Mentor: Dr. Elizabeth Johnson
Long before children learn to tie their shoes or ride a bike, they learn to comprehend and produce spoken language. Indeed, children easily outperform adults when it comes to acquiring language. And children readily acquire multiple languages at once with ease. This is amazing when you consider just how complex language is. In this project, the student will examine the relationship between the language input received by a child and that child’s development of language skills. In particular, this project will examine individual differences in the early development of speech perception skills and sociolinguistic competency in children from diverse backgrounds. This project will involve running experiments with young children and/or analyzing videotaped interactions between caregivers and their children. Experience using common experiment running programs (e.g., Gorilla, a platform for online studies) and statistical analysis packages will be gained (e.g., R). Applicants from diverse linguistics backgrounds – especially those who speak more than one language or more than one dialect of English – are especially encouraged to apply. This project will contribute to the development of new models of speech and language development that better reflect the diverse linguistic environments experienced by North American children, and results will have practical implications for improving the delivery of speech therapy and educational services to young children.
I have been very lucky to have some great mentors in my life, and I see it as my responsibility to pay it forward to the next generation. Helping students discover the excitement of designing and running a scientific experiment is the most rewarding part of my job. Students in my lab are given a great deal of responsibility, and expected to work very hard. As a result, they often learn a great deal and gain the skills and experience needed to help them to envision and reach the next educational and/ or career goal in their life. Students will participate in regular lab meetings and will be expected to give regular progress reports in these meetings. Past students have used their experience in my lab as a stepping stone to a wide variety of careers including speech language pathology, applied and experimental psychology, consulting, education, and the health sciences.