Graduate Students

Looking to Join Our Graduate Research Program?

Each year I look for smart and motivated students to join UCSC’s Cognitive Psychology program as a graduate (PhD) student and collaborate/train with me in my lab. If you are interested in joining my lab you need to do the following:

Make sure you are sufficiently familiar with my research program so that you can make an informed choice:

  1. Read the research section of this website very carefully.
  2. Read some of my research articles, especially the most recent ones.

Apply to our graduate program and make sure you indicate that you are applying to the Cognitive Psychology program. In your statement of purpose, make sure you explicitly say that you want to work with Dr. Seymour (don’t leave us guessing!).

Carefully read about how our graduate application process works HERE. When you are ready to begin the application process, start HERE.

If you are unsure whether I am seeking new graduate students, please email and ask.
I will not be admitting students during Fall 2019 to start Fall 2020, but I will likely at admit 2-3 new students during Fall 2020 start Fall Quarter 2021.

If you’ve read my work are still unsure whether your interests fit within my current research program (your interests don’t have to be exactly the same as mine, just in the same ballpark), email me an idea of what you are interested in and I will respond as soon as I can (may not be immediate). It would help if you could include your vita and unofficial transcript, though this is not required.

How Will We Decide?

Although the Psychology Department does not list a specific minimum GPA, grade, or GRE score, applicants who score high in these areas are more likely to be accepted. However, we consider the following very carefully and they can in some cases be just as important:


The courses you’ve taken are important. A student who has a 4.0 but has taken mostly “easy” courses has no advantage over a student with a 3.6 who has challenged themselves in their college courses. Although courses in Psychology (in particular, cognitive related ones) are important, math (including statistics), logic (including programming), and biology (in particular those related to psychophysiology and brain functioning) courses are also great. Although we most often admit students who are Psychology or Cognitive Science majors, your courses are more important than your major. You could, for example, be a computer science major who has taken several psychology courses and still be an attractive candidate. In my lab in particular, some sort of technical background coupled with Psychology (as major or minor) would be viewed very positively. Of course, this is not necessary, there’s nothing wrong with just being a Psychology major! We’re looking for students who have learned a lot in college, are able to apply that knowledge to new problems, and are excited/motivated to join our quest for scientific truth!

Statement of Purpose

Your statement of purpose needs to be one of the best documents you’ve ever written. It’s our first impression of you. Typos, grammatical errors, syntactical errors, or clarity issues will not give us the impression of someone ready for graduate school. Write it early and get as much feedback from others as possible. In particular we want to see the following:

  • Why you want to be a cognitive scientist doing cognitive psychological research. The closer your background and/or goals match this, the easier it will be for us to perceive the match to our program.
  • What you are generally interested in.
  • What research or other experiences support your interest in this area.
  • Who in the program you want to work with and what about their work do you find interesting?
  • If you have some ideas (not necessary), what sorts of things related to the specified faculty’s research program you would like to study.
  • Of course, that list is generic. If you want to work in my lab, you should sound familiar with some aspect of my research and describe how your interests and experiences overlap with my research program.
  • Research Experience is really influential, if you have some, describe it!

Of course it’s easy to just say you’re interested in cognitive work similar to that in my lab. Thus, I will place considerable weight on students who have gotten some research experience in college. Although it is not necessary to have worked in a lab doing something similar to my work, students with research experience in some aspect of cognitive science will be favored. It could even be a cognitive aspect of some other psychological field (e.g., Social Cognition, Cognitive Development), or possibly a non-psychological research lab (e.g., human factors, robotics, game design, AI, and many others). Briefly describe this research experience in your letter. If you were lucky enough to author/co-author any research articles or conference presentations, by all means mention those!

Letters of Recommendation

One reason good research experience matters is that it allows you to receive a letter of recommendation from someone who knows you fairly well. This can also come from interactions in small classes or non-class work experience in your department. The key is to get letters from faculty who know you well and who can write you a strong recommendation. A recommendation can be the deciding factor when deciding between two otherwise similar candidates. Missing, poor, or even mediocre recommendations will likely hurt your chances. It is better to get a recommendation from a non-faculty member who knows you very well (especially if it’s in some academic, problem solving, management, or other context in which you performed well with challenging problems or circumstances) than to get one from a faculty member who can only report that you made an A in their course and is a nice person.

What Kinds Of Students Are Seeking?

I’m looking for smart, motivated, and productive students who want to become scientists that uncover truths about how the mind works. We are also noticing an increase in the number of our graduate students who want to use cognitive science methodologies in non-academic fields (e.g., Human Factors, Product Design, etc.). I’m personally a type of scientist who is deeply curious about how the brain is put together: What sorts of parts and systems are there, how are they connected, and how does this organization both facilitate and constrain human behavior. I call this sort of an engineering approach because I’m interested in how how things work and how they are put together, even though I don’t have any sort of engineering background. If you look at human cognition this way, then we may be natural collaborators no matter what your background and interests. However:

My research currently focuses on these cognitive areas: Human Performance, Cognitive/Executive Control, Human Memory, Visual Attention, Multitasking, Individual Differences in Cognition/Learning, and Computational Cognitive Modeling. See my research section and read my papers for more more details on my research program. There are obvious paths to working in my lab, but I’m pretty flexible about considering new directions!:

Standard Route

If you are a cognitive science or psychology major (though see my point above about courses), are interested in cognition (and in particular my research program/topics) and are excited about doing standard behavioral research using human experimentation, then there is definitely a place for you in my lab!

Technical or Applied Route

If you have some technical training (e.g., engineering major who has taken several psychology courses) or have an applied background (e.g., you’re a pilot, worked in human factors or interface design, are a skilled athlete/competitor/coach, and have taken several psychology courses) and are interested in exploring whether these kinds of complex behavioral environments may be used to understand or extend cognitive science theory, then there is definitely a place for you in my lab.

Computer Science Route

If you have a computer science background that includes computer programming  (in some cases a cognitive science with emphases on programming or simulation), have taken several psychology courses, and are interested in using this particular hybrid of experiences to help me in me efforts to simulate human cognition using a computational cognitive architecture (see research section on EPIC), then there may be a place for you in the lab!

If you have any other questions, contact Dr. Seymour.
Posted in Participate.