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REU Program Overview


The Temporal Dynamics of Learning Center’s (TDLC) REU Site is an undergraduate research arm of the Center. Our REU program is focused on training undergraduates to perform research at the highest level as part of the Center’s research mission of developing a new science of the temporal dynamics of learning. Our Center is uniquely organized as a network of four research networks, each of which has strong representation at UCSD. Our trainees are therefore embedded in a network of senior scientists, postdocs, graduate students, and current undergraduate researchers, affording them opportunities to experience highly collaborative and highly interdisciplinary science in fields including neuroscience, psychology, machine learning, and cognitive science, to name a few.

Intellectual Focus

The intellectual focus of the research experience will be based upon the research focus of the Temporal Dynamics of Learning Center (TDLC), which is on the role of time and timing in learning. This is an especially broad topic, reflecting the size and scope of the TDLC. We study timing in learning at multiple temporal scales – from the millisecond level as reflected in spike-timing dependent plasticity in synaptic modification, up to the month and year level as reflected in long-term effects due to the spacing of study episodes in fact learning. Our research also spans many spatial scales and systems, from the scale of neurons up to the scale of social interactions between teachers and students. To organize such a broad effort, the TDLC has four research initiatives that are intended to comprise the knowledge that would be needed in order to develop a complete science of the temporal dynamics of learning. These are:

  1. TEMPORAL DYNAMICS OF THE WORLD: How is temporal information about the world learned and how do the temporal dynamics of the world influence learning?
  2. TEMPORAL DYNAMICS OF THE BRAIN: What are the temporal dynamics of brain cells, brain systems, and behavior? How do these dynamics change with learning, and how do they influence learning?
  3. TEMPORAL DYNAMICS OF MOVEMENT AND EXPLORATION: What are the temporal structures for body movements and sampling the environment and how are they learned?

Each of these broad Center Research Initiatives is being addressed by formulating specific research strands that represent concrete, approachable, answerable research questions on subtopics within the initiative. These lead to specific research projects that REU students can contribute to. Our approach is inherently interdisciplinary, and may involve behavioral methods, neuroscience methods, and/or computational modeling. Some projects will involve the use of our unique resource, the Motion Capture/Brain Dynamics Facility, which allows the simultaneous capture of movement, brain waves, and eye movements, while the subject is immersed in a virtual reality environment, allowing precise control of the temporal and spatial parameters the subject is exposed to.



A total of 8-15 undergraduate students are admitted into the ten-month REU program that begins in September of every year. At least one third of participating students are admitted from local, non-Ph.D. granting institutions. Our goal is to provide an opportunity for the best students from our local community colleges and State Universities to perform university-level research.


Financial Support

Our trainees receive a stipend of $5,000, disbursed monthly ($555 per month) over the duration of the training program (9 months), as well as a $1,100 travel stipend to travel to a major academic conference and to a TDLC meeting outside of San Diego. Our trainees make a commitment to conducting 10 hours of lab work per week.


Supplemental Training

In addition to the training students receive in the individual laboratories, the REU Site program will encourage and prepare students for continuation in graduate programs in the science of learning and related disciplines through several mechanisms. Our students will participate in seminars on topics such as writing a research paper, library training, choosing a graduate school program, research ethics, finding a mentor, etc. Faculty mentors will also discuss graduate school possibilities with their trainee. In addition, professional development opportunities will be provided through monthly seminars (where REU students and their mentors can present and discuss research), online network meetings (most research networks in TDLC have monthly presentations using speakerphones and emailed PowerPoint), and participation in a GRE preparation course, which is coordinated by the UCSD Academic Enrichment Program (AEP). This is a 12-hour course with pre-tests and post-tests. Our REU program pays for this course, including the books. The AEP also disseminates information on academic conferences and summer research opportunities.


Undergraduate Research Conference

At the end of the year, REU students, if nominated, are required to participate in the UCSD Undergraduate Research Conference held annually at the end of the spring quarter. Typically, more than 200 undergraduates at UCSD make presentations at the symposium. At this daylong event, students give formal 20-minute oral presentations about their research projects to an audience of faculty and fellow students. Lunch and breaks are provided to allow the students and faculty time to informally discuss the presentations. This conference is highly conducive to helping undergraduate students gain experience and confidence in delivering presentations and answering questions.