Cognitive Science Initiative
Registration now open!
Registration is open now through September 15.
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Start of the lecture series: Monday, Oct. 16, 4:15-5:45 PM
Start of the Fundmentals II seminar: Thursday, Oct. 19, 4-6 PM
The Certificate of Advanced Studies in Cognitive Science is an interdisciplinary, research-oriented additional qualification for Master's students and doctoral candidates that promotes individual profile formation. The focus of interest is on human cognition, in the conviction that mutual enrichment is possible by building bridges to computational approaches and artificial intelligence.
Our cognitive abilities underpin processes such as remembering and forgetting, attending and constructing meaning, planning and decision making, language production and comprehension, which allow us to respond to complex problems in our environment. The question of how cognition works is fundamental to countless areas of our daily lives, be it at school, in social interactions, on the road, daydreaming, in mental institutions, translating or in court - to name a few. It is not surprising, therefore, that the field of cognitive science brings together a wide range of disciplines from the humanities, life sciences, natural sciences and behavioural sciences.
Just as diverse as the questions surrounding the concept of cognition are the scientific fields that set themselves the task of systematically investigating these abilities. The subjects at Heidelberg University that deal with problems of cognition include psychology, neuroscience, linguistics, philosophy and the disciplines dealing with artificial intelligence.
Each discipline brings its own questions and methods to the cognitive science community. Advances in new techniques and methods from different disciplines are helping us to develop a better understanding of human cognition. As in empirical research, cognitive science is also an emerging field in theory. For example, the notion of the mind and its functions as an algorithm running in the brain is being challenged by approaches of embodied cognition.
What unifies all these different practical and theoretical approaches is that they approach the phenomenon of cognition in an interdisciplinary research project. One of the most important challenges at present is therefore to bring together in a constructive way research and the results of research in this multidisciplinary field.
The Certificate in Cognitive Science at Heidelberg University offers students from all departments the opportunity to expand their qualifications in the field of cognitive science.
In order to achieve the broadest possible understanding of the diverse issues surrounding cognition, while ensuring in-depth application knowledge in a specific methodology and fostering the ability to independently develop and solve problems in this interdisciplinary field, the certificate is composed of three modules:
The first module provides basics and orientation in the form of a lecture series, which can be attended without registering for the certificate, and in the form of a seminar, for which registration is required. These events provide an overview of the issues of the various subdisciplines and the conceptual basics of cognition. In addition, to pass the modul it is necessary to acquire basic knowledge in statistical methods, which are indispensable in empirical cognitive science.
The second module supplements the basics with a profile that can be individually designed according to the respective interests. This enables the graduates to learn theoretical approaches and a practical research method beyond their own field of study.
Finally, the third module offers the opportunity to elaborate the acquired methods and approaches in an own project design within the framework of current research questions. The project can for instance be used as a basis for theses, doctoral dissertations or smaller research projects.
The design of the certificate provides students the chance to enter a broad, extremely dynamic and socially relevant field of research. They not only acquire an additional qualification, but also gain a new perspective on the potentials of their own discipline.
For further details, please see the module overview [PDF].
Who is it for?
The Certificate in Cognitive Science is aimed at students of all disciplines with a special interest in cognitive science content and methods. An ongoing Master's or doctoral program at Heidelberg University is a prerequisite for application. For medical students, the preliminary medical exam is required; law students can apply from the 7th semester onwards.
The certificate is supposed to be completed alongside your regular studies and is free of charge.
It comprises 29 credit points (ECTS) with a recommended duration of 4 semesters.
How does the application process work?
Participation in the lecture series is open to all students. (see below for more info)
Registration is required starting with the Philosophy of Science (Fundamentals II) seminar.
In the first stage, a total of 24 students from all departments will be enrolled in the certificate program in winter term 2023/24.
If you are interested, registration is open from 1 August until 15 September 2023 via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Application form [PDF]
Available spots will be assigned on an equal basis according to the 4 faculty areas (Fields of Focus).
Acceptance is determined by the time of registration ('first come first serve' within the according faculty areas). In order to maintain equal opportunity, applications from the first week of the application period (1 August – 8 August) will be collected and assigned by lottery if available spots within a faculty area are exceeded.
If spots remain available after 15 September, they may be given to interested students from other FoFs.
Courses will be held in both German and English.
The lecture series as well as the seminar Fundamentals II will be taught in English.
Sufficient familiarity with both languages is recommended to take full advantage of all offered courses.
For foreign students only speaking English, it is possible to complete the certificate under limited course availability.
Interdisciplinarity is paramount in the field of cognitive science.
The certificate provides basic knowledge of different cognitive science approaches and methods as well as in-depth theoretical and methodological knowledge according to the self-selected profile. Upon completion of the certificate, you will be able to relate to a variety of disciplines, to take a position on different theoretical and empirical approaches, and to formulate research questions and propose ways to investigate them.
In addition, you will learn how to recognize different professional perspectives and thus contribute to a constructive exchange between representatives of different disciplines.
Course offer from the related disciplines
The course offer consists of a variety of courses from the various disciplines that contribute to Cognitive Science. Depending on the semester, students will have access to courses from psychology, philosophy, neurology, psychiatry, linguistics and computer science, among others.
The specific courses offered by each faculty will be announced before the start of the semester in time for the elective period.
Lecture series in winter term 2023/24
The lecture series 'Foundations of Cognitive Science' is open to anyone interested in the topic. An exam at the end of the lecture is required for the certificate.
It will take place on Mondays 4:15-5:45 PM starting Oct. 16, 2023. An overview of the program will be published here in due time.
Seminar Fundamentals II in winter term 2023/24
'The History of Cognitive Science' seminar will take place on Thursdays 4-6 PM starting 10/19/23. You can find more information about the course at 'The History of Cognitive Science'. To successfully complete the seminar, you may have no more than two absences.
