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Honors

The Cognitive Science Honors major provides students with the in-depth research experience of writing an Honors Thesis under the close supervision of a faculty mentor. Majors who are considering graduate study are strongly encouraged to participate. Students working on an empirical thesis are strongly encouraged to take a course in statistical analysis and/or experimental design (i.e., PSYCH 303, STATS 250, STATS 412, STATS 470, or equivalent).

Demystifying Honors at U-M

What is Honors in Cognitive Science vs. the LSA Honors Program vs. University Honors vs. Degrees with Distinction? 

  • Honors in Cognitive Science. The requirements for receiving honors in Cognitive Science are: (1) being a declared Cognitive Science major, (2) having a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.4, and (3) submitting an approved thesis via the process outlined below. Registration in the COGSCI Independent Study Courses (497 and 499) is optional. Students may pursue Honors in Cognitive Science without previous affiliation with the LSA Honors Program. Upon declaring the honors major (by submitting an Honors Thesis Application) students are affiliated with the Honors Program and have access to all the resources they provide. Students who complete their honors requirements graduate with “honors,” “high honors,” or “highest honors,” which is noted on the diploma and the official transcript. These honors are given by Cognitive Science based on the quality of the work submitted.

  • LSA Honors Program. The LSA Honors Program is a four-year academic program divided into two parts: 1) Lower-division honors requirements and the honors core curriculum are completed by students who are admitted to the Honors Program as freshmen. 2) An honors major is completed by students who pursue an honors thesis (regardless of prior enrollment in the Honors Program).  

  • University Honors. The University Honors designation, noted on students' transcripts, is awarded on a term-by-term basis to students who earned a 3.5 grade point average or higher during a given term (at least 14 credits must have been elected that term, at least 12 of which were elected on a graded basis).

  • Degrees with Distinction. At graduation, degrees with distinction are awarded based on class ranking. Students who have been approved for graduation, have completed at least 45 graded in-residence credits, and rank in the top 3% of their class will receive a degree "with Highest Distinction." Those who rank in the top 10% of their class but not in the top 3% will receive a degree "with High Distinction." Those who rank in the top 25% of their class but not in the top 10% will receive a degree "with Distinction." Distinction levels are noted on the diploma and the official transcript. Degrees with Distinction may be awarded with or without Honors designation.

Honors Thesis Timeline and Application Process

The timeline below shows a suggested timeline, with students beginning the honors process in the fall term of their junior year. However, many students have discovered the possibility of doing honors in their major later than that and have still gone on to write excellent senior theses. Please take this timeline as a suggested path; the first actual deadline is the Oct. 1 date to declare honors. Students wishing to declare honors after that date are required to reach out to weinberg-institute@umich.edu first to discuss the honors plan.

The timeline below is based on a Winter semester graduation. If you plan to graduate in Fall or Summer term, please see the section below titled “Alternate Timelines.”

Junior Year

By end of Fall Semester:

Let the Weinberg Institute know you are interested in pursuing an honors thesis. (Via advising appointment or the Honors Interest Form, typically sent out in early December.)

Read more about the Honors Summer Fellowship program and decide if you would like to apply.

By the end of Winter Semester:

Find faculty mentor and identify a proposed title of your project (for more details on choosing a faculty mentor see “Faculty Mentors and Thesis Defense” below)

During Spring/Summer Semester:

Register for COGSCI 497 for Fall Term (optional, see “Honors and Course Credit” below)

At a minimum, work on your thesis abstract and proposed timeline. Some students may choose to conduct thesis research over the summer as well.

Senior Year

Early September (at least two weeks before the Fall Add/Drop deadline)

Submit the Honors Thesis Application if you are planning to register for Fall term honors thesis independent study credits (optional)

October 1:       

Deadline to submit the Honors Thesis Application

By the end of Fall Semester:

  • Register for COGSCI 499 for Winter Term (optional, see “Honors and Course Credit” below)
  • Contact a second faculty member who you would like to serve as your second reader. Make sure to connect your second reader with your faculty mentor.

Mid-March (recommended)

  • Discuss with your faculty advisor whether or not you plan to meet the April 1 deadline for submission of a near-finished draft of your thesis to be considered for Honors Program and Cognitive Science thesis awards.
  • If you are planning to meet the April 1 deadline, share with your advisor the link to the Honors Award Endorsement form that you will receive by email from the Weinberg Institute.

April 1:

Deadline to submit thesis for consideration for awards within the Weinberg Institute (the Marshall M. Weinberg Award for Exceptional Cognitive Science Honors Thesis and the Sam Epstein Award for Contributions to Theoretical Cognitive Science) as well as LSA Honors Awards.

The thesis draft you submit for consideration should be near-complete and should have already been submitted to your thesis advisor. You will submit the thesis, along with an unofficial transcript, in a form you will receive from the Weinberg Institute in March.

