Transfer Credits

In the case of a student joining our program with graduate credit from elsewhere, the student in consultation with his or her advisor should go over the transcript and discuss whether any previous courses might substitute for C&P required courses. The student should then meet with the Coordinator, bringing a copy of the transcript as well as syllabi from any courses under consideration for transfer credit. In the case of a core course, the Coordinator may ask the instructor of the core course for approval. It should be noted that a minimum of 32 credits (of the 72 required for the doctorate) must be taken in residence at New York University, putting a natural limit on the maximum number of transfer credits accepted.

Research Requirements

First Year

  • Research Advisor. Students are urged to contact faculty whose research interests are close to their own within the first few weeks of their first semester. In a few meetings it should be possible to determine if there is sufficient mutual interest for a particular faculty member to serve as a student's research advisor. It is a good idea to talk with the advisor's current students and to get their perspective on the lab.
  • Research "Advisory" Committee. By the end of the first year of study, students will submit nominations of two faculty who, in addition to the advisor, will form a committee which will supervise research work until the dissertation committee is formed, usually in the third year. One of these committee members should have research interests outside the student's area of interest; this person will serve as the committee chair. The student proposes the membership of the committee to the Program Coordinator who will try to equalize the workload across the faculty.
  • First-Year Paper. At the end of the first year, students are required to submit a paper and then give a short talk about their research. The talk is given in the annual Miniconvention which currently takes place in mid-September. The paper should be submitted to the Coordinator and members of the student's Advisory Committee by the Tuesday after Labor Day. This paper can be in the form of a research paper or a research proposal. It is strongly encouraged that the paper be based on pilot research data already collected by that time. In length, the paper is typically about 15 pages, single-spaced, in the form of a NIMH pre-doctoral fellowship or of an APA journal article. Students are encouraged to develop this paper into a proposal for pre-doctoral support (e.g., from NSF or NIH). This paper will receive a grade that will be logged as the grade of a pre-doctoral research course and will count as a core content course for the Program course requirements. Students are encouraged to give a talk in the informal Brown Bag research meetings as a forum for gleaning advice on the research ideas and methods which the paper will later formally report.

Second Year

  • Second-Year Paper. At the end of the second year, students are required to submit another paper and then give another short talk about their research. The talk is given in the annual Miniconvention which currently takes place in mid-September. The paper should be submitted to the Coordinator and members of the student's Advisory Committee by the Tuesday after Labor Day. Typically, this is in the form of an APA-style research report prepared for submission to a professional journal of either the completion of the first-year project or of a second project done subsequently. In addition to providing the basis for committee evaluation of research progress, this paper or a revised version of it should be submitted for publication. This paper will receive a grade that will be logged as the grade of a pre-doctoral research course and will count as an advanced elective for the Program course requirements.
  • Lab Rotations. Although not required, students are encouraged to spend time in more than one laboratory during their graduate career. This is most easily accomplished by working on two projects in two different laboratories prior to the commencement of the dissertation proposal.

4th Year

  • Dissertation Proposal. By the fourth year, it is expected that each student will have sufficiently clarified his or her interests to be able to formally propose a dissertation project (see Procedures Pertaining to the Doctoral Dissertation). This proposal may or may not include pilot data but it must reflect a mastery of the conceptual and methodological basis of the problem. The proposal should be presented in both written and oral form by January of the fourth year to a dissertation committee which is proposed by the student and sponsor. This committee replaces the student's advisory committee and is comprised of three persons, all of whom are experts in some aspect of the proposed work. The proposal forms an agreement between the student and the committee that states that if the student completes the described work successfully, the committee considers that this should be strong enough to form a complete dissertation. For the typical three-paper thesis, the form of the proposal can involve, e.g., stapling published versions or draft papers on the first two projects along with a description (including in the form of a predoctoral fellowship application) of the third project.
  • 4th-year Talk. In the late Spring of the 4th year, all students give an extended research talk to the Program on their research. These talks are typically 30 minutes in length, and groups of students give them either during the weekly Area Seminar or in a Miniconvention-like longer-format event on a Friday.

