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Alumni Spotlights

Gary McGraw, Ph.D.
Ph.D. in Computer Science and Cognitive Science
Gary McGraw received a dual Ph.D. in Computer Science and Cognitive Science at IU and is now CTO of Cigital, the world’s largest consulting firm specializing in software security.

Gary McGraw is a globally recognized authority on software security and the author of eight best selling books on this topic. His titles include Software Security, Exploiting Software, Building Secure Software, Java Security, Exploiting Online Games, and 6 other books; and he is editor of the Addison-Wesley Software Security series. Dr. McGraw has also written over 100 peer-reviewed scientific publications, authors a monthly security column for SearchSecurity and Information Security Magazine, and is frequently quoted in the press. Besides serving as a strategic counselor for top business and IT executives, Gary is on the Advisory Boards of Dasient (acquired by Twitter), Fortify Software (acquired by HP), Invincea, and Raven White. His dual PhD is in Cognitive Science and Computer Science from Indiana University where he serves on the Dean’s Advisory Council for the School of Informatics. Gary served on the IEEE Computer Society Board of Governors and produces the monthly Silver Bullet Security Podcast for IEEE Security & Privacy magazine (syndicated by SearchSecurity).

Gary McGraw was recently interviewed for the How I Got Here" podcast, where he discusses his childhood as a violin prodigy, his early introduction to personal computers with the Apple II, his first degree in philosophy, his decision to come to IU to study cognitive science with Douglas Hofstadter, and his start in software security.

Clara Fridman
COGS B.S. May, 2019
I am currently moving to Israel to start an MA in Linguistics for Clinical Research at Bar-Ilan University. My biggest advice to incoming COGS students is to get close with the extremely diverse COGS cohort. Everyone is in the program for the same reason- we're all fascinated with too many subjects and are ecstatic to finally have found a program that allows us to blend our interests. You have so much to learn from all of your peers, be sure to engage!

Ben Axelrod
Cognitive Science B.S., Computer Science B.S., 2019
This summer, I will begin working as a Technical Analyst for Capgemini in Seattle. My combination of degrees in Computer Science and Cognitive Science made me a competitive candidate for this job. I am excited to begin working there this June.

Alexis Beck
Cognitive Science B.A., 2019
I will be completing my current degree in the fall of 2019. I will be graduating with a Bachelor’s of Arts in Cognitive Science with a cognate in psychology, and a minor in human centered computing. I will be starting second degree in Nursing after I graduate so that I can become a midwife. After I complete that degree track, I will continue my education in graduate school for human computer interaction design, or HCI/d. Cognitive science helped me to never stop seeking out answers to questions that I have. We are all curious, in this major, and we are experts at finding out the “why” of “things”. Constantly asking questions, and having that investigative spirit has helped me to learn about myself and has started me on my current academic path. There are more connections to be made than realized on the surface. Never stop asking the answers to the questions you have.

Sawyer Collins
Cognitive Science B.A., 2019
Now that I’m graduating I’m going directly into the PhD program here at IU in Informatics in their intelligent interactive systems track. CogSci was awesome for allowing me to be able to ride the line between psychology and more computational work. This allowed me to focus on human-robot interaction (HRI) and work with professors from various departments. Advice: learn some programming BEFORE choosing this major, so brush up or get the basics down before classes begin!

Keiland Cooper
COGS B.S., 2019
After I graduate, I will be heading out west to pursue a PhD in neuroscience at the University of California Irvine. There, I will continue my work on learning and memory, bridging empirical research with computational. Cog Sci has ultimately given me the broad set of skills and tools to approach this type of multidisciplinary problem, as well has giving me my strong interest not only in our minds, but the minds we may be able to build in AI. I’m excited to continue this journey! Advice: Future student of the best major on campus: congratulations! You stumbled upon one of the best known secrets IU has to offer for those interested in the brain and minds and what they can do. This major is unlike most you’ll see on campus, and is perfect for those big picture, systems type of thinkers. You’ll be exposed to a range of issues, discipline and problems, many of which apply beyond the brain. But this is so valuable as it will allow you to put together the puzzle that is the world around us. Embrace this uniqueness. While you are taking this tour, be sure to always pursue the topics that most interest you, while keeping an open mind to those which may not initially. Throughout all of it, the flexibility of the major will allow you to tailor it to your specific interests, and you should. Find what you’re most passionate about at the end of your four or so years, and you’ll be off to the races.

