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Learning and Memory - Program Training

Graduate Training Procedure

Graduate training in the program emphasizes active and independent involvement in research. In addition, there is formal course work (some of which is required) and opportunities for teaching experience. Formal supervision is by a student's major professor and his/her advisory committees which oversee the Master's thesis, dissertation, and preliminary examination.


New students are expected to develop a close research relationship with one or more of the faculty in the Learning and Memory area, and are expected to actively participate in on-going and independent research throughout their graduate careers. A low student-faculty ratio in the area permits individualized attention and close collaboration with faculty member(s) whose research interests coincide(s) most closely with the student's interests. Course credit is given each semester for individualized research.

Required courses

To fulfill requirements of the Department of Psychological Sciences, graduate students in learning and memory must take two courses in the quantitative area, two courses from those offered by the cognitive, brain and behavioral sciences, or learning and memory areas, and two courses from those offered by the other areas of the department (clinical, developmental, social, and industrial/organizational). In addition, students in the learning and memory area must take an additional 15 hours of required courses.


In recognition that many students pursue academic positions that require teaching as well as research and that teaching experience is often essential for securing these positions, all students in the program are encouraged to gain a variety of these experiences during their graduate careers. Some is obtained via teaching assistantship support during the academic year. Students supported in this fashion typically counsel undergraduates in the course for which they are responsible, grade examinations and papers, conduct review/help sessions, and (in some courses) organize and teach weekly laboratory sessions. They may also have an occasional opportunity to lecture. Advanced graduate students also have the opportunity, and are encouraged, to teach one of our undergraduate courses during the summer session (e.g., Motivation, Introduction to Research Methods, etc.). For this they have full responsibilities for the development and delivery of lecture material, laboratory assignments, examinations and grading, etc., and are paid accordingly.

Major Advisor and Committee

Prior to or upon arrival in the program, each student is assigned a major advisor. For example, when a newly admitted student accepts financial support from a research grant held by an area faculty member, it is understood that this faculty member will serve as his/her advisor. However, this relationship does not preclude the student from later changing advisors and receiving financial support from other sources. Changes in the major advisor are always possible as students become more acquainted with other area faculty and their interests. Typically, however, students remain with a particular faculty advisor throughout their graduate training.

In cooperation with the major advisor, each student selects a committee to review his/her proposal for the Master's thesis, preliminary examination, and dissertation and to conduct a formal examination when each of these has been complete. Each committee is formed at the time it is required and consists of the major advisor and two or three faculty members, two of whom must be in Learning and Memory.

Examinations and Requirements

The requirements for the M.S. are completion of necessary course work and a thesis based on the student's research. Students are expected to finish the M.S. requirements in a timely fashion - usually by the end of the second year in the program. Towards this goal, students file a plan of study with the Graduate School at the end of their first year. The plan lists the members of the advisory committee for the Master's, the courses to be taken, and the proposed thesis title.

After completing the requirements for the M.S. degree, the student then files an analogous doctoral plan of study. Prior to their admission for Ph.D. candidacy, students propose and defend (upon completion) a preliminary examination paper. The topic and scope of the paper is initially reviewed by a committee chosen by the student and his/her advisor and approved by the Department Head.

The doctoral dissertation follows successful defense of the preliminary examination. The proposed research for the Ph.D. is again reviewed and approved by separate committee. Upon completion of this research and the dissertation, the student orally presents and defends his/her work to the committee. The area strongly encourages students to complete the requirements for the Ph.D. within 5 years after admission into the program.

Student Evaluation

Each student's progress in the program is reviewed twice each year at the end of each semester. Students are judged to be "in good standing", "not in good standing" or "on probation" by the area faculty based upon each student's research performance, course work, and teaching duties (if applicable). Most students progress through the program satisfactorily and so remain "in good standing" throughout their graduate careers. "Probation" is reserved for situations in which progress is lacking and in need of immediate improvement. A "not in good standing" judgment, which means that a student is not permitted to continue in the program, occurs only in rare circumstances in which there is a continued lack of progress despite prior probationary warnings.

Research Facilities

Research facilities in the Psychology department are excellent and readily permit experimental work on a wide variety of topics in learning and memory. The department is housed in a four-story building containing faculty and graduate student offices, and laboratories for conducting both animal and human research. Research equipment is readily available and, if needed, can be designed and built by an in-house shop that is ably staffed by personnel with computer, construction, and electronics backgrounds.