Research Approvals:

All research by psychology students that involves the use of human subjects must be approved by the NYU University Committee on Activities Involving Human Subjects. In some cases, an expedited review can be obtained from the faculty representatives to that committee from the Department (currently Profs. Heilman and Uleman). Forms may be obtained from the Subject Pool coordinator (presently Jim Uleman) on the 7th floor. Also, you may contact Catharine Lennon, Associate Subject Pool Coordinator - her subject pool address is: . All research involving animal subjects must be approved by the NYU Animal Welfare Committee. See Prof. Hawken for further information or consult

Teaching Experience Requirements

Being able to communicate knowledge to others and judge from their feedback whether the communication was successful - i.e., to teach - plays an integral part in testing out one's own knowledge and in extending it to the creation of more knowledge. Further, this teaching skill when well honed finds significant employment for its proponents in many walks of life. This is particularly true in academia where the probabilities are high that many of our C&P students will eventually hold jobs. Hence, providing learning experiences in teaching is an important part of our educational goals. It's a goal we seek to achieve by placing our students in apprenticeships with experienced teachers from whom they can learn how best to communicate in the classroom information from different domains of psychology and to evaluate the adequacy of that communication and improve upon it. While we do not require you to teach, it is highly recommended that you serve as a Teaching Assistant at least twice during your graduate education. The rules for when you are allowed to serve as a TA are complex and depend on the source of your funding during a given year. You should consult with Academic Affairs well in advance if you are considering applying for a TA position. The Summer Teaching Practicum is another avenue by which the department meets its commitment to train its graduate students in teaching as well as research skills. The Practicum provides its more qualified students paid opportunities in the summer to teach (not TA) an undergraduate course on their own but under expert supervision. For more details see Summer Funding.

Other Requirements


The Mini-Convention is a day-long, convention-type meeting currently held on the Friday a week-and-a-half after Labor Day in September (see Calendar). Faculty and students of the Program attend this meeting which provides a training experience in convention-style oral presentation. All first- and second-year students are required to present talks based on their research projects. Upper-year students with well-worked-out, interesting findings to report are encouraged to present talks, as well as those who have not presented at a Brown Bag or other venue for the past academic year.

Language Requirement

Psychology students are not required to fulfill this GSAS requirement.

Computer Competence

Because modern research is dependent upon a high level of competence in the use of sophisticated computers, students in the Cognition and Perception Program are expected to acquire a reasonably high level of proficiency during their stay at New York University. Windows, Macintosh and UNIX (Linux) systems are generally available, all with Internet and Web access. Several of our courses (e.g., MathTools, Pereption, fMRI Lab) involve assignments that require the use of Matlab, which is used in many labs in the Program.

Time Limit in the Program

For each student who has had a dissertation proposal formally accepted by the Department, his/her dissertation committee will meet at least in the spring and fall of each year to consider the dissertation's progress. (see Dissertation Procedures) The spring meeting will also serve to review all aspects of the student's record to date and to form (in particular for students completing the 5th year or greater) a recommendation to the Program Coordinator regarding the student's continuation in the program. The judgment will be made on the basis of the student's recent progress, not on future promises. Students who have not made sufficient progress will be terminated and/or will be allowed only restricted use of program facilities (offices, etc.). Students who have completed their seventh year of work without defending their dissertation will automatically be terminated from the program unless the committee recommends an extension because of extraordinary circumstances. Terminated students can petition for readmission if it becomes possible for them to persuade faculty that they are viable degree candidates. If they are readmitted, however, they are subject to the payment of all matriculation fees covering the period from the end of their initial active status to the time of readmission. Students who have reached their 72 credit requirement and wish to remain on full-time matriculated status without taking the 12 semester credits ordinarily required may do so by filing the full-time equivalency form. After having done so, the usual semester matriculation fees will be waived for the next 6 semesters (three years). Thereafter, those students will have to pay a matriculation fee for each additional semester they remain ungraduated. A further repercussion of this status shift is that those students with university loans outstanding at New York University or elsewhere automatically become subject in six months to payback requirements.