Devika Davda
COGS B.A. and the Cognitive Science Exchange Program at Linkoping, Sweden, 2019
My long-term goal is to go back to school for Clinical Psychology, and the more that I do research on what my research interests are, the more I am drawn into geriatrics. It has been a wonderful ride, and I have met incredible people! But I think it’s time to step back, really evaluate what I want to do, and how I want to spend my time working. I think I’m going to officially accept the job at the Behavior Center for Autism (at least for the summer, in order to get some work experience). Therefore, I will be in Indianapolis, and around. So I want to keep in touch and keep my network strong in Bloomington, too!

Vanessa Denny
COGS B.S., 2019
My hope is to get a job working for MAPS after graduation, and eventually head to graduate school to study psychedelics!

Gwynneth Hurley
COGS B.A., 2019
This summer I will be in Bloomington doing research for the ‘4C project’, Cultivating Cultures of Ethical STEM Education. The project’s overall goal is to encourage and improve ethics education in STEM-related fields. I am excited because it is critical that people in all fields, especially science and technology, have a sense of the broader impact of their work on society. When it comes to progress, we need to take a step back and reevaluate what progress means to our species as a whole. I was hired for this job in large part due to my studying cognitive science. I’ll be spending a year in Bloomington working part time at IU to pay off some loans and writing in my spare time. I am grateful for my time in undergrad, but having two majors and working during school kept me very busy. I want time to digest all the incredible things I’ve learned. At this point, I feel inundated with interests and I want to work out how they align and the best way to move forward with them, before I commit to a graduate school program or full-time career. Advice for cognitive science students: Cognitive science is applicable in all fields, so it is a great focus but also a great supplement to any passions you may have. It is relevant in pretty much all areas of human experience as well because of our reliance on cognition. Pretty much the best major.

Yiyao Wei
COGS B.A. CSCI B.A., 2019
I plan to go to graduate school for sure. Meanwhile, I am also searching a full-time research assistant position in universities. My Experience at IU: I was just as lost as many young people entering college, interested in many academic areas of study but concentrated on nothing. I studied engineering at the State University of New York, where I spent my first year and a half after coming to the United States. Meanwhile, the notions and applications of mind, consciousness, and brain interested me. While I dived into deep research, the academic articles and books kept reminding me of the article I read back in high school, The Man Who Would Teach Machines to Think, an interview with Professor Douglas R. Hofstadter; he pointed out that the mainstream researchers misinterpreted artificial intelligence and gave no answer to the core question of this field: how human think. It was serendipity for me to read that article. However, it was not a coincidence that I decided to transfer to Indiana University Bloomington to major in cognitive science, where Professor Hofstadter does his research and teaching on a daily basis. The Cognitive Science Program of IU offered me an interdisciplinary curriculum to get exposed to different disciplines, encompassing art, philosophy, linguistics and computer science. Throughout my learning, I added computer science as my second major as I believed the accuracy and problem-solving nature of computer science would help me develop intelligent systems by integrating human cognition and technical skills. Additionally, linguistics-related classes like Intro to the Study of Language and Psychology of Chinese provided me insights on the interplay between languages and human cognition. The undergraduate program at IU truly leveled up my range of knowledge and allowed me who was an amateur in this area to develop the academic concentration of my choice.

