Cognitive Science Programme at IIT Kanpur

The institute decided to initiate an Inter Disciplinary Programme (IDP) in Cognitive Sciences (CogSci) vide office order DIR/IITK/2017/OO-43 on June 1, 2017. The full details about the programme can be found on the programme website. Vox Populi decided to convey the bare essentials of the programme and also got in touch with Prof. Achla Raina, the first HoD, to get some more details.

What is an IDP?

An Interdisciplinary program brings together many disciplines to create new knowledge, perspectives, skills, interconnections, and epistemology in an educational setting. The concept of IDPs is not new to IIT Kanpur as it has successfully launched several IDPs like – Material Science, Design Programme, Nuclear Engineering and Technology and Photonic Science and Engineering. The IDP in Cognitive Science will thus be IIT Kanpur’s fifth foray into these programmes.

What is Cognitive Science?

Cognitive science is the study of mind and its processes. The field lies at the intersection of several disciplines, including philosophy, psychology, computer science, linguistics and cognitive neuroscience. Typical research areas of cognitive science include reasoning and decision making, language comprehension and production, language acquisition, vision, attention, learning & memory, goal directed movement in complex environments and consciousness.

The National Scene

In India, Centre of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences (CBCS), University of Allahabad; Centre for Neural & Cognitive Sciences, Hyderabad Central University; Centre for Cognitive Science, IIT-Gandhinagar; School of Cognitive Science, Jadavpur University and Indian Institute of Speech and Hearing, Mysore offer postgraduate programmes. Moreover, the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India, has recognized Cognitive Science as the fourth pillar of Science and Technology in India.

Prospects after CogSci

Traditionally, cognitive sciences has been a research oriented field and most of the students who pursue an MS or PhD, choose to continue to research. However, there is a thriving market for jobs in this field too. Opportunities are available in the fields of cognitive computing, natural language processing, usability research, Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), advertising, etc. Organisations such as Google, Microsoft, DRDO, Nielsen are actively hiring for their CogSci departments.

CogSci and IIT Kanpur

Our institute is well placed to start a research program in cognitive science since several faculty members in different departments have research interests which are rooted in this field. As a testament to the interest of the institute in this field, a course ‘Introduction to Cognitive Science’ has been running as an elective for a number of years. Officially, the following professors have expressed interest in this programme :

BSBE : Nitin Gupta, Jonaki Sen
CSE : Nisheeth Srivastava, Harish Karnick
EE : Tanaya Guha
HSS (Philosophy) : A V Ravishankar Sarma, Vineet Sahu
HSS (Linguistics) : Achla Raina
HSS (Psychology) : Ark Verma, Devpriya Kumar, Shikha Dixit

Institute Plans

The institute is offering a PhD, MS; and for undergraduates, the option to pursue a Double Major, Dual Degree or Minor in Cognitive Sciences. The PhD admissions are ongoing whereas MS students will be admitted from Fall 2018. 

According to Prof. Raina, IIT Kanpur also plans to offer an undergraduate BS in Cognitive Science once it becomes a full fledged department in about five years.

MS Programme

Admissions

The institute is planning to create a pool of institutions offering MS in Cognitive Sciences to have joint entrance exam for students who have completed bachelors in Cognitive Science or related disciplines. Students coming from examinations of national importance like the GATE, will be provided with scholarship while those coming just after bachelor’s degree will have to self-finance their expenditure.

Credit Structure

The prescribed course structure for the MS programme covers 150 credits which will be divided between coursework (78 credits) and thesis work (72 credits) as follows.

PhD Programme

Admission

Students having completed a bachelor’s or master’s degree in any field of engineering or medicine or a master’s degree in Cognitive Science or related fields will be eligible to apply for the PhD programme. A new entrance test will be designed which will involve both a written test and interviews.

Course Structure

The course component of the doctoral program will require the students to take a minimum of 4 core courses, which will be common to the Masters Program. In addition, the students will be advised to take Elective Courses and in addition, a seminar in each semester after the second. Other requirements will be as per the current requirements for PhD students.

We hope that IIT Kanpur will become a leader in the CogSci academia as it has in many other disciplines.

Written by Debashis Nag, Simrat Singh