Mid-April (recommended)

Submit the final draft of your thesis to your faculty mentor and second reader. Note: you should decide the final deadline for your thesis in consultation with your readers, but please be aware that the readers will need to submit their honors designations to the Weinberg Institute by May 1.

May 1:

Final deadline to submit thesis and receive honors in your major. Email your thesis to Weinberg-Institute@umich.edu and copy your faculty advisor and second reader. Check and confirm that your faculty mentor has submitted your honors designation to weinberg-institute@umich.edu by May 1st as well.

 

Alternate Timelines

We often have students working on honors theses who are not graduating in a winter term. If this applies to you -- whether your timeline was intended for a non-Winter graduation from the start or your plans changed during the honors process -- we are happy to work with you on an adjusted plan. The deadlines for requirements are listed below, but please feel free to reach out to an advisor here to discuss the timeline in more depth.

Fall Term Graduation

  • Deadline to submit your Honors Thesis Application: May 1.
  • Deadline to receive honors in your major: Dec. 15. Please send the final version of the thesis to weinberg-institute@umich.edu and copy your faculty advisor and second reader. Confirm that your advisor has submitted your honors designation to the Weinberg Institute by Dec. 15 as well.
  • Honors and Department Awards: Cognitive Science and the LSA Honors Program consider theses for honors only once a year, at the end of Winter term. When you submit your honors thesis on or before the Dec. 15 deadline, you will receive an email with a link at which you can submit your thesis for honors consideration, as well as a link to another form to share with your faculty advisor. The deadline for you and your faculty advisor to fill out these forms will be April 1 during the Winter term after your graduation.

Spring/Summer Graduation

  • Deadline to submit your Honors Thesis Application: Jan. 8.
  • Deadline to receive honors in your major: Aug. 15. Please send the draft of the thesis to weinberg-institute@umich.edu and copy your faculty advisor and second reader. Confirm that your advisor has submitted your honors designation to the Weinberg Institute by Aug. 15 as well.
  • Honors and Department Awards: Cognitive Science and the LSA Honors Program consider theses for honors only once a year, at the end of Winter term. When you submit your honors thesis on or before the Aug. 15 deadline, you will receive an email with a link at which you can submit your thesis for honors consideration, as well as a link to another form to share with your faculty advisor. The deadline for you and your faculty advisor to fill out these forms will be April 1 during the Winter term after your graduation.

 

Finding a Faculty Mentor

Primary Faculty Mentor

Students work closely with their faculty mentor throughout the duration of their Honors Thesis experience. Students are encouraged to identify a faculty member as early as possible to receive guidance from the faculty mentor from the beginning of the process. Students pursuing an honors thesis are expected to coordinate regular meetings with their faculty mentor throughout the honors thesis process, and the thesis may not be submitted without the approval of the faculty mentor. Faculty mentors may belong to affiliated departments and are expected to have some pre-existing familiarity with the topic.

Second Reader

In addition to their primary faculty mentor, students are expected to contact a second faculty member to serve as their second reader during the fall of their senior year. Second readers provide an instrumental role in thoughtfully critiquing the honors project and contributing to its success. Students are expected to incorporate the suggestions and edits of the second reader into subsequent drafts of the thesis, and the second reader must approve the final paper and communicate their approval to the student’s primary mentor. 

1. Find a research mentor or faculty sponsor

If you need support finding a research mentor/faculty sponsor, you may find the links below helpful:

  • Research Laboratories: On this website you will see a list of Cognitive Science related labs. 
  • Faculty Research Interests: This website will allow you to search for faculty who are doing research with your topic of interest. If a list of faculty appears after your search, check their research and teaching interests description on their profile. Contact the faculty if you want to know more about their research or want to ask for opportunities to work in their lab.

Honors and Course Credit

Students writing an Honors Thesis may, but are not required to, register for one or two special independent study courses (COGSCI 497 and COGSCI 499, non-repeatable). These do count toward the limit of 6 independent study credits allowed for the Cognitive Science major.

Honors Thesis Resources

The University of Michigan provides multiple resources to students writing an honors thesis.

University Resources:

  • The University Library has set up a Cognitive Science Research Guide which includes materials from linguistics, philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, and computer science. Each Cognitive Science track also has its own Library Specialist, whose contact information can be found on the left-hand side of the Research Guide.
  • The Honors Summer Fellowship program offers peer and monetary support for a small cohort of students starting the honors thesis process during the summer before their senior year. Spaces are limited, and applications are typically due at the beginning of the Winter semester of students’ junior year.
  • The LSA Honors Program, in conjunction with the Sweetland Writing Center, offers weekly thesis discussion groups for seniors involved in the process to give and receive feedback on their work, as well as learning ways to become a more effective writer. Read more and sign up here.