Cat Xu
COGS B.S. May, 2019
After graduation, I’m moving to Washington, D.C. to do science advocacy with the Union of Concerned Scientists. My work next year probably won’t directly require me to exercise the research/computing skills and cognitive science knowledge I gained through my degree. However, I definitely expect that the training in critical thinking, writing, and presenting I gained through my COGS courses and research will help me be a better thinker and communicator! Advice for Future and Potential Cognitive Science Students: 1. Study cognitive science. 2. One of the key strengths of this program is its interdisciplinary nature. I’d recommend combining cognitive science with something else you find interesting--whether that’s one of the classics, like computer science, psychology, neuroscience, or philosophy, or something a bit less conventional, such as English, economics, geography, or even studio art--and explore that intersection. Chances are, there’s a faculty member here who does interesting research relevant or tangential to your interests and can help guide you! 3. Coding skills are some of the most useful (and employable) abilities you can acquire nowadays. Definitely, definitely try to get a good handle on a programming language or two, whether through classes or through research. 4. Study abroad if you can! Feedback for Cognitive Science Program: It can be hard for students to know how to go about research: how to find a lab that suits you, and what to expect from being an RA, how to start doing your own projects, etc. I think taking a class period from a class that underclassmen majors all take (Q240 maybe?) to provide some more guidance, like through a talk/panel from upperclassmen, could help!

Dian Zhi
COGS B.A., 2019
After graduation I’m going to work in some CogSci labs to gain more research experience. After that, I would like to apply for graduate school in either Cognitive Science or Computer Science. Some advice for future CogSci students: Make sure that you are not only learning things about doing research, you should also learn to cooperate and communicate with other people. And do not procrastinate.

Michael Zubi
COGS B.A. August, 2019
Next I'm going to be getting my Masters of Science Information Systems degree in the upcoming year! I learned early about this great opportunity at the Kelley School of Business: + Kelley, check it out!

Kelly McGuinn
COGS B.S. and CS B.S., 2017
After graduation, I am very excited to be working at Shire Pharmaceuticals within their IT Development Program! I will start my first 6 month rotation of the program as a project manager in their office north of Chicago. My best advice for incoming students is to do your best to be a well-rounded student. This can be a challenging balance; to learn enough of many things to be knowledgeable in all. I suggest this because having a broad understanding of many topics or fields not only makes you unique to future employers, but also prepares you countless career paths that you may decide you want to explore.

Adrianna Bassard
COGS BS, 2017
Next year I will be attending Northwestern University in the PhD Psychology Program under the Brain, Behavior, and Cognition area. To get here I made sure to do well on the GRE and also have a very competitive GPA. I think above all, being involved in a research lab for a number of years as well as doing an Honors Thesis helped the most as far as standing out as an applicant. It is difficult to make it to the interview process so you must look good on paper, but furthermore, showing passion for what you do by conducting research and being able to explain your ideas and work articulately was the key to being admitted into such a prestigious program.

Michael Robinson
COGS BS and Computer Science BA, 2016
I started my job search January 10th, and got a message on LinkedIn from a Bluware recruiter March 3rd saying they wanted Java/C++/C# developers with an understanding of OOP for a multi-year project developing components for a subsurface reservoir modeling and integration platform for a super major O&G company. They also made it very clear that they wanted someone with energy and enthusiasm. The hiring process took 4 weeks from March 3rd to March 29th. It consisted of an initial phone screening, a technical phone interview, an on-site technical interview, a follow-up interview with middle management, a contingent verbal offer, and finally a drug-screen and background check.

Benjamin Newman
COGS B.S., 2016
Future plans are still a little up in the air. I will definitely be pursuing a PhD next year, but do not yet know which program. (Most likely either UTAustin for Computer Science, UCSD for Cognitive Science, or Carnegie Mellon for Robotics). My intention is to study computer vision. More generally, my interests are in learning, and how to bring unsupervised learning techniques more in line with our understanding of how humans learn in unsupervised situations, or perhaps supervised learning from very little data. I am hoping that these analyses will have symmetric properties, with insights from computer science potentially offering hypotheses about human learning, and human learning offering possible frameworks and inspiration for algorithmic design. Most recently I have been working on a project revolving around human attention allocation across objects in complex real-time scenes with Chen Yu and Yayun Zhang.

Tim Carlson
COGS BS, 2016
I completed an internship with Velocloud Networks from May 2015-August 2015. There I worked on the backend and front-end systems, designing and implementing features and completing bug fixes. I created several mechanisms, such as a password reset workflow and SMS / email alert system during this time. When I moved back to Indiana I began working as a contractor, also for Velocloud. As a contractor, I've been working on bug fixes and feature requests for their management plane software, the "VCO". This has involved creating functional specifications for new features, writing javascript for node.js, tracking and filing tickets via Assembla, and attending bi-weekly company and developer calls. I will be moving back to California in September to transition from part time contractor to a full-time position with Velocloud.

