Interdisciplinary Language Science for Undergraduates: PULSAR

Morgan MoyerMaryland’s vibrant interdisciplinary language science community has mostly benefited faculty and grad students, with limited impact on undergraduate programming. Until now. The new PULSAR program, which is accepting applications now, seeks to spread the language science action to the university’s largest constituency by bringing together undergraduate students from diverse fields.

PULSAR, which unpacks as Program for Undergraduate Language Science Ambassadors in Research (try to say that three times quickly) will develop students’ abilities in integration, communication, discovery, and leadership – skills that are in high demand in current graduates. It will do this by building on the successes of the NSF-IGERT interdisciplinary graduate program that has run since 2008. Members of PULSAR will join a broad community of students, researchers, and faculty from areas such as Computer Science, Psychology, Hearing & Speech Sciences, Electrical Engineering, the College of Education, the iSchool, the School of Public Health, Linguistics, and the School of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures.

STEMPULSAR students will take some courses outside their major area, will get involved in research, education, or policy initiatives, and will join LSC’s growing outreach efforts. They will also participate in a weekly PULSAR seminar course that focuses on sharing research with peers. The program involves a 2-year commitment, so it is intended for freshmen, sophomores, and rising juniors.

PULSAR is now accepting applications for the fall 2014 cohort, so please encourage your undergraduate students to apply. Applications can be completed online, and are due by April 25th. Information sessions for interested students will be offered on April 11th and 23rd. Questions should be directed to PULSAR Director Rochelle Newman, who is also Associate Director of LSC. (Or email can be sent to

Tess Wood appointed as Assistant Director of the Maryland Language Science Center

Tess Wood_1Tess Wood has joined the Language Science Center as Assistant Director.  She will play a central role in all aspects of LSC’s activities, including research and grants development, establishing new programs, and external relations.

Tess has expertise in diverse areas of language science. She has a Linguistics PhD from UC Berkeley, where she did fieldwork in Yurok and Chechen, in addition to spending time working in computational lexicography at Berkeley’s International Computer Science Institute. More recently she was project manager for the UMARC research consortium on language and autism based in the Dept of Hearing and Speech Sciences. She has taught diverse courses in HESP and LING in recent years, and also coordinated the very popular fieldwork course in Winter Storm 2013. In addition to these, Tess is a stalwart member of the language science running team in the annual Ragnar Relay.

Tess is currently dividing her time between teaching classes for HESP and LING and her LSC role. Her LSC efforts are currently focused on the Langscape project, a global language mapping resource that LSC and CASL will be jointly launching this spring … if spring ever comes. From June onwards she will be full-time with LSC, playing a central role in many LSC initiatives.

Language Science Outreach – Spring 2014

Montgomery Ling ClubLSC students and faculty have been busy spreading the word about language science to students of all ages. The outreach program started as a noble add-on to our day jobs, but it soon grew into a core part of our mission, as we learned that learning to communicate our science to diverse audiences also makes us better interdisciplinary scientists. Go figure.

Faculty and students are engaged in a wide variety of different outreach activities, many of them created independent of LSC. We will asking you to tell us about these in the coming weeks. But here is a summary of the activities that LSC’s students have been coordinating in this semester alone. The 2014 Outreach Team is led by Alison Shell (Psychology), with lieutenants Chris Heffner (NACS), Alix Kowalski (Hearing and Speech Sciences) and Rachel Dudley (Linguistics), and ably assisted by faculty mentors Meredith Rowe (HDQM) and Ellen Lau (Linguistics).

High School Visits
A partnership with the AP Psychology program at Northwood High School (Silver Spring) is now in its 6th year, and has since expanded to include Paint Branch High School (Burtonsville). These partnerships now reach around 200 students per year, mostly first-generation college candidates, giving them a taste of college life and for science in action. Meredith Rowe (HDQM) gave lectures on language acquisition at both high schools, in each case followed by a panel composed of graduate and undergraduate students. A couple of weeks after the school visits, around 100 students from each school visited the University of Maryland and participated in 9-12 interactive research activity groups led by students from different areas of language science. They visited labs, heard a talk by Ellen Lau (LING) and ended their campus visit with lunch at the Stamp Student Union, a highlight for many.

