National Cognitive Science Conference

April 7th, 2018 | 10:30AM - 5PM
PC East Ballroom, UC San Diego


The Annual National Cognitive Science Conference is organized by the UC San Diego Cognitive Science Student Association. In this 12th year, our theme, The Cognitive Revolution 2.0, considers a new frontier in our field engendered by the growing popularity of practical applications. The 1950’s Cognitive Revolution led to the foundation of this interdisciplinary field, of which the UCSD Cognitive Science department has been a leader. In thinking of the future of our field, we highlight two core values: innovation and inclusivity. Today, our field is ideally positioned to make major impact in varied areas such as technology development, clinical applications, education, and entertainment. It also has the potential to help overcome cognitive biases and improve the lives of those who are disabled or in need/disadvantaged.


09:00 AM – 12:30 PM: Check In
10:30 AM – 10:35 AM: Opening Remarks
10:35 AM – 11:15 PM: Michael Arbib
11:20 AM – 12:00 PM: Karen Emmorey
12:00 PM – 01:20 PM: Lab Open House/Lunch
01:30 PM – 02:10 PM: Workshop Session 1
02:20 PM – 03:00 PM: Workshop Session 2
03:10 PM – 04:00 PM: Berthold Reinwald
04:00 PM – 04:30 PM: Closing


Speaker Bios

Michael Aribib

Talk Title: From Frogs' Brains to the Language of Buildings.

Michael A. Arbib has held Emeritus status (since August 2016) as University Professor, Fletcher Jones Professor of Computer Science, as well as a Professor of Biological Sciences, Biomedical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Neuroscience and Psychology at the University of Southern California, which he joined in September of 1986. He is currently an Adjunct Professor of Psychology at the University of California at San Diego. The thrust of his work is expressed in the title of his first book, Brains, Machines and Mathematics (McGraw-Hill, 1964): the brain is not a computer in the current technological sense, but he has based his career on the argument that we can learn much about machines from studying brains, and much about brains from studying machines.

Karen Emmorey

Talk Title: The Neurobiology of Language

Dr. Emmorey received her Ph.D. in Linguistics in 1987 from the University of California, Los Angeles, and she was a Senior Staff scientist at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies from 1988-2005. While at the Salk Institute, Dr. Emmorey was the Associate Director of the Laboratory for Cognitive Neuroscience. Dr. Emmorey is an Associate Editor for the Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, and she has been on the Editorial Board of Sign Language Studies, Sign Language & Linguistics, and the Journal of Memory and Language. Dr. Emmorey has given the Nijmegen Lectures (2001), the Blackwell Lecctures (2009), and is a frequent keynote speaker (including the AAAS Annual meeting in 2010). Dr. Emmorey is the author of 4 books and more than 100 journal articles and chapters, and she currently holds several research grants from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.

Berthold Reinwald

Talk Title: Machine/Deep Learning in the Enterprise: Perspectives and Challenges

Dr. Berthold Reinwald is a Principal RSM at IBM Research - Almaden. He is the technical lead for Apache SystemML. His research interests include scalable analytics platforms and database technology which he contributes to IBM Watson. In his talk, he will present perspectives and challenges of machine/deep learning in the enterprise. He will cover a variety of usecases from different vertical industries, discuss the state of the art, and take a critical look at challenges in systems development.

Emilio Ferrara

Talk Title: Machine Learning in Social Media

Dr. Emilio Ferrara is Research Assistant Professor at the University of Southern California and Project Leader at the USC Information Sciences Institute. Ferrara's research interests include designing machine-learning systems to model and predict individual behavior in techno-social systems, characterize information diffusion and information campaigns, and predict crime and abuse in such environments. He has held various visiting positions in institutions in Italy, Austria, and UK (2009-2012). Before joining USC in 2015, he was a Research Assistant Professor in the School of Informatics and Computing of Indiana University (2012-2015). Ferrara holds a Ph.D. in Mathematics and Computer Science from the University of Messina (Italy), and has published over 70 articles on machine learning, network science, and social media, appeared in venues including PNAS, Communications of the ACM, Physical Review Letters, and several ACM and IEEE transactions and conferences. His research on social network abuse and crime prediction has been featured on the major news outlets (TIME, BBC, The New York Times, etc.) and tech magazines (MIT Technology Review, Vice, Mashable, New Scientist, etc). He was named 2015 IBM Watson Big Data Influencer, and ranked 28th as 2016 Big Data Experts by Maptive. He received the 2016 DARPA Young Faculty Award, and he is the recipient of the 2016 Complex Systems Society Junior Scientific Award for outstanding contributions to computational social sciences.

