Indiana University

News Release

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Last modified: Tuesday, August 25, 2009

IU cognitive scientists receive $3.1 million for innovative training methods

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Aug. 25, 2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Cognitive scientists at Indiana University Bloomington received a five-year, $3.1 million grant from the National Science Foundation to create and employ innovative methods for training future scientists.

According to the NSF, the Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) program is intended to "catalyze a cultural change in graduate education" with innovative new models for graduate education and training that transcend traditional disciplinary boundaries. IGERT also is "intended to facilitate diversity in student participation and preparation, and to contribute to a world-class, broadly inclusive, and globally engaged science and engineering workforce."

"This highly-competitive award is a strong recognition of the quality of the cognitive science program at IU Bloomington," said Randall Beer, principal investigator. Beer is professor of cognitive science and professor in the School of Informatics and Computing. "Building on our existing strengths in the psychological and brain sciences and complex systems, as well as our new activities in robotics, this award will allow us to offer a unique training program on situated, embodied and dynamical approaches to cognition."

IU Bloomington's program, one of 18 funded this year out of more than 400 initial proposals, will focus on the role that the interaction of an agent's body and environment with its brain plays in the production of behavior and cognition. The dominant approach in science consists of breaking things down into smaller and smaller components. The core motivation for the "dynamics of brain-body-environment interaction in behavior and cognition" IU training initiative is to not only decompose systems into their parts, but to compose these parts back together again to show how they interact to form a functioning and adaptive whole. The graduate students will receive training in a variety of methods, including computational simulations, mathematical analysis, experimental methods, robotics and neuroscience. The systems that they study will span many levels, from individual neurons, to neural circuits, to developing infants, to groups of people forming organizations.

Co-investigators include Robert Goldstone, director of the Cognitive Science Program; Linda Smith, Chancellor's Professor and chair of the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences; and Olaf Sporns, professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences. The 20 faculty members participating in the program have appointments in the Cognitive Science Program, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, and Department of History and Philosophy of Science, in the College of Arts and Sciences; and the Department of Computer Science in the School of Informatics and Computing.

The new program will include courses and professional development activities, an extended colloquium series, domestic and international summer research internships, a summer program for undergraduate students from underrepresented groups, and an annual research showcase.

The first class of fellows will begin in the spring. They are Jennifer Trueblood, Paul Williams and Carlos Zednik, doctoral students in the cognitive science program; Skyler Place and Thomas Wisdom, doctoral students in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences who are working on joint degrees in cognitive science; and Richard Veale, doctoral student in computer science who is working on a joint degree in cognitive science.

Beer can be reached at For more information about the program, visit

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