Montgomery-Blair HS Linguistics Club
High school students at MBHS in Silver Spring took it upon themselves to form a linguistics club, and UMD faculty and students from diverse departments have visited them for regular language science talks over the past couple of years, covering such topics as aphasia and disordered language, phonology in poetry, semantics and philosophy of language, natural language processing, sentiment analysis, and machine translation. MBHS students took a field trip to UMD on March 11th where they enjoyed more discussions, and demos, and pizza. Thanks to Yakov Kronrod (LING) and Alix Kowalski (HESP) who have been the key ambassadors for this unusual partnership. One MBHS student, Alan Du, did language science internships (in the iSchool and LING) in the past two summers, and recently traveled with us to Columbus OH, as he was co-author on a talk at the CUNY Sentence Processing Conference, led by his summer mentor Dan Parker (LING).

High School Internships
During the months of April and May, 2014 the outreach team will help to match students from the Eleanor Roosevelt High School with prospective faculty mentors. A poster session at the end of their internship will allow students to present their research to a broad language science crowd. Please contact us if you are interested in mentoring a student – ERHS has a strong science and technology magnet program, and many faculty have had great experiences with interns in past years.

Elementary Schools
Each year student volunteers from multiple departments volunteer as judges at science fairs for 3rd-5th grades at local elementary schools. In January a group of students participated in the University Park Elementary Science Fair; in May another group will attend the UPES Career Day; in December with the Berwyn Heights ES STEM Fair.

Maryland Day April 26, 2014
Don’t miss the Cognitive-, Neuro-, and Language Science tent at Maryland Day, the university’s annual celebration of science, arts, and sports that brings over 60,000 people to campus each spring. This year our tent will be moving to higher altitude, on Tawes Plaza.

GSIT Program Doubles US Capacity for Training Interpreters/Translators

interpreter01 A new program in the Department of Communication has doubled the US capacity for training interpreters and translators. How is this possible? Many countries have scores of programs for training translators/interpreters, but until recently there was only one graduate program for these fields in the US, hidden away in dreary Monterey, CA. This year’s launch of the new Graduate Studies in Interpreting and Translation (GSIT) Program creates a second, and the only such program in the eastern US. And it’s no surprise that this program is in great demand, given the wealth of organizations that depend on the availability of highly qualified interpreters (spoken language) and translators (written language): the United Nations, the World Bank, and the State Department, to name just a few. In addition to growing demand for professional positions in the political, legal, business, health, and educational domains.

In addition to its work in training professional interpreters and translators, GSIT aims to also advance research capacity in these fields, providing opportunities for interesting connections to other research strengths in language science at UMD.

The GSIT Program is directed by Dr David Sawyer, who has many years of practical and academic experience in interpreting. He is a specialist in German, including gigs working for this guy. The GSIT Associate Director is Shawn Parry-Giles, an expert in rhetoric and politics who directs UMD’s Center for Political Communication and Civic Leadership. Shawn has a number of prominent publications on this person (busy couple of years ahead for Shawn!).

UMARC Topics in Autism lecture series for families

UMARCThe University of Maryland Autism Research Collaborative (UMARC), a multi-department research initiative led by the Dept of Hearing and Speech Sciences, is hosting three upcoming talks specifically designed for families of children/teens with autism. Please bring these talks to the attention of anybody who might be interested.

UMARC will also host a booth at Maryland Day on April 26th. Everybody should stop by to see what University of Maryland researchers are learning about autism.

Thursday, 3/27/14, 7-9pm: Supporting Functional Communication in Young Children with Autism, Vivian Sisskin, M.S, CCC-SLP, University of Maryland, Department of Hearing and Speech Sciences

Saturday, 4/5/14, 10am-12pm: Know your Child; Know Yourself: Parenting With Your Child’s Profile in Mind, Sarah Wayland, Ph.D., Cognitive Psychologist,

Saturday, 5/03/14, 10am-12pm: Accommodations for the IEP and Classroom, Kathryn Dow-Burger, M.A., CCC-SLP, University of Maryland, Department of Hearing and Speech Sciences

Location for all talks is Lefrak Hall 0135. Child care is available with reservations. For questions or to RSVP for child care, please contact or 301‐ 405- 8561. Visit our website at Parking available either via email request (RSVP!) or visitor parking in Mowatt Lane Garage.


Registration for PHLINC 2: Language and Other Minds is open!

