Mastodon Visualization Decision Making Laboratory

Open Positions

Graduate Student: Starting Fall

Dr. Padilla is seeking motivated students to join the VDM lab starting in the Fall of . Interested students should email Dr. Padilla at to discuss their research interests before formally applying.

Don't wait!

It is appropriate to email Dr. Padilla today to inquire about applying for the Fall of


Graduate students will enter into a 5 year Ph.D. program at UC Merced in the Cognitive and Information Science Department. Accepted students will be provided with an annual salary and free tuition. Students will either be expected to TA during the Fall and Spring or work on grant-funded projects. Additionally, students will be provided $1000 per year for conference travel support.

Application feedback option:

Students from historically minoritized groups have the option to send Dr. Padilla their application materials before the official due date to receive feedback on their materials. If you are interested in participating in the early application feedback, please indicate so in your email.

What to expect:

Once you contact Dr. Padilla, she will correspond with you to find a time to speak online (via Skype, Google Chat or Zoom). While this will be a casual conversation about your research interests, it is good to prepare short (2-3 minute) answers to the following questions:

  1. Please describe your research interests
  2. Please tell me about your research background (include any lab experiences, research projects, papers, presentations, awards or honors you may have received)
  3. Why are you interested in the VDM lab?

Additionally, we highly recommend that you are familiar with the VDM lab's research. All of our publications are available for free at: Publications

***Recommended reading: Decision Making with Visualizations: A Cognitive Framework Across Disciplines

Application Fee Waiver

If you have participated in any of the programs listed below you may be eligible for a UCM Graduate Application Fee Waiver. Verification of participation in a waiver-eligible program will be required at the time of application. Please be prepared to upload proof of participation in one of the programs below onto your graduate application. We will accept a confirmation letter signed by the program director, or a scanned conference participation badge. The information provided will be reviewed. For more information please contact

  • American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES)
  • Amgen Scholars
  • Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS)
  • Atlanta University Center Consortium
  • Big 10 Conference
  • Bridges to Doctorate
  • Cal-Bridge Scholars
  • California Alliance for Minority Participation (CAMP)
  • Field of Dreams Conference
  • Gates Millennium Scholars
  • GEM Fellows
  • Institute on Teaching and Mentoring
  • Joint Mathematics Meetings (JMM)
  • Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP)
  • Mathematics Engineering Science Achievement (MESA)
  • Maximizing Access to Research Careers (U-STAR)
  • McNair Scholars
  • Merced Nanomaterials Center for Energy and Sensing (MACES)
  • Minority Biomedical Research Support (MBRS)
  • National Association of African American Honors Programs (NAAAHP)
  • National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE)
  • Raising Interest in Science and Engineering (RISE)
  • Sally Casanova Pre-Doctoral Scholars
  • Society for Advancing Chicanos/Hispanics & Native Americans in Sciences (SACNAS)
  • Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE)
  • Society of Women Engineers (SWE)
  • UC Education Abroad Program (UCEAP)
  • UC Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Initiative
  • UC Leadership Excellence through Advanced Degrees (LEADS)
  • UndocGrads Conference
  • UC Merced UndocuScholars Academy
  • UROC Scholar
If you have not participated in one of these groups but are a member of a historically minoritized group in academia, let Dr. Padilla know during your pre-application interview. She will procure a fee reimbursement or waiver for you.

Undergraduate Research Assistant (on-going)

Interested in learning more about cognitive science research? Want to gain lab experience? Join the VDM lab as an undergraduate research assistant.

  • Course credit available and volunteer options
  • Minimum 6 hrs per week
  • Minimum GPA 3.4
  • No prior lab experience required
Apply Now!

***Recommended reading: Decision Making with Visualizations: A Cognitive Framework Across Disciplines