Program - Max Planck School of Cognition

The Max Planck School of Cognition offers an international four-year PhD program starting with a one-year orientation period followed by three years of research for the doctorate.  Students can enter with a Bachelor’s (fast-track) or a Master’s degree.

Table 1: Overview of the four years PhD program at the Max Planck School of Cognition.

First Year

Figure 1. Geographical distribution of the German labs, UK and Netherlands associated to the Max Planck School of Cognition.

During the first year (so-called orientation period), there is an emphasis on teaching and prolonged laboratory rotations, of 3–6 months duration each, in at least two different labs of fellows of the Max Planck School of Cognition. A major feature of the orientation period is that students can acquire interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary perspectives on a common research theme (e.g., by combining artificial intelligence and cognitive neuroscience or psychology and basic anatomy).

  • Laboratory rotations
    Lab rotations will allow first-year students to explore several potential groups (Figure 1). This will help define their research interests and aid in choosing the laboratory where they would like to develop their PhD research.
  • Lectures
    Students will take basic courses consisting of two main sections each:
    1. E-learning during which the essentials are covered (see Table 2), and
    2. Classroom weeks so-called cognition 'academies' in which all students will come together: a) one at the beginning of the academic year on introduction to the Max Planck School of Cognition; b) the second and third 'academies' will consist of three teaching weeks on basic courses.

    The first year will end with an evaluation of the students, before one can advance to the 'research-phase' (i.e., second to fourth years). Only after a successful evaluation will students identify faculty members for their supervisory team.

    Basic Courses
    Cognitive Neuroscience
    Functional Neuroanatomy & Neurophysiology
    Artificial Intelligence & Intelligent Systems
    Philosophy of Mind, Ethics
    Methods in Cognitive (Neuro-)Sciences
    Experimental Design & Statistics
    Basics in Molecular Neurobiology and Genetics
    Clinical Neuroscience

    Table 2: Basic courses during the first year (orientation period)

Second and Third Year

  • PhD research work
       At the beginning of the second year students will work together with their supervisor to develop a feasible and
       relevant project proposal, to be presented to a thesis advisory committee. After its approval, students can start
       the project.
  • Lectures
      Students will attend two ‘academies’ per year (four total in the second and third years), each of which lasts two weeks. Each academy involves one week of courses on advanced topics and one week of student, faculty and guest speaker presentations on their research topics.

Fourth year

  • PhD research work
       Students are expected to finalize their dissertation by the end of the fourth year.
  • Lectures
       Students will have one cognition ‘academy’ involving only presentations by the faculty, students, and guest speakers
       on their research topics.
  • Degree
       PhD degrees will be awarded by the university to which the supervisor of the respective student is affiliated.
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