PHLING, a research consortium made up of students and faculty from the departments of linguistics and philosophy at the University of Maryland, is hosting its second biennial PHLINC symposium on February 14-15, 2014. PHLINC is a biennial conference on topics at the intersection of linguistics, philosophy, and neighboring disciplines, organized by PHLING, a research group of students and faculty from the departments of linguistics and philosophy at the University of Maryland. The topic of PHLINC2: Language and Other Minds is attitudes and attitude ascriptions, with a special emphasis on knowledge ascriptions and related phenomena such as presupposition, factivity, and evidentiality. The conference will feature eight 30 minute presentations by graduate students, plus invited talks by Mandy Simons (Carnegie Mellon University) and Jason Stanley (Yale University), as well as a special discussion session on acquisition issues in this area, led by Shevaun Lewis (Johns Hopkins University). The use of language relates to an awareness of other minds in two important ways. First, communication depends fundamentally on a sensitivity to the intentions and beliefs of others in conversation. Presupposition and implicature are interesting special cases of this. Second, with verbs like “think” and “know”, we can talk about mental states explicitly, in ways that create familiar semantic challenges. Acquiring a language therefore involves the development of competence in both areas, not a simple task. At PHLINC2 we invite discussion of both sorts of relations between language and other minds, from the perspectives of philosophy, linguistics and cognitive or developmental psychology. What understanding of knowledge, belief, desire and intention is expressed in the meanings of attitude verbs? In what ways does the use of such verbs rely on pragmatic enrichment? What is the correct understanding of knowledge in conversation, as expressed in presuppositions, evidentials, or epistemic modals? By what path do children become competent in these various areas? And what does this tell us about the linguistic representation of mental states, or semantic theories of attitude verbs?

The conference will take place Friday, February 14th and Saturday, February 15th in Marie Mount Hall. To REGISTER please follow at this link by Wednesday, February 12, 2014.

Contact: Rachel Dudley
Contact Email:
Meeting URL: 

Upcoming Language Science Talks – February 2014

Every week there are talks and events in language science all across the university. Here is a sampling of what’s coming up. Please drop us a line to let us know about other talks to include in these mailings (

Thursday, February 6
12:30pm – 1:30pm
Language Science Lunch Talk: Alix Kowalski (HESP) – Cognitive Control and Verb Production in Aphasia
St Mary’s Multipurpose Room

1:00pm – 2:00pm
HESP Colloquium: Craig Formby (U of Alabama) – Clinical trials of sound-therapy-based interventions for tinnitus and reduced sound tolerance
Maryland Room

3:30pm – 5:30pm
Cognitive Science Colloquium: Joan Maling (Linguistics, NSF & Brandeis) – Syntactic Change in Progress: The New Impersonal Construction in Icelandic
1103 Bioscience Research Building

Friday, February 7
9:00am – 12:00pm
Outreach event: Paint Branch High School Visit to UMD
Various Labs at UMD

10:15am – 11:30am
NACS Seminar: Nina Kraus (Northwestern) · Music and language: Reading, rhythm and neural synchrony
1103 Bioscience Research Building

Monday, February 10
10:30am – 11:30am
SyntaxTalk: Laura Kalin · Aspect and Argument Licensing in Neo-Aramaic

Tuesday, February 11
Practice job talk: Dave Kush (Yale University)
Tue, February 11, 5:00pm – 6:30pm
MMH 1108B

Wednesday, February 12
12:30pm – 1:30pm
Education Talk: Dr. Ioulia Kovelman (U of Michigan) – “Shining light on bilingual language, reading and cognitive development with fNIRS optical brain imaging”
1121 Benjamin Building

2:00pm – 3:30pm
Practice job talk: Alexis Wellwood (Linguistics)
Wed, February 12, 2:00pm – 3:30pm
MMH 1108B

Friday, February 14 and Saturday, February 15
9:00am – 5:00pm
PHLINC 2 Conference: Language and Other Minds
Maryland Room, MMH

Wednesday, February 19
11:00am – 12:00pm
CLIP Talk: Mohamed Yahya (Max Planck Institute for Informatics and Saarland University) – Question Answering over the Web of Linked Data
3258 A.V. Williams Building (AVW)

Thursday, February 20
12:30pm – 1:30pm
Language Science Lunch Talk: Katie Leech (HDQM)
St Mary’s Multipurpose Room (map)

3:30pm – 5:30pm
Cognitive Science Colloquium: Gary Lupyan (Psychology, Illinois) – Is Human Cognition Language-Augmented Cognition?
Biology-Psychology (BPS) 1208

Wednesday, February 26
11:00am – 12:00pm
CLIP Talk: David Graus (University of Amsterdam)
3258 A.V. Williams Building (AVW)

Thursday, February 27
12:30pm – 1:30pm
Language Science Lunch Talk: Yuichi Suzuki (SLA)
St Mary’s Multipurpose room