The Certificate was initiated by the Initiative and Research Area Cognitive Sciences, whose aim is to bring together cognitive scientists from all four Fields of Focus of the University of Heidelberg and to jointly develop research and teaching in cognitive science at the university.
General questions on the certificate
Do I need to be enrolled as a student for the certificate?
You must be enrolled to attend classes and receive credits in the first two modules. However, you can still submit the final thesis after you are no longer enrolled. If you are still in the matriculation process, you can also register for the certificate and must then submit the successful matriculation before the start of the semester (1.10.). Otherwise, your place will be reassigned.
Is there mandatory attendance in the courses?
This depends on the course. Attendance is mandatory for the Fundamentals II seminar.
Will the courses be offered online/hybrid?
For the time being, the Fundamentals I lecture series and the Fundamentals II seminar will be offered as face-to-face courses only. Both courses are required for the final admission to the certificate program. For Module II, it is up to the lecturer to decide in which format the course will be offered.
Since when does the certificate exist?
The certificate will be offered for the first time in the winter semester 2023/24.
My major is not typically considered cognitive science. Can I still do the certificate?
The certificate is open to students from any discipline with an interest in cognitive science. However, it would be helpful if you have taken a course dealing with issues in human cognition and/or have some idea of the goal you wish to pursue. If you are not sure whether the content of the certificate matches your interests, we recommend that you attend the lecture series. This should help you decide whether cognitive science is interesting enough for you to pursue the entire certificate.
Are there grades or just pass/fail?
The certificate as a whole is not graded, and the individual modules/components need only be passed. However, individual courses may be graded. This applies, for example, to the exam for the lecture series. For the courses in the individual profile area, it depends on the agreement with the lecturer whether the course certificate (‘Schein’) is graded or not.
Questions on the application process
There is no Master's in medicine and law. What are the application requirements for the certificate?
Medical students interested in the certificate should have already passed the ‘Physikum’. Law students can register from the 7th semester.
How do I know which faculty area/field of focus my study program belongs to?
Here you may find a list of all study programs. Click on your study program. In the new tab that opens, you will find the program's faculty affiliation in the top line. Here you can find out which faculty cluster (field of focus) your faculty belongs to.
Questions on the modules
Do I have to take the Fundamentals II seminar and the lecture series in the first semester? What if I cannot attend one or both?
The Fundamentals II seminar has a maximum capacity of 24 participants, and we aim to make the best use of these slots. That is why participation in the seminar is mandatory in the first semester in which you have been admitted. After registration, you have one year to pass for the seminar and the lecture series Fundamentals I. Only then you will be formally accepted in the certificate program. You could also visit the lecture series in the following semester, but we recommend that you take it in the first semester. Conversely, you can also attend the lecture series and acquire the certificate in the first semester and only register for the seminar in the following semester. In this case, the passed exam of the lecture series will be taken into account when registering. Keep in mind that even then there is no guarantee of a spot in the seminar.
How does the 'Individual Profile' module work?
The courses you can take are posted for selection on a moodle page for certificate students before the start of the semester. In some cases, only a limited number of seats are available for certificate students. Course requirements depend on the individual course and the number of credits you wish to earn. For example, if you want to earn only 2 ECTS for a seminar in the complementary disciplinary foundations component, in many cases the requirements will only be regular attendance, active participation, self-study and possibly small written assignments during the semester, while for an in-depth seminar with 4 or 6 ECTS, you will have to complete an additional assignment. As you can see from the module plan, the minimum number of credit points within the different components of the individual profile adds up to 14, while a total of 16 ECTS are planned for the module. You can earn the additional 2 credit points in a component of your choice, for example, by taking a methods course with 6 ECTS instead of 4 ECTS.
What is the project draft in the 'Completion module'?
The project draft you will develop in the completion module is like a small research exposé. You will first develop a research question and, based on current scientific debates from different cognitive science disciplines, consider how and why this particular topic is of interest. The exposé ends with a proposal for a concrete method to address your chosen research question. The project outline can serve as the basis for a subsequent master's/doctoral thesis or for smaller research projects.
Can I complete the certificate in less than 4 semesters?
In principle, yes. It depends on how much effort you are willing to put in per semester. A total of 29 credit points must be earned in the various modules. It is up to you to decide how to divide the work to be done among the different semesters. It should be noted that the courses offered in the individual profile area vary from semester to semester and that some of the courses have only a limited number of places for certificate students. If you want to complete the certificate as quickly as possible, you may have to make some sacrifices in course selection. Also, keep in mind that learning and processing new information takes time. If you really want to explore topics in an interest-driven way, it may be helpful to allow some time for learning and processing.
Course assignment and crediting
What courses can I take if I have not yet been accepted into the certificate?
Even if you have not been admitted to the certificate program, you can attend the lecture series and take the exam. In principle, you can already attend courses of the individual profile module, but the available places are partly limited and are given to certificate students preferably (in the case of courses from medicine and psychology: exclusively). Courses that you have already successfully completed can be credited if you are subsequently accepted into the certificate program.
Is there a deadline by which I must have completed certain courses?
You need to pass the Fundamentals II seminar and the lecture series within one year.
Can I get credit for courses taken in my regular degree program?
The Statistics course can be credited. In certain cases, courses/seminars belonging to the second module may also be credited. Creditable courses must meet the certificate requirements. In particular, courses for the individual profile module must come from a department other than the student's own. The eligibility of a course for the certificate will be decided on a case-by-case basis.
Can I get credit for certificate courses in my main degree program?
The extent to which courses from the certificate program can be credited to your degree program (for example, as an elective) must be decided by your registrar’s office. If you are interested in this option, we recommend that you check with your registrar’s office before registering for a course.