Title of program

Cognitive Engineering (PhD) 

Year human factors/ergonomics program was established

Fall 2003

Accredited by HFES?


Contact person for more information, including applications

Wayne D. Gray, PhD, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Carnegie Building, 110 8th St., Troy, NY 12180; 518/276-3315;,

Catalog (free); 518/276-6789

Academic calendar


Human factors/ergonomics graduate degrees offered


Goals, objectives, and emphasis of the program

The program's philosophy of doctoral training is captured by the phrase: Teaching Integrated Cognitive Systems (TICS). TICS is based on three powerful ideas. First, "next generation" artificial intelligence (AI): the design and construction of fully integrated artificial cognitive systems that reach across the full spectrum of cognition, from low-level perception/action to high-level reasoning, implemented in significant part on the basis of empirical data regarding natural cognitive systems. Second, "next generation" computational cognitive modeling: the design and implementation of cognitive architectures that extend beyond currently available architectures (e.g., ACT-R and SOAR) toward Newell's original dream of an architecture that accurately reflects the full range of cognitive processes present in natural cognitive systems. Third, cognitive engineering: engineering the interface between natural cognitive systems and task environments by, once again, exploiting the empirical data concerning natural cognitive systems.

Number of degrees granted during last 3 years


Can students attend part-time?


Are required courses offered through distance learning?


Does the university have an HFES student chapter?




Application deadline

January 1 (fall)

Application fee




Minimum requirements

GPA: 3.0 

GRE: 1200 v + q, (minimums) 

Other: Undergraduate degrees in computer science, information technology, psychology, or philosophy are preferred. However, a keen interest in cognitive science or artificial intelligence is more important than the particular degree. 

Importance of other criteria as admission factors

Research: high
Work experience: medium 

Letters: high 

Interview: high

Tuition and fees

All doctoral students in good standing will be fully supported for four years.



Number of students applying to the human factors/ergonomics program last year


Number of students accepted into the program last year


Number of students entering the program last year


Anticipated number of openings per year for the next two years




Percentage of students in program receiving financial assistance


Amount received per year

Full tuition plus $18,000 nine-month stipend 

Types of assistance available

TA, RA, tuition exempt 

When should students apply for financial assistance?

All students considered with application, separate application not required



Graduate degrees offered


Number of units required

80 units (min)

Exams required

No qualifying exam

Language requirements


Research required

1st–3rd year research projects

Practical experience required

Encouraged but not required

Typical number of years required to obtain degree




Required courses (units)

Issues in Cognitive Science (2 credits each semester), Formal Methods in Cognitive Science (4), Research Design and Statistics (4) 

Electives (units)


Number of courses outside department that are required

0 (however outside courses are encouraged) 

Number of courses outside department that are recommended

TBD depending on student's research interests 

Average or typical class size in a required course




Research and support facilities available to students in the program: 

In 2012, three of our laboratories moved into renovated space in Winslow (down the hill from Carnegie) and extensive renovations and extensive renovations were completed on the laboratory space on the 2nd floor of Carnegie. Other laboratory space is available for cognitive science in Sage. See Web site for information on each laboratory. Across the department facilities include motion-capture equipment (PandA Lab, two 500 mhz eyetrackers, three 120 mhyz eyetrackers, four acoustic booths, two eegs, and access to RPI's supercomputer system.

Teaching opportunities available to students in the program:
Students are encouraged to teach after they have acquired a masters degree. However, in the words of RPI President Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson, teaching without research is like confession without sin, with the latter there is not much to talk about in the former. Hence, the program's focus is on training researchers.

Current research activities and projects being carried out by program faculty and/or students:

For more information on the program's extensively funded research, visit



Current number of active students in program




Selmer Bringsjord, PhD 1987, Brown U.; artificial intelligence, philosophy, integrated cognitive systems

Nick Cassimatis, PhD 2002, MIT; integrated cognitive models, human-level artificial intelligence, physical reasoning, natural language understanding

Brett R. Fajen, PhD 1999, U. of Connecticut; perception and action, visual perception, ecological psychology

Wayne D. Gray, PhD 1979, U. of California, Berkeley; interactive behavior, computational cognitive modeling, cognitive engineering

Michael J. Kalsher, PhD 1988, Virginia Tech; safety and warnings, forensic psychology, design and statistics

Michael J. Schoelles, PhD 2002, George Mason U.; integrated cognitive systems, computational cognitive modeling, computational linguistics

Mei Si, PhD 2010, USC; virtual or mixed realities for games, training, and health interventions 

Ron Sun, PhD 1991, Brandeis U.; computational cognitive models, cognitive architectures, skill learning, computational studies of consciousness, multi-agent interaction, connectionist and hybrid models 

Bram van Heuveln, PhD 2000, Binghamton U.; philosophy, computationalism, consciousness

Yingrui Yang, PhD 1997, New York U.; reasoning, mental models, strategies

[Updated May 2012]