Thank you to all who participated in the Cognitive Science Program
25th Anniversary celebration.

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Recap and Challenge

Dear Friends & Colleagues,

Thank you to all who came to Bloomington for the highly succcessful 25th anniversary celebration, and to those who were there in spirit at least! I’m writing to all to tell you about a fundraising challenge that was issued at the banquet by Rich Shiffrin and his wife Judy, and to tell you about another initiative that we have launched to help strengthen the network of IU cognitive scientists — which means you! — as well as to fill you in on the events themselves.

First the challenge: At the banquet, Rich announced that he and Judy are generously matching up to $5,000 in new contributions made to the "Richard M. Shiffrin Cognitive Science Student Support Fund” before June 1 of this year. Since the inception of this fund at the beginning of the year, we have raised over $23,000 and are thus very close to the $25,000 minimum amount required to permanently endow the fund with the IU Foundation. Meeting Rich’s challenge will put us significantly over that threshold and allow us to initiate our first scholarships and fellowships during the coming academic year. I’m particularly excited by the ability to create a special scholarship for incoming DAP (direct admit) students as this will help put cognitive science on the radar screen for the very best high school students who are trying to find the degree program that is right for them.

So, if you have not already contributed (or even if you have, but can spare a little more!), please click on “Give Now” link at the right, and follow the instructions there, making sure that you make the selection for the "Richard M. Shiffrin Cognitive Science Student Support Fund” where it says “Make a selection.” If you prefer to contribute by the old-fashioned method of a paper check, please use this form.

At the awards ceremony Thursday evening, we honored the outstanding achievements of our undergraduates and graduate students, and awarded the first ever distinguished alumni award, jointly to Ravi Bhatt, Jim Brink, and Steve Hockema, co-founders of Branchfire, Inc. You can read more about them by clicking on the menu item on the left.

On Thursday evening, I also unveiled our new effort to strengthen and represent the dense network of connections that exists among faculty and students of the program at We are still gathering data for this so if your information is incomplete or missing, please drop me or Ruth Eberle a line via email. Please also send us names of anyone you think we’ve missed, and suggestions for what else you’d like to see represented in this graph.

On Friday morning, Doug Hofstadter “hit the nail on the nose” by entertaining us all with verbal errors that reveal how multiple influences blend to cause our behavior. The subsequent directors' panel filled us in on the history of the program and inspired us with broad and inclusive vision of those who created the program. After lunch, the alumni panel similarly reinforced the importance of a broad training that nevertheless accommodates the kind of rigor and technical specialization that enables careers crisscrossing between the academic and business worlds. And then Mark Steyvers gave us a glimpse of how cognitive modeling, one of the real strengths of the IU program, is being married to neuroscience in a way that allows us to make sense of the huge amounts of data that have become accessible using MRI, EEG, and other brain measurement techniques. The intelligent systems open house and the evening poster session and reception gave good opportunities to learn more about some of the projects of alumni and current students and faculty, capped off with the banquet at which Rich and Judy issued their generous challenge.

Those of us who were in attendance came away from the events inspired to keep the great and inclusive tradition of cognitive science at IU going strong. In my four years as director, I can’t tell you how much confidence it has given me to walk into various meetings with peers and administrators knowing the respect that they hold for the program, and for this we all owe the former directors, Rich especially, a huge vote of thanks.


Colin Allen

The Richard M. Shiffrin Cognitive Science Student Support Fund

In 1988, Richard Shiffrin first proposed the creation of an interdisciplinary Cognitive Science Program at Indiana University, in order to unite the many departments at Indiana University represented in the study of cognition. Dr. Shiffrin was its director from its inception in 1989 until 2000, and again from 2002 to 2004. In the 25 years that have followed since students first entered the program in 1989, 153 students have received Cognitive Science degrees from the program.

On the occasion of the Cognitive Science Program’s 25th anniversary, the program honors its founding director Richard Shiffrin, distinguished Professor and Luther Dana Waterman Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences, with the creation of an endowed fund in his name. Once endowed above the $25,000 level, the fund will provide permanent support for the academic activities of undergraduate and graduate students in the Program.