It is to the student's advantage to complete the program within four or five years. This will improve job prospects.

Highly Recommended

Presentation of Research Papers at Professional Meetings
The Program strongly encourages its students to present papers (or posters) on their research at relevant professional meetings around the country as a "real life" part of their education in becoming professional scientists and educators and to aid them in forming contacts for possible jobs and postdocs after the Ph.D. Forums for such presentations exist at the annual meetings of the Eastern Psychological Association (EPA), American Psychological Association (APA), Society for Neuroscience, Psychonomics Society, ARVO, Vision Science Society, etc. Please inquire of your advisors the deadlines for submitting presentation applications to the relevant societies. If a paper or poster on which you will be the presenting author is accepted for presentation, you can request a travel award from the Dean to cover expenses, but you must complete an application and be approved in advance. Application forms are available here. It is a good idea to complete the travel fund applications as early as possible in the relevant semester since the travel money pool (budgeted by the Dean) is limited and allocated on a "first come, first served" basis.

It is important to have publications during your tenure in the program. This will improve your vita when you are entering the job market. Also consult Self-obtained Fellowships and Scholarships.

You might find inspiration in the Gu & Bourne (2007) "10 rules" of advice for graduate students. Please suggest links to other helpful publications.

Receiving an M.A. Degree

All students in the Cognition and Perception Program are eligible to receive the M.A. degree as soon as they have:

  1. Submitted a 2nd year paper that is deemed acceptable by the student's advisory committee;
  2. Completed 36 points of graduate studies, at least 18 of which must be at a grade of B or better. No fewer than 27 of these must have been obtained at New York University; and
  3. Satisfied core course requirements (Quantitative Methods, Content Courses).

To receive the degree, the student must register for graduation via ALBERT or complete the application on TORCHTONE (212-995-4747). This must be done at least three months before the desired date of degree (exact deadlines are available from the Academic Affairs Office, Room 158, Psychology Building). We encourage each student to take these steps to receive the M.A. when the opportunity arises, and to do so as soon as possible. It is to the benefit of both the student and the Program. Please note that GSAS will not grant a student both an MA and a PhD in the same calendar year.

Student Evaluations

Evaluations for first- and second-year students consist of the following three steps. Step 3 applies to all students.

  1. Submission of a Research Proposal or Paper to committee members and Program Coordinator (the Tuesday after Labor Day).
  2. A talk based on your research to be given in the Mini-Convention (1st- and 2nd-year students) in September (the Friday 10 days later);
  3. A yearly evaluation committee meeting is scheduled in September by the Program Administrator for each student. For students having an approved dissertation proposal, the committee is their dissertation committee; otherwise, it is their advisory committee. Students should be prepared to discuss their past and planned coursework and research as well as their TA experience. Students should bring an evaluation form partially filled out by the Program Administrator as well as a self-evaluation by the student of the year's progress and achievements and a CV including talks, publications and fellowship applications and funding. First- and second-year students should schedule this meeting between the Miniconvention and the subsequent student evaluation faculty meeting, leaving the committee sufficient time to read their papers. Upper-year students should schedule these meetings prior to the Miniconvention.

All students should have finished a proposal by the middle of the fourth year. To enforce this requirement, students cannot register for the fourth year (second semester) unless they have an approved proposal.

Student evaluations are important monitors of how the student is progressing toward the Ph.D. In the student evaluation faculty meeting, the faculty use the results of these committee evaluations to identify problems that a student may have and how these may be overcome. In some instances, decisions as to awards or probations are made (see Time Limit in the Program). You will receive written feedback from your committee chair or Program Coordinator after this meeting.