Funding Support:

  • LSA Honors Grants provide funding to thesis-related research, including research-related travel. 
  • The Weinberg Institute for Cognitive Science is able to provide funding for thesis-related research and travel via the funding request process

Other Resources:

  • Former Cognitive Science students who completed an honors thesis can be great resources. Please contact weinberg-institute@umich.edu if you would like the Weinberg Institute to connect you with U-M alumni who have completed the process. You can also read previous Cognitive Science honors theses through the University's online research archive, Deep Blue.

Honors Awards

  • LSA Honors Awards. The LSA Honors Program awards several scholarships and prizes to thesis-writing students. Please see their website for details.

  • Marshall M. Weinberg Award. In recognition of the contributions made by Marshall M. Weinberg to the field of Cognitive Science and the University of Michigan, an annual prize may be awarded to an exemplary submitted Honors Thesis paper (written by a declared Cognitive Science student) in recognition of outstanding research performance in the field of Cognitive Science.

  • Sam Epstein Award for Contributions to Theoretical Cognitive Science. For the 2020-2021 academic year, we will also be considering honors theses for the Sam Epstein Award for Contributions to Theoretical Cognitive Science. Theses eligible for this award will demonstrate significant engagement with foundational, theoretical, or conceptual issues in cognitive science.

 

Past Honors Awards in Cognitive Science

2020-21

Sean Anderson - Samuel D. Epstein Award for Contributions to Theoretical Cognitive Science.

Yongjing Ren - Marshall M. Weinberg Award

Maria Marginean - Cognitive Science Service Award

2019-20


Meryl Rueppel
- Marshall M. Weinberg Thesis Award

 

2018-19


Camille Phaneuf
- Marshall M. Weinberg Thesis Award

Jocelyn E. Brickman - Donna Wessel Walker Award

 

Past Honors Theses in Cognitive Science

2020-21

Yongjing (Linda) Ren - Modeling Age-related Reductions in Neural Distinctiveness Using a Self Organizing Map

Sean Anderson - A linguistic model of minimalist syntax composes Tebe Poem

Alyssa Chua - The Interplay of Gender Composition and Dominance vs. Prestige Dynamics in
Group Settings


Duncan Drewry - The Effect of Uncertainty on Competitive Behavior

Levi Meyers - How Cognitive Reappraisal Enhances Interpersonal Negotiations in Professional Settings

Michelle Lu  - The Value of Artificial Intelligence in Detecting and Monitoring Mental Illness

Mollie Bakal - Graph-to-Graph Translations To Augment Abstract Meaning Representation Tense And Aspect

Ross Kempner - Information Theoretic Accounts of Reaction Times in a Probabilistic Artificial

Sophia KatzFeeling Morally Gray: Emotions in Responding to Immoral Acts by Others

Talia Rizika - Audience Engagement and Attitude in Virtual YouTube Concerts

2019-20


Nick Hollman

Aggression and Weight Bias in the Trolley Problem
Supervisor - Dr. Stephanie Preston, Department of Psychology

Meryl Rueppel
Relationships Among Internalizing vs. Externalizing Symptoms, Post-Error Slowing, and Gender
Supervisor - Dr. Bill Gehring, Department of Psychology

Alice Sorel
Impaired brain development caused by Actb overexpression
Supervisor - Dr. Richard Lewis

 

2018-19


Rohini Majumdar
Decisional Authority and Values in Shared Decision-Making: Are They Enough?
Supervisor - Dr. Patricia Deldin

Jocelyn E. Brickman
The Linguistics Cues Observed when Lying in Realistic Personal Stake Situations
Supervisor - Dr. Julie Boland

Kelly Kendro
The Lasting Effects of Language Acquisition: Testing Cognitive Abilities after L2 Attrition
Supervisor - Dr. Julie Boland

Camille Phaneuf
Cell Phone Dependence and Socialization: Digital Devices and their Impact on Undergraduate Communication and Behavior
Supervisor - Dr. Daniel Kruger

 

2017-18


Rennie Pasquinelli
Neurocognitive Basis of Prosody Perception in Children
Supervisor - Dr. Ioulia Kovelman

Tyree S. Cowell
Can Natural Language Processors Help Unlock the Black Box of Language Comprehension
Supervisor -Dr. Jonathan Brennan 

Sanuri Gunawardena
Does Improvisation Promote Divergent Thinking and Tolerance of Uncertainty?
Supervisor - Dr. Colleen Seifert

Kira Breeden
What Factors are Most Effective in Predicting Noun Learning in English-Learning Children?
Supervisor - Dr. Twila Tardif

Alexander Brown
The Evolution of Cooperation, the Superorganism, the Emergent Properties
Supervisor - Dr. James Joyce 

Logan Bickel
Feeling Dispassionate about Environmental Harm is Linked to Late Emotion Regulation Strategies
Supervisor - Dr. Stephanie Preston