This special fund especially honors the research and mentorship excellence of Dr. Shiffrin. In addition to his significant contributions to the formal modeling of human cognition in the areas of perception, attention, learning and human memory, Dr. Shiffrin has been the mentor to a surprisingly large number of individuals who have developed noteworthy and fertile research programs. Many of Dr. Shiffrin’s students have gone on to conduct research into modeling of human cognitive processes, formal analysis of language and other products of human cognitive activity, individually and together with their mentor. In 2015, Cognitive Modeling in Perception and Memory: A Festschrift for Richard M. Shiffrin will appear, featuring the work of many of his students and colleagues.

In October 2014, Dr. Shiffrin was awarded the Indiana University President’s Medal for Excellence, which honors the most exceptional faculty, their commitment to excellence in education and research, and their devotion to students. It is a testament to Dr. Shiffrin’s effectiveness as a mentor that his students have been able to apply the modeling tools that they learned to areas far removed from Dr. Shiffrin’s own research. As one of his graduate students observed, “Rich creates an atmosphere that makes it easy for people to succeed.” Here again, with this endowed fund for student support, Dr. Shiffrin will make it easier for our students to succeed.

Due to the generosity of faculty, staff, and alumni, we are already three-quarters of the way to reaching the funding level required for permanent status of the Richard M. Shiffrin Cognitive Science student Support Fund. Your gift, no matter how small, will help us reach our target and support our future students.

For more information on Richard M. Shiffrin, please visit his Indiana University Honors and Awards page.

Distinguished Alumni Award

The Distinguished Alumni Award honors graduates who have carried forward the Cognitive Science Program’s tradition of interdisciplinary excellence and brought credit to the Program by their personal accomplishment, professional achievement, or humanitarian service. The Cognitive Science Program presents its 2015 (and first-ever) Distinguished Alumni Award to Ravi K. Bhatt (B.A. 2003), James J. Brink (B.A., B.S. 2001) and Stephen A. Hockema (Ph.D. 2004), in recognition of their outstanding and significant professional achievement.

In 2011, Bhatt, Brink and Hockema, with the participation of yet another IU Cognitive Science alumnus Jun Luo (Ph.D. 2004) founded Branchfire, Inc. The Chicago-based company has created award-winning mobile productivity software that is currently used by over one million people worldwide and is licensed for use by over 500 organizations in education, law, finance, and government.

Their first product, iAnnotate®, allows users to read, mark up and share documents and images via an iPad or Android tablet, enabling paperless document review and sharing. It is widely used in education. For example, the Stanford University Medical School used it to go paperless. A second product launched was Folia, a new word processor that enables users to link content across platforms and applications.

As entrepreneurs and developers, the Branchfire founders have leveraged an understanding of how emerging technology transforms the creative and collaborative process. We look forward to what the future brings from Bhatt, Brink, and Hockema.

Ravi Bhatt is CEO and co-founder of Branchfire. His passion for technology and communication has driven the development of the core ideas and opportunities for Branchfire. He received a B.A. in Cognitive Science with a minor in Computer Science from IU. He also holds a J.D. from Washington University in St. Louis and is a member of the Illinois Bar.
James J. Brink is CTO and co-founder of Branchfire, leading their development of software and solutions. Brink studied in the Ph.D. program in Mathematics at the University of California, Berkeley. He was a Churchill Scholar and obtained a Certificate of Advanced Study in Mathematics from University of Cambridge. He holds a B.S. in Mathematics and a joint B.A. in Cognitive Science and Computer Science, 2001 from IU.
Stephen A. Hockema is Senior Engineer and co-founder of Branchfire. His career spans technology, academia, and telecommunications. Previous to that, he was professor at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Information where he conducted research on design, impact, and social shaping of information technologies. He holds a joint Ph.D. in Computer and Cognitive Science from IU, where he studied development and learning, as well as a BACEE and MSEE from Purdue University.