Problems Along the Way

If a student encounters difficulties while in the Program, we hope that the student will be comfortable discussing things with their advisor and advisory or dissertation committee to work out a solution. However, if for whatever reason a student would prefer to work with another faculty member, all of our faculty (and in particular the Coordinator and the Director of Graduate Studies) are available to help in support of all of our students. If the problem is sufficiently important or difficult (e.g., harassment, physical or mental health, etc.), then the student must work with the Director of Graduate Studies and the GSAS dean's office, as they are the only people with both the training and authority to handle difficulties of that magnitude.

Non-academic Internships

The Program recognizes the value of Ph.D. students doing non-academic internships of appropriate content and level.
 Therefore, the Program allows Ph.D. students to do an internship of no more than 3 months (or part-time equivalent) once during their Ph.D.
 During the period of the internship, the Department or the student's research advisor will not provide funding. If the student is funded by an individual fellowship, then the student must follow the regulations of the funding agency.
 The student's research advisor must agree that such an internship is appropriate for the student and will not have too great an impact on research progress; the advisor must also agree on the timing of the internship. Students are urged to discuss the planning of the internship with their advisor as early as possible. Disagreements between student and research advisor about the appropriateness or timing of the internship will be mediated by the C&P Coordinator or, if needed, the Director of Graduate Studies.
 If the student wishes to pursue a for-credit internship, they have to follow applicable GSAS, funding source, and department regulations.

Two Routes to the Dissertation

You may take one of the following two approaches to fulfilling the thesis requirement in the Cognition and Perception Program:

Route One (The Traditional Thesis): You may prepare a traditional dissertation under the approval and guidance of your sponsor and thesis committee. However, because the responsibility of scientists to make the results of their work available to their colleagues is of paramount importance, the Cognition and Perception Program urges candidates to prepare their dissertations in such a way that some or all of the dissertation may be directly submitted for publication to a professional journal.

Route Two (Publications): Having completed all other requirements of the Ph.D. and having consulted your sponsor, you may submit for approval to your thesis committee (consisting of three committee members and two readers) three research or theoretical papers in place of a dissertation. Your dissertation committee is the ultimate arbiter of what constitutes an acceptable thesis. However, our usual standards are that two of these papers be published in major professional journals (with high standards of review) on the basis of work you have carried out while in the Cognition and Perception Program by the time of the defense. The third paper must not yet be published (in particular, it must not yet be copyrighted by a journal). On two of the three papers, you should be the main author, responsible for writing the first draft. If not obvious, your role should be indicated in the acknowledgements. Your published papers, in manuscript copy form, will be appendixed to your unpublished paper in accordance with the rules of the NYU Recording office which requires your thesis to be unpublished. The papers need not be on the same topic, but when they are bound together, they should have appended whatever ancillary material (i.e., fuller exposition of the research background, methodology, analysis, discussion and/or data tables) that your thesis committee deems appropriate.


  • First Tuesday after Labor Day in September: 1st- and 2nd-year papers are due.
  • The Friday after Labor Day in September: C&P Program Orientation (incoming 1st-year students) and Welcome to the whole Program
  • Early September: Department-wide Welcoming and Orientation for all its 1st-year students
  • Late September/early October: C&P Miniconvention for student research presentations (all 1st- and 2nd-year students must present).
  • Mid-October: The C&P Program's evaluation of each graduate student's progress over the year


  • Beginning of 1st year: Choose an advisor and discuss/begin a research project
  • Beginning of 2nd year: 1st-year paper and Miniconvention talk
  • Beginning of 3rd year: 2nd-year paper and Miniconvention talk
  • January of 4th year: Form dissertation committee and submit dissertation proposal
  • April/May of 4th year: 4th-year talk
  • 5th year: Schedule graduation 3 months or more prior to expected defense date

For events in the Department of Psychology, see the Weekly Calendar and Events page.

For more information about the NYU Academic Calendar, click here and for dates relevant to registration, use the Registrar Calendar.