Sandhya Sridhar
B.S. in Cognitive Science, 2015

Next year I will be training in Dance Therapy with Kolkata Sanved, an organization in India that applies movement-based techniques to heal traumas. After I get my masters in Dance Therapy, I will be teaching math through Teach for America in Memphis, TN. Studying cognitive science allowed me to better understand of how humans learn, process, and keep information. This will help me to develop data stats for tracking progress and evaluation of teaching techniques.

Many COGS students have created research projects or required class projects out of a question that combines their interest in cognitive science with another passion, hobby or interest that they already have. For me, it was dance, so in several classes, I chose to examine kinesthetic empathy, how people learn and remember movement, breathing techniques, etc. For people who liked knitting, they looked at programmable e-textiles. Some others liked playing with dogs, so they looked at canine eye tracking. The great thing about studying cognitive science is that our curiosity about any subject can be examined by a cognitive experiment!

Kate Samson
BS Cognitive Science/BA Philosophy, Minors: Music, Ethnomusicology & Folklore, 2015
While I was at IU, I went down all of the paths that allowed me to study people. Majors in Cognitive Science and Philosophy enabled me to read, learn, and observe the complexities of human interaction and thought. After graduation, I moved to Pittsburgh, PA to work for Disney Research at Carnegie Mellon University. My goal is to always be part of a community that allows me to study people, through research, ethnography, or education. I would advise others in the program to channel more energy toward the experience of learning and less energy toward worries about grades. Get involved with research. Build a network one piece at a time. Pay attention in statistics and take as many computer programming courses as you can. Learn R! Talk with your professors - they are interesting people. Learn to ask a lot of questions.

Trisha Thomas
B.A. in Cognitive Science, 2015
I completed my honors thesis, titled "Phonotactics and the Mental Lexicon of Second Language Learners", last semester under Dr. Isabelle Darcy from the department of second language studies, the rest of my committee consisting of Dr. Tom Busey, of psychology, and Dr. Nasuko Tsujimura, of Linguistics. I conducted research on the perception of epenthetic vowels in non-native speakers of English from Korea. I will be presenting the findings at the conference New Sounds 2016 this summer. Currently, I am working as a research assistant in Dr. Larry Humes' Audiology Research Lab, while expanding my thesis research project to include native Arabic speakers and finishing the data analysis of a EEG study that I was conducting in Dr. Busey's lab. In the fall, I will either apply to PhD programs or I will go to England for a one year Master’s program in Human-Computer Interaction at University College London.

Aparna Srninath
B.S. Cognitive Science, B.S. Mathematics, B.A. Liberal Arts Management Program, 2015
Aparna talks about her experience at IU and with the Cognitive Science Program here.

Daniel Smedema
B.S. in Cognitive Science and Computer Science, 2015
After graduating in Spring 2015, I will be starting as a full-time software developer at Epic in Madison, Wisconsin. I think two things were really important to getting the job: the first was awareness. I had a good friend from high school who started working at Epic two years ago, which is how I originally heard about the company. Sometimes the people who you least expect can turn out to be important connections! The second critical factor in getting the job was my internship last summer. I had close relationships with a few faculty already, and I developed a few more--these relationships helped me to realize the possibilities and pursue them. The internship itself taught me a lot: both technical skills, and things about myself, like what sort of environment I work best in. It gave me something to talk about in interviews about which I was actually an expert and demonstrated that I had successfully worked in a setting outside the classroom. I highly recommend enriching co-curricular experiences like internships, study abroad, leading student organizations, and so on. They both teach and demonstrate cross-cutting skills that might end up being more important than what you learn in class!

Lindsey Kitchell
B.A. in Cognitive Science, 2014
After graduating with a BA in Cognitive Science and Anthropology, I moved to London, England, where I am completing an MSc in Palaeoanthropology and Palaeolithic Archaeology at University College London. I have applied to several PhD programs in evolutionary anthropology and plan to start fall 2015. I plan to continue combining anthropology and cognitive science by focusing my research on hominin brain evolution, specifically on brain asymmetry and the relationship between the brain and the inner skull.