Student Award Winners

Graduate Awards
Outstanding Dissertation Award – David Braithwaite
Outstanding Research Award – Gregory Cox
Outstanding Teaching Award – William York

Undergraduate Awards
Outstanding Achievement Award – Aparna Srinath
Outstanding Research Award – Benjamin A. Newman
Outstanding Contribution Award – Sandhya Sridhar
Undergraduate Summer Research Scholarship -- Eleanor Brower




Douglas Hofstadter is Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Comparative Literature at Indiana University, and for twenty-five years has directed its Center for Research on Concepts and Cognition (CRCC), an interdisciplinary center for research in cognitive science. CRCC research focuses mainly on computational models of creative analogical thinking and its sub-cognitive substrate, namely, fluid concepts. The group also conducts research in a number of other areas of cognitive science, including error-making, creative translation, scientific discovery, musical composition, philosophy of mind, and foundations of artificial intelligence. He received a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics at Stanford University, and a Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Oregon. He is a member of the Royal Society of Sciences for Physics and Mathematics, and has been elected to the American Philosophical Society, American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is also winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. More on Dr. Hofstadter at the CRCC website.
Mark Steyvers is a Professor of Cognitive Science at UC Irvine and is affiliated with the Computer Science department as well as the Center for Machine Learning and Intelligent Systems. He received his Ph.D. from Indiana University working with Dr. Richard Shiffrin and was a Postdoctoral Fellow at Stanford University. His recent work is on developing Bayesian models for aggregating human judgments, including probability estimates, rankings, and problem solving behavior. He also works on probabilistic topic modeling and text mining. In this research area, he has shown how to develop topic models to automatically extract high-level semantic representations from text documents. Until recently, Dr. Steyvers served as President of the Society of Mathematical Psychology. For his computational modeling work, Dr. Steyvers received the New Investigator Award from the American Psychological Association as well as the Society of Experimental Psychologists.

Panel Discussions

We enjoyed lively discussions on the directions of cognitive science research and on the outcomes and benefits of a degree in cognitive science.

”Director’s Choice” Panel: Looking back and looking forward: our Cognitive Science Program

Moderator: Colin Allen

Linda SmithDistinguished Professor and Chancellor’s Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences
Robert GoldstoneChancellor’s Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences and Cognitive Science
Robert PortProfessor Emeritus of Linguistics and Computer Science
Richard ShiffrinDistinguished Professor and Luther Dana Waterman Professor
Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences
Peter ToddProvost Professor of Cognitive Science, Informatics, and Psychological and Brain Sciences

"Alumni+" Panel: Experiences with Cognitive Science

Moderator: Mike Jones

Nicole Beckage (B.S. 2010)Working on a Ph.D. in Cognitive Science and Computer Science focused on computational modeling of child language acquisition at the University of Colorado, Boulder
Ravi Bhatt (B.A. 2003)Branchfire, Inc.
Amy Criss (Ph.D. 2004)Associate Professor of Psychology at Syracuse University and Adjunct Assistant Professor in Psychiatry at State University New York Upstate Medical University
Tarun Gangwani (B.S. 2011, M.S. 2013)Design Lead for IBM
Gary McGraw (Ph.D. 1995)Chief Technology Officer at Cigital, Inc.
Mike SellersProfessor of Practice and Game Design in the IU Media School
Ronaldo Vigo (Ph.D. 2008)Associate Professor of Mathematical & Computational Cognitive Science and director of the Center for the Advancement of Cognitive Science at Ohio University


Cognitive science can trace its roots to the rise of computers as both tools and a source of metaphors for researchers trying to understand human and artificial intelligence.  Although the ideas underlying cognitive science trace back to before the Second World War, it wasn’t until the 1960s that the label “cognitive scientist” started to be worn proudly. By the late 1970s the field had professionalized with the Cognitive Science Society publishing a journal and organizing its first annual conference in 1979 in La Jolla, California.  The 1980s saw a handful of universities begin to organize programs in cognitive science. The first academic department (UC San Diego) was formed in 1986.  IU faculty knew that they had the makings of a world-class program that could rival the best anywhere, and in 1988 planning began in earnest for a cognitive science program at Indiana University.