Philip Guo

Talk Title: Learning Computer Programming Outside the Classroom

Philip Guo is an assistant professor of Cognitive Science and anaffiliate assistant professor of Computer Science and Engineering at UC San Diego. His research spans human-computer interaction, online learning, and computing education. He currently focuses on building scalable systems that help people learn computer programming and data science. Philip is the creator of Python Tutor (, a code visualization and collaborative learning platform that has been used by over 3.5 million people in over 180 countries to visualize over 50 million pieces of code. Philip received S.B. and M.Eng. degrees in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from MIT and a Ph.D. in Computer Science from Stanford. His Ph.D. dissertation was one of the first to create tools for data scientists. Before becoming a professor, he built online learning tools as a software engineer at Google, a research scientist at edX, and a postdoc at MIT. Philip's website contains over 500 articles, videos, and podcast episodes and gets over 750,000 page views per year.

Christine Johnson

Talk Title: Dolphin Social Cognition

Dr. Johnson received her BA in Psychobiology from UC Santa Cruz, and PhD in Psychology from Cornell University. She has been teaching in Cognitive Science at UCSD since the early 90s and running a research lab focused on Animal Cognition, involving undergraduate interns since 1994. The current focus of her research is on social cognition in bottlenose dolphins, which she studies using detailed analyses of video and audio recordings of naturally-occurring social behavior, as well as experimental methods. She has also studied wild dolphins in the field, and is the co-editor, with Dr. Denise Herzing, of the recent (2015) book "Dolphin Communication & Cognition".

Douglas Nitz

Workshop Title: Neuroscience Lab: Animals

Dr. Nitz is a professor at the UCSD Cognitive Science department. In 1988, he started to work at The Neurosciences Institute in San Diego with Giulio Tononi and Gerald Edelman, where he had his own very first small laboratory and began work on cortical representation of spatial information. He finished his PhD at UCLA Neuroscience Program in 1995 and took a post-doctoral position with Bruce McNaughton at the University of Arizona. There, he learned to apply the neuroscience methodology, recording of multiple single neurons in behaving animals, that still dominates his work today and which, for him, is the most revealing of brain function as it relates to information processing.

Lara Rangel

Workshop Title: Neuroanatomy and Histology Workshop

Dr. Lara Maria Rangel received a B.S. in Biological Sciences from Stanford University in 2006 and a Ph.D. in Neurosciences from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) in 2012. She conducted her postdoctoral work in the Cognitive Rhythms Collaborative, based at Boston University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she investigated the rhythmic coordination of neural spiking activity in the rodent hippocampus. In 2015, she became a UC Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow at UCSD, and began investigating the relationship between local circuit level processes in the brain and extracranially measured brain rhythms. Her research tests whether rhythmic activity is important for coordinating the processing of information in organized networks of neurons. Her goal is to provide new insight into the single cell interactions underlying the occurrence of brain rhythms measured in rodents and humans

Leo Trottier

Workshop Title: Clever Pet: Gaming for Dogs

Leo Trottier is a unique blend of cognitive scientist, software engineer, product designer, and entrepreneur. He is founder and CEO of CleverPet, a startup that uses smart hardware to teach pets automatically through advanced cognitive and behavioral science techniques. Leo is an alumnus of San Diego's EvoNexus and the Qualcomm Robotics Accelerator (powered by Techstars). He has a degree from the cognitive science and A.I. program at the University of Toronto, and started CleverPet while a PhD candidate at UC San Diego. Before CleverPet, Leo ran Scholarpedia, Wikipedia’s academic equivalent, where he worked with Nobel Laureates to "wikify scholarly canons."


With over 300 attendees, the theme of last year’s National Cognitive Science Conference was the Cognition at Work. Keynote speakers included Don Norman from The Design Lab and Nate Bolt, founder of Ethnio. The conference highlighted the inner mechanisms of the brain along with the practical applications of cognition in the real world.