University Relations


Victoria Interrante, PhD
Computer Science & Engineering

Associate Director
Jeanette Gundel, PhD
Professor, Linguistics



The Center's graduate and undergraduate programs of training and research have been supported by a number of agencies, including:

The National Institute of Child Health and Development

NRT-NSF research grants held by CogSci Center faculty

The Center has also received important funding support from University of Minnesota offices, schools and colleges, including:

The Graduate School

The College of Liberal Arts

Office of the Vice President for Research

Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost

Member Institutions

Spring 2019 Course Announcements

EPSY 5200-001 - Special Topics Psych Foundations: Programming Methods for Psychological Research [3 credits]
Wednesdays, 1:00 - 3:45 p.m.
Instructor: Jeffrey K. Bye
Peik Hall 315

This course is fundamentally about how technology can be used by psychological scientists to produce more rigorous and reproducible research. Its goal is to introduce a variety of programming and computer-based methods that are increasingly being used in psychological research. It takes an active learning approach to teaching the programming and computer-based skills that are increasingly important in modern psychological research. The programming languages, platforms, and other technologies covered include Python, PsychoPy, MTurk, the Open Science Framework, R, and RMarkdown. The emphasis is on building readily implementable skills to streamline and automate the research workflow. No prior programming experience is required.

For further information about this course, please contact Dr. Sashank Varma (


Ling 8921 – Seminar in Language and Cognition
Tuesdays & Thursdays 1:00 - 2:15pm
Instructor: Jeanette Gundel
Elliott S204

Advances in theoretical linguistics have made important contributions to our understanding of what we know when we know a language; but the precise manner in which linguistic knowledge interacts with other cognitive systems when it is put to use in communication is still not well understood. This course will examine this interaction. Questions to be addressed include the following:

How is it that we can understand what other people intend to communicate when they use language, given that the intended meaning is almost always grossly underspecified by the linguistic form alone?

How does ‘context’ contribute to the resolution of ambiguities and indeterminacies, and what exactly is ‘context’ from a cognitive perspective?

In addressing these questions, we will also examine the disruption (and non-disruption) of linguistic communication in individuals diagnosed with Autism, Alzheimer’s disease, and Schizophrenia. Other topics may also be covered depending on student interest.

The class meets an elective requirement for a degree in Linguistics as well as for the Cognitive Science graduate major or minor.

Combined lecture and seminar discussion. Weekly reading assignments and comments on readings; final paper/project. Intended audience: graduate students and advanced undergraduates with an interest in language and cognition.


PHIL 8670 – Seminar in Philosophy of Science

Thursdays, 46:30 pm
Instructor: Prof. Samuel C. Fletcher
731 Heller Hall

This seminar will focus on the historical, mathematical, philosophical, and scientific interconnections between theories of computation and theories of physical phenomena. It will be guided topically by the chapters in the recently published volume, Physical Perspectives on Computation, Computational Perspectives on Physics (Cambridge University Press, 2018). These are divided into four parts:


I. The Computability of Physical Systems and Physical Systems as Computers. Topics include pancomputationalism and variations on the Church-Turing thesis, including historical aspects thereof.

II. The Implementation of Computation in Physical Systems. Topics include explanations of the power of quantum computing, the physics of information, and accounts of physical computational implementation, including in biological systems.

III. Physical Perspectives on Computer Science. Topics include intermediate Turing degrees, how physics has motivated the problems of scientific computing, and the implications of general relativity for theories of computation.

IV. Computational Perspectives on Physical Theory. Topics include the thermodynamics of computation, Landauer's principle, Maxwell's demon, and information-theoretical reconstructions of quantum theory.

For questions or more information, please contact Prof. Fletcher (


Ling 1911W – Linguistics and Biology
Fridays 1:15 - 3:45
Instructor: Jeanette Gundel
Elliot S225

Connections between linguistics (the scientific study of human language) and biology (the scientific study of life and living forms) have a long history. Most contemporary linguists view language as part of human cognition, rooted in biologically determined predisposition to acquire language and constraints on the properties of what can be acquired. Before the early 1960’s, connection between linguistics and biology was mainly restricted to anatomical properties of the human vocal tract involved in articulation of speech sounds and the role of evolution of the vocal tract in making human language possible. Other connections included metaphorical borrowing of terms from biology, such as ‘genetic’ relationships among related languages grouped into ‘language families’, whose members shared the same ‘ancestor language’. In recent decades, along with emphasis on language as part of human cognition, the focus has turned from the biology of human speech to the biological basis of human language as a system, the existence of ‘language genes’ and connections between evolution of language and evolution of the human brain. There has also been some influence of linguistic methodology on the field of biology, with researchers proposing similarities between generative models of linguistic codes (grammars) and the genetic code. This course examines the relationship between linguistics and biology, and how it reflects development of the field of linguistics and cross-disciplinary influences in general.


EPSY 8114 – Seminar: Computational Thinking
Instructor: Sashank Varma
Tuesdays, 2:30 - 5:15 PM,
320 Education Sciences Building

Computational Thinking (CT) is increasingly important in STEM disciplines and in society more generally. This seminar will review research in this area. It will include work on antecedent topics such as how people understand mathematical symbol systems, engage in logical reasoning, and think with programming languages; on the mental representations and processes underlying key concepts in CT such as the growth of functions, induction, and recursion; and on new instructional approaches for fostering CT skills in children.

Graduate students with an interest in CT are invited to register for the course, regardless of disciplinary background.

For questions or more information, please contact Dr. Sashank Varma (



Updated January 7, 2019