Richard Shiffrin (Psychology) led a committee of faculty from across the university to design IU’s cognitive science program, with key administrative and intellectual support from Peggy Intons-Peterson (then chair of Psychology) and J. Michael Dunn (the philosopher and future founding Dean of IU’s School of Informatics, who at that time was Associate Dean for Planning in the College of Arts and Sciences). Although the committee wanted to establish from the outset undergraduate and graduate degrees, the program was initially started in the Fall of 1989 as a combined PhD, with Shiffrin as its director. The combined program offers the Cognitive Science PhD as a second major to doctoral students from other departments and programs. It is still the case in 2015 that more than half of the PhD students in cognitive science are in the combined program, having come to Cognitive Science from other disciplines.  However, since 2004 the Program has directly admitted doctoral students. In that same year, it added BA and BS degrees for undergraduates in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Over the years, the cognitive area of the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences has formed a strong core for IU’s Cognitive Science.  Many of our courses are taught by PBS faculty, and many of our students, graduate and undergraduate, pursue joint degrees between PBS and Cognitive Science. But faculty from Computer Science, Philosophy, History & Philosophy of Science, Informatics, and Linguistics regularly teach courses within the program, and students’ double and triple majors speak to a very wide range of interests, from criminology to physics and Spanish literature to animal behavior.

From just one course and eight students in its inaugural year, to the 25 courses serving hundreds of undergraduate and graduate students during the current 2014-2015 academic year, the expansion of the Program is evident. Today, 70 core faculty members and 78 associated faculty participate in the program. Representation is strong from the departments of psychology, philosophy, history & philosophy of science, computer science, informatics, and linguistics. Other participating departments include biology, anthropology, education, and information and library science, optometry, speech and hearing, and mathematics. The program is highly integrated, encouraging interdisciplinary cooperation between all the participating disciplines. IU faculty and student collaborations are forged in the classrooms and cross multiple lines within the University. There are also many special groups, labs and research centers affiliated with the Program that enhance collaboration and provide opportunities for students to get direct training and experience in faculty research projects.

Our research and researchers are recognized internationally and nationally.  Among our faculty are eleven fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, eight fellows of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, several members of the National Academy of Sciences and fellows of the American Council of Learned Societies, as well as recipients of prestigious awards including the Barwise and Rumelhart prizes and Guggenheim fellowships. Many of our faculty members are also recognized by the university with titled, distinguished, chancellors, and provost professorships.

Faculty members have received major research grants from the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Department of Education, and the Department of Defense.  Particularly noteworthy was the $3.1 million Integrative Graduate Education and Research Training grant from the National Science Foundation for “The Dynamics of Brain-Body-Environment Systems in Behavior and Cognition” awarded to Professor Randy Beer as Principal Investigator, with Profs. Linda Smith, Rob Goldstone and Olaf Sporns as Co-PIs.  This 6-year grant from 2009-2015 funded 32 graduate students and supported research internships for 19 undergraduate interns.

The program has internationally recognized strengths in mathematical modeling of cognitive processes such as memory, decision-making, and concept learning, the application of dynamical systems theory to cognition and cognitive development, and the integrated study of brain-body-environment systems. Its tradition is strongly empirical, while simultaneously fostering broad thinking about topics as wide-ranging as human creativity, computational modeling of individual and group cognition, functional and structural mapping of the human brain’s “connectome”, the cognitive basis of moral behavior and empathy, and the philosophical foundations and implications of the cutting-edge contributions to cognitive science that the program had made and continues to make.

The above description draws some of its information from “The Legacy of the Laboratory: Psychological and Brain Sciences at Indiana University, 1888-2013” which was prepared by Prof. James H. Capshew for the quasquicentennial of IU’s Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences in 2013-14.

Program Directors

1989-2002 Richard M. Shiffrin, Luther Dana Waterman Professor of Cognitive Science for the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Indiana University Bloomington.
2002-2004 Andy Clark, Professor of Philosophy and Chair in Logic and Metaphysics at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland.
2004-2005 Richard M. Shiffrin, Luther Dana Waterman Professor of Cognitive Science for the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Indiana University Bloomington.
2006-2011 Robert Goldstone, Chancellor’s Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Indiana University Bloomington.
2011-2015 Colin Allen, Provost Professor of Cognitive Science and of History & Philosophy of Science at Indiana University Bloomington.
2015- Peter Todd, Provost Professor of Cognitive Science, Psychological and Brain Sciences, and Informatics at Indiana University Bloomington