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The Institute for Research in Cognitive Science (IRCS) is an internationally recognized research center based at the University of Pennsylvania. Founded in 1990, its primary purpose is to bring together people and knowledge from many different fields including Linguistics, Computer Science, Psychology, Neuroscience, and Philosophy with the aim of advancing the study of Cognitive Science. The current director, Mark Liberman, is a professor of Linguistics and is also the director of the Linguistic Data Consortium, also based at Penn.

The IRCS is a major source of research in the field, and acts as an organizing hub for these activities. Undergraduates, graduate students and post-docs find a home there, providing many different ways to learn about the field through hands on experiments, independent research, and contact with faculty. It currently has over 50 associated faculty members from eight departments and approximately 40 undergraduate students as well as numerous graduate and post-graduate researchers. Research is carried out primarily in the areas of Logic and Computation, Perception and Action, and Language Acquisition, Structure, and Processing.

Along with supporting research, the IRCS holds a weekly colloquium series that brings in speakers from across the globe. Past topics include The Computational Nature of Language Change and Evolution, Logic and Games, Spontaneous Sign Systems Developed by Deaf Children in Two Cultures, Learning With Pedagogical Agents and How Do Infants Learn about the Physical World?

Each year it and holds an annual Summer Undergraduate Workshop in Cognitive Science which brings together 30 or so students for three weeks and gives them a thorough introduction to the field. Over 35 professors lecture on the different areas of their expertise and students are led on tours of the various research labs and technology around campus. Students are encouraged to participate in a panel that discusses the future of Cognitive Science and if all of this weren't enough, the entire program is held at no cost to its participants. This program is such a wonderful opportunity for interested students to learn about one of the most interesting and least-known fields through actually experiencing what it is like to be in the field as well as learning about the cutting edge research.

The IRCS is the home to several top-of-the-line research laboratories including:

  • Cognitive Electrophysiology (ERP) Lab
  • Head-Mounted Eyetracking Lab
  • Visuo-motor/Optotrack Lab
  • Vision Analysis and Simulation Technologies (VAST) Lab
  • Penn Developmental Lab
  • Psycholinguistics Lab
  • Speech Lab
as well as PennLincs, the IRCS's outreach program. PennLincs attempts to integrate the findings of Cognitive Science in a practical way into questions of teaching and learning. Current projects include Early Elementary Science, and Math and Robotics Mentoring.

In 1991 the IRCS was awarded a grant by the National Science Foundation which established it as one of the NSF's 24 Science and Technology Centers.

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