Robert Hawkins
B.S. in Cognitive Science, 2014
After graduating, I moved to California and began a PhD in cognitive psychology at Stanford University. Building on research interests I developed under the mentorship of IU Cog Sci faculty, I’m now using experiments and computational models to think about questions in social cognition: what processes and principles underlie our interactions, how do these principles scale up to crowds and larger collectives, and, as an area of application, how do they influence the way we ask and answer questions? It’s a terrific community of researchers to be part of. I also love being close to San Francisco and the larger Bay Area, with its top-notch music, coffee, and rock climbing.

Doori Lee
B.S. in Cognitive Science, 2014
I am graduating with majors in Computer Science, Studio Art and Cognitive Science. I will start working as an application developer for JP Morgan Chase in Chicago in July 2014. In the near future, I hope to pursue a PhD in Computational Linguistics.

Gabriella Gabbard
BS in Cognitive Science, 2013
Gabriella began a position at Epic Systems in June 2013. She is enjoying her work as a Test Plan Runner, where she helps maintain the quality of Epic's software systems.

Seth Frey
Ph.D. in in Cognitive Science and Informatics, 2013
I am a postdoctoral researcher for Disney Research in Zürich, Switzerland, a land of good cheese and good chocolate. I graduated from IU with a Ph.D. in Cognitive Science and Informatics. My job is to look through the business units of the Walt Disney Company for good questions about human social behavior. A founding father of cognitive science once said that "nothing advances science like a good applied problem," and a corporate research lab is full of good applied problems. With the totally unique interdisciplinary training that I got from the IU Cognitive Science and Informatics programs, I know how to work outside my specialty; I know how to talk shop with people in all kinds of positions, and I know how to identify good science and good opportunities in all kinds of datasets. Thanks to the strength of an interdisciplinary training at IU, my first post-graduate business trip was a trip to Walt Disney World.

Kyle Carter
B.A. Cognitive Science, 2012
My wife and I just moved to the pacific northwest. I am currently pursuing an internship with Galois in Portland, OR. It would entail a mix of embedded software development and domain-specific language development. My hope is that it will turn into full-time employment with that company. Also, I'll be pursuing a PhD in Computer Science in the near future, preferably at Portland State University. They have a strong Programming Languages group there that I would like to be a part of.

Kate Sanders
B.S. Cognitive Science, 2012
I will be attending the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to pursue a PhD in Psychology, after graduating in May 2012. I plan to work with Duane Watson on sentence processing and comprehension as well as explore my interest in what reading fiction can tell us about the mind.

Thomas Parmer
B.S. Cognitive Science, 2012
After graduation in May 2012, I moved to Madison, Wisconsin to begin working with Epic, a health software company. I plan on working for a couple of years to gain experience and save up money before pursuing my academic goals further in graduate school.

Ronak Shah
B.S. Cognitive Science, 2012
Ronak will be an elementary school teacher at Tindley Preparatory Academy in Indianapolis, as part of Indianapolis' Teach For America corps. He hopes to continue a career in elementary education for at least a few decades.

Kathleen Carney
B.A. Cognitive Science, 2012
After graduating with a B.A. in Cognitive Science (concentration logic) I will begin working for Hitachi Consulting in Chicago, IL. I will start off as a member of their core consulting team in July 2012. Being a core consultant means that for the first few months/year(s) that I am working there, I will be assigned to projects based on what interests me the most before deciding what I want my specialty to be. Most of the work I will be doing will be IT related, but there are many other opportunities as well. I am very excited to start working full-time and am thankful that I have such a interesting and useful degree with CogSci.

Emily Weisbard
B.S. Cognitive Science, 2012
Next year I'll be working towards my Masters of Science in Information Systems here at Indiana University in the Kelly School of Business. After that I hope to get a job in Chicago.

Anna Handy
B.A. Cognitive Science, 2012
I graduated in May 2012 with a double major in Cognitive Science and English. For the next two years, I will be a part of the Teach For America corps in Nashville, Tennessee. I will be teaching fourth grade, with a math focus, at a museum magnet elementary school in the city. During my time with Teach For America, I will also be pursuing a Master's degree in Education from Lipscomb University, also in Nashville.

