Message from the Director

The Master of Science in Psychological Science program provides an avenue for students to explore and hone their interests. In our program, students take a deep dive into their topics of interest and devote themselves to ongoing research. Importantly, we encourage students to consider the industries they may want to enter and to use their time in the MSPS program to acquire additional skills that will facilitate their success. Increasingly, students need to acquire programming and coding skills—such as Python, Psychopy, and JavaScript—to develop the methods they will use in their research. One way to develop a method using these tools is to develop neural networks—computer systems modeled on the human brain and nervous system—to simulate cognition and perception.

Our student, Jingfeng (Craig) Zhang created a virtual environment to explore his interests in reinforcement learning and memory. In collaboration with Professor Jon Willits, Craig used Unity—a game development program—to simulate a world where characters learn from their predictions and actions. His innovative approach required hours of learning programming languages and Unity. With these tools, he developed neural networks, created a simulated environment, fine-tuned the simulation, and conceptualized how a virtual environment can inform our understanding of psychological phenomena. Craig’s technical skills, commitment to the project, motivation to innovate, and ability to problem solve will serve him well whether he pursues doctoral study or a career in industry.