COGS 402 is an opportunity to gain first hand experience of interdisciplinary research and scholarship. Possible projects span a wide range of areas, such as designing effective visual displays, developing virtual reality systems, designing speech synthesis systems, understanding unconscious perception, investigating limits on the perception of computer animation, designing human-like avatars, and developing effective teleoperation systems for a variety of conditions. Idea and exemplars of past projects can be seen by attending one of the “Gearing up for 402” events, hosted by the UBC Cognitive Systems Society.
The course is typically offered in the Spring semester, and as a single course that runs over both terms of the summer. It is sometimes offered in the Fall too. Whereas lab-based projects are often easiest to find in the summer, supervisors for projects at the more philosophical end of the spectrum may be easier to find in the winter terms.
Finding a Supervisor
The most important part of the course is finding a lab, or other research environment, in which to complete a project. Your project should be one that enables you to exercise and further the skills that you have acquired over the course of your undergraduate studies. Its relevance to the study of Cognitive Systems should be clear.
Students should consult the COGS Advisor if they are hoping to complete their 402 project with a research group outside UBC (or with a group within UBC, if that group is not headed by a UBC faculty member).
Identifying a Project
Students in COGS 402 must give at least nine hours of their time per week to the pursuit of a supervised, collaborative research project, running for the length of one academic term.
Once the student has found a researcher who is willing to supervise their work—and has agreed on a project that can be completed in the time available—both the student and supervisor must fill out a collaboration agreement form. This form must be submitted to the COGS advisor (in Brock Hall Annex, 0155), by the end of the first week of the semester in which the course is taken. For projects that are completed in a UBC lab, we prefer to have this form signed by the Principle Investigator of that lab, even if this PI will delegate the actual supervision of your project to another member of their lab team.
At some point during the first weeks of the semester in which students take the course, all students must give a brief presentation—to the instructor and to other students enrolled in the course—outlining the methods and motivation for the project that they hope to pursue. This first presentation should be of a few minutes in length (think less than 5). It is marked on a pass/fail basis: those students who have not identified a satisfactory project at this stage in the course will be required to withdraw from it.
Students should plan to meet with the COGS 402 instructor at least once during the course of their project (think mid-term check-in), to discuss any ways in which their project has varied from their original plans.
In the last week of the semester in which the course is taken, all students give a second brief presentation, explaining what they have done, why, and how, and taking questions concerning their project. 15% of your grade will be determined by this final presentation. This part of your grade will be based on how successfully you communicate the content and significance of your work to an audience of your peers. You should therefore avoid giving a presentation that assumes more familiarity with the subject matter of your research than these peers are likely to have.
A short written report should be submitted at the end of the week following the last week of the teaching semester. The format of this report must be appropriate to the presentation of professional research in the area in which your project has been done. 40% of your grade will be determined by the quality of your research, as detailed in this written report. The report is graded by the 402 course instructor, and not by the supervisor of the project that you have completed. (This is intended to minimize the conflict of interest in cases where students wish to write a final report that includes criticism of that supervisor’s work.) For the purposes of evaluation, your write-up will be considered as a contribution to the professional literature in the relevant area. You should aim to write in the manner typical of that literature. (It may therefore be helpful to consider the Author Guidelines for some of the main journals or conferences in the area in which you are working.)
Deadlines are important, and the skill of meeting them is an important one to acquire. The timing of research can, nonetheless, be difficult, especially when the research involves human participants, or requires clearance from the university’s ethics review board. In the event that it will be impossible to meet the deadlines for this course, it is imperative that you speak with the course instructor prior to the arrival of those deadlines.
At around the time when your final report is submitted, your supervisor should provide an evaluation of all the work that you have done over the course of the semester. 45% of your grade will be determined by this supervisor evaluation. Your supervisor will be asked to evaluate your skills as a researcher, where these include the communication skills of a successful team member, as well as the intellectual skills that are involved in designing research, and in analyzing its results. As with the Collaboration Agreement Form, we prefer it if your evaluation form is signed by the Principle Investigator of the research group in which you have completed your project, even if this PI has delegated the actual supervision of your project to some other member of their lab team.
Points to Note
- COGS 402 is not an independent study course. Your work is expected to contribute to the research agenda of the people with whom you work.
- Nor should students merely lend casual labour to some larger academic endeavour. The work that you complete should lead, via a method that you understand, to the achievement of some result the significance of which you can explain at the end of the semester.
- It is not permitted for students to be paid for the time used in completing this project.
- For 402 projects that incur significant expense, it may be worthwhile applying for funding from one of the university’s undergraduate research competitions. The appropriate competition will depend on your faculty of study, on whether you are an international or domestic student, and on the area of your project. Information for Arts students can be found here, and information for Science students can be found here, but these sites do not exhaustively list the possible sources of funding.
- Any intellectual property that is created in the course of your studies at UBC is governed by the University’s policies.