Master's Degree Program
part of joint master's programme MEI:COGSCI
Cognitive science is concerned with a study of human cognition – the processes of perception, cognition, thinking, knowledge representation, learning, decision-making, and how these processes are implemented in the brain. It is characterized by interdisciplinarity – the combined use of knowledge and methods of various participating disciplines – psychology, artificial intelligence, neuroscience, linguistics, philosophy, anthropology and others. The master programme in cognitive science at the Faculty of Mathematics, Physics and Informatics combines these disciplines with a special emphasis on the formalization and computational modeling of cognitive processes, which allows not only to understand them better, but also to apply the obtained computational models in the form of smart technologies.
Cognitive science is useful everywhere we need to understand human thinking and decision-making in specific situations, and increasingly where the human mind meets and interacts with the artificial intelligent technologies.
Master‘s programme in Cognitive Science is unique in the Slovak context for several reasons: in addition to the above mentioned interdisciplinarity and linking humanities and social sciences with formal and technical approaches, the programme is a result of a common and coordinated project of four middle European universities: University of Vienna (in collaboration with the Medical University of Vienna), University in Ljubljana, Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, and Comenius University in Bratislava. These universities are currently members of the consortium of universities founded in 2006 to establish and implement the joint Middle European Interdisciplinary Master Programme in Cognitive Science (MEi:CogSci). This programme is one of the few successfully developing multilateral master‘s programmes in the middle European context.
Cognitive science master programme creates opportunities for students to learn how to work in interdisciplinary as well as multicultural teams and to present their work in an international context (in English). In this regard, important parts of the curriculum are:
- Mobility semester at selected university of the consortium (supported by Erasmus+, CEEPUS, or other schemes),
- Presentations of results (semester project and master thesis) at the annual international MEi:CogSci conference (abstracts are published in the proceedings).
Interdisciplinary and international character of the cognitive science master programme significantly increases the potential of graduates on domestic and international labor markets.
The programme is designed in a way to allow the students in the first semester to become familiar with a common basis and to acquire knowledge of the disciplines that were not subject of their bachelor's degree. Concretely, bachelors of social science or humanities need to take introductory courses in mathematics and computational sciences, and graduates of natural, formal and technical sciences, need to take introductory courses in psychology and methodology of empirical sciences. In the second semester, students deepen their understanding in these areas and learn to apply them within a semester project, whose results are presented at the MEi:CogSci international conference as a poster. The students choose projects according to their own interest, and are supervised by experts participating in the programme. Besides working in computer modeling, psychology, psycholinguistics, philosophy of language and mind, there is an opportunity to work with the equipment in the cognitive laboratory (EEG measurement system, a physical robotic arm, or virtual robots).
Cognitive science students spend the third semester at one of the partner universities of the consortium, where in addition to offered specialized courses they focus on a research project, individually or in a team of experts. Students can also gain first-hand experience of clinical studies and the use of imaging equipment such as EEG, fMRI, PET, TMS, etc.
The fourth semester is focused mainly on thesis writing, whose results are presented again at the international conference MEi:CogSci, now as a talk. The master thesis in cognitive science may be: (1) a theoretical work (without software implementation), (2) software implementation of a model (including model analysis and evaluation), (3) result of empirical research (e.g. a psychological behavioral experiment aimed at testing a formulated hypothesis), (4) compilation work (including student's own perspective on the topic).
An important part of the thesis is interdisciplinarity, which aims to look at the chosen topic from the perspective of various relevant disciplines, using different research methods. For example, when modeling a certain phenomenon, it is important to assess the biological and/or psychological plausibility of the approach. In a theoretical or experimental work, it is important to try to integrate knowledge from different disciplines (e.g. psychology and neuroscience), possibly in a consistent way (if not possible, it must also be noted).
Examples of successful theses of our students:
- Analysis of conceptual metaphors of selected emotions in Slovak language (Dana Retová, 2008) - theoretical work
- Self-organization of sensorimotor representations and their use in object grasping (Matej Pecháč, 2013) - computational model
- The role of the left inferior frontal cortex in semantic retrieval: a tDCS study (Ondrej Hadidom, 2019) - empirical work
- The role of mirror neurons in cognition (Samuel Sitáš, 2015) - compilation work
The graduate of the cognitive science programme will gain the following competences:
- specify, design, implement and maintain integrated intelligent systems and large-scale modern applications using cognitive science and artificial intelligence methods,
- design, implement, analyze, evaluate and interpret computational simulations related to applications of cognitive science,
- design, test and evaluate behavioral experiments (using statistical analysis and data interpretation),
- use the acquired knowledge of human thinking (and cognitive processes in general) in the design of systems for (user-friendly) interaction with humans (e.g. in the field of ergonomic design, website design, etc.),
- work as a researcher in cognitive science or a creative worker and apply computer methods, concepts, but also programming skills in empirical areas of research such as psychology, neuroscience and linguistics,
- work effectively as an individual, as a member and as a team leader, including multidisciplinary research and development teams,
- in case of interest to continue doctoral studies in cognitive science (or in one of the related disciplines, e.g. in informatics at FMFI) or in programs of related fields of study (e. g. psychology, neuroscience, linguistics) at other faculties in Slovakia and abroad, and pedagogically work at different types of universities focused on relevant cognitive science disciplines.