Tarun Gangwani
B.S. Cognitive Science, 2011
The cognitive science program at IU lets one discover their academic and professional passions. I got involved with projects that allowed me to gain self-discipline and accountability for my work -- both of which are invaluable to any career path that one would choose. The flexibility of the program made it easy to pick a path that was right for me -- while there is some baseline structure, there are many opportunities to explore the field by joining projects, taking classes in other fields, and working with faculty and peers. While I can say that I hold an undergraduate degree, the experiences I got involved with during my time with the program are what really shaped me as a person. My website:

Alex Nay
B.S. Cognitive Science, 2011
I currently work in Dr. Ken Mackie's lab on IU's campus in the Multi-disciplinary Science Building II (MSB II) assisting with research using mice models. The research focuses on the little understood cannabinoid system and its various pathways, receptors and molecular makeup. In the Spring or Fall of 2013, I plan to begin the Master's program in Human-Computer Interaction/Design (HCI/d) here at IU and can't wait to get started!

Nicole Beckage
B.S. Cognitive Science, 2010
Nicole is in the Ph.D. program in Cognitive Science at UC-Irvine working with Mark Steyvers. Her senior year research published in PLoS One is already attracting a lot of attention.

Kelly Gordon
B.A. Cognitive Science, 2010
Kelly graduated in 2010 and spent the last year in an accelerated 1 year MA degree for Art History in London. She recently submitted her MA dissertation on artists resale rights and has also started her first year of law school at The John Marshall University in Chicago where she is pursuing Intellectual Property Law (specifically Art Law).

Brian Slattery
B.A. Cognitive Science, 2010
After I graduated in 2010, I started working on a Ph.D. in learning sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago, working with Tom Moher and Leilah Lyons. My research has mainly involved technological supports for learning, especially as they are used in informal learning institutions such as hand's-on science museums, zoos, aquariums, etc. My current main project is helping design and evaluate an embodied learning environment to teach people about the effects of climate change on polar regions, being designed for the Brookfield Zoo (and other zoos nationwide) as part of the NSF-funded Climate Literacy Zoo Education Network (CLiZEN).

Jaimie Murdock
B.S. Computer Science & B.S. Cognitive Science, 2010
Since graduating in December 2010, I've accepted a full-time position as a Visiting Research Associate with the Cognitive Science Program, continuing work with Colin Allen on the Indiana Philosophy Ontology (InPhO) Project. I'm very excited about the upcoming year working on new methods for knowledge representation and machine learning. I'll also be working on a new bibliography management system for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (SEP), based on a tool developed at the Cognitive Science Program.

Winter Mason
Ph.D. Social Psychology, Cognitive Science, 2007
When people ask me how a psychologist got a job in tech, I have two answers: how I did it, and how I think someone else could do it. One of the main research projects I worked on in grad school was with Rob Goldstone, doing experimental work with social networks. This topic was perfect for me because social networks fall conveniently at the intersection of social psychology and cognitive science (in which I eventually got my Ph.D.), and in addition to the cognitive science paper with Goldstone I also co-authored a paper on social networks with Eliot Smith that was published in a social psychology journal. This research led to a collaboration with someone who then introduced me to Duncan Watts (a prominent social networks researcher) right as he was leaving Columbia University to create a group at Yahoo. Once there, I was embedded with computer scientists, economists, physicists and mathematicians, and learned the skills that set me up for my current position as a Data Scientist at Facebook. If there is a lesson to be learned from my career path, it is that collaborations can lead to opportunities down the road, so make connections wherever you can. Rather on relying on fortunate connections, however, my advice to psychologists interested in the tech industry is to start acquiring the skills I learned at Yahoo right away. Learn how to code—I recommend Python because it is versatile and easy to learn—and learn advanced statistics. Having a decent understanding of machine learning techniques has come in very handy in my career, and those skills and knowledge in combination with the expertise that comes with a psychology or cognitive science degree would make one a strong candidate in industry.

Ravi Bhatt, Jim Brink, Stephen Hockema, Jun Luo
Cognitive Science
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