3:30pm – 4:30pm
Talk: John Baugh (Washington U in St Louis) – Linguistic Profiling and the Law
2212B Benjamin Building (map)

Friday, February 28
10:15am – 11:30am
NACS Seminar: Melissa Coleman (Claremont Mckenna) · Wired to cooperate: Neural basis of cooperative behavior in a neotropical wren
1103 Bioscience Research Building

Winter Storm 2014 – Registration Open

winter storm 2They say there’s no such thing as a free lunch – but if you sign up for Winter Storm 2014 you’ll get eight of them. With intellectual stimulation thrown in too. Winter Storm is an annual FREE 2-week intensive training workshop for language scientists. It takes place at the University of Maryland College Park, Monday through Friday, January 13-24, 2014. It is organized by students from the university-wide program in language science,  and it is sponsored by the Maryland Language Science Center, the  IGERT Program, UMIACS, and the Linguistics department.

Winter Storm 2014 is open to all interested participants. We anticipate a diverse group of students and faculty, including a number of international guests. There is no cost for participation, but participants are asked to fill out the brief online registration form so that we can gauge numbers for the various events (including the free lunch). Please REGISTER as soon as possible. It will only take a minute.

To get an idea of what the Winter Storm team has put together for the 2014 event,  visit the SCHEDULE page.

We look forward to seeing you in January,

Winter Storm 2014 Team:

Yuichi Suzuki (Second Language Acquisition)
Shota Momma (Linguistics)
Alia Biller (Second Language Acquisition)
Alvin Grissom (iSchool)
Aaron White (Linguistics)
Zoe Schlueter (Linguistics)

What have we learned: 5 years’ progress in 2 minutes

what have we learnedThe Language Science IGERT Program (2008-2015) is the University of Maryland’s only award through the National Science Foundation’s flagship interdisciplinary graduate training program. NSF’s $3M investment served as a catalyst for the broader language science initiative at UMD and was recently institutionalized as the Maryland Language Science Center. The student training component is currently being developed as the Maryland Language Science Center Fellows program which is scheduled to accept its first applications in Spring 2014.

In the first five years of the program we learned a lot about interdisciplinary training. Some things were expected, some were surprises. Here’s a brief summary. If you want to see more, check out the program’s document depository.

The IGERT program’s goals were to create:

  • a model of interdisciplinary student training
  • a broader language science community
  • sustainability and institutionalization
  • local and national impact

We have learned several lessons among which the following are the most important:

  • the biggest impact is created by student ownership of program activities
  • interdisciplinary training requires much more than broad coursework and exposure to diverse ideas and skills
  • training should prepare for lifelong adaptability
  • training should prepare entrepreneurial scientists
  • students change fastest, new faculty next, established faculty slowest
  • regular formative assessment really works
  • culture change can happen, but not overnight

50 students, drawn from 10 departments and programs, pursued the full program and 30+ other PhD students benefited from it.  50 faculty members contributed as mentors, course instructors, workshop leaders, research team leaders, or rotation supervisors.  12 new language science faculty were hired since 2008 and the interdisciplinary community played a key role in recruiting them.

Our students from the 2008 and 2009 cohorts have graduated and 4 of them have been offered tenure track positions. Other students received postdocs at Harvard, Illinois, Haskins/Yale, UC San Diego, McGill, Paris, San Sebastian, CASL, UMD.

The program’s goals have been achieved through a vast array of activities which ranged from excellent interdisciplinary courses to year-round outreach activities or leadership developing activities.  Below is only a very brief listing of these:

12 interdisciplinary seminars 2009-13
Courses regularly take students outside of their ‘comfort zone’
Students take on average 15 courses; 5 outside of their home department

Students took over program leadership and ownership in 2009
5 very active committees run activities

Many annual events benefiting hundreds of K-12 students and community members
Excellent benefit to student training
Building networks of professionals

Integrated research opportunities for advanced students
Many success stories with publications outside of main research area

Yearly intensive 2-week workshop with:
Research planning workshops
Student-led technical courses
Daily faculty lunch talks
Professional development workshops
‘Science is social’ events

Student ‘apprentices’ develop detailed research proposal in Year 1
Self assessment report and feedback ensure excellent academic progress

Weekly student lunch talks to interdisciplinary audience
Student research groups emerged from Winter Storm

Annual celebration of language science at the University of Maryland
Showcase of research activities collaborative opportunities
Present student training possibilities
Interdisciplinary connections
175 participants in 2012; 230 in 2013

For more information about the program visit the Maryland Language Science Center or the IGERT program‘s page.