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6th Annual Language Science Day is Hottest Event on Campus

On September 25th, the 6th annual Language Science Day (LSD) drew a crowd of almost 200 people - plus a couple of unexpected fire trucks. Faculty, graduate students, researchers, and undergraduates from 17 departments and centers were joined by guests from local public school systems, researchers from UMBC, Howard University, and Johns Hopkins, as well as UMD’s Vice President for Research and some of the deans who support the language science initiative.

LSD provides a great start-of-the-year opportunity for people to catch up on what’s happening in the language science community at UMD, to share ideas and brainstorm about future activities and collaborations. Lunchtime conversations must have included some pretty “hot” topics - we were forced to take a brief break outside for a fire alarm - but luckily were quickly able to return to our scheduled programming, starting with updates on a number of key language science initiatives:

  • The first year of the Language and Literacy Research Center, directed by Rebecca Silverman, has led to research partnerships with local school districts to address literacy and English learning as well as the ProPELL program for graduate training in language, literacy, and learning disabilities.
  • LSC training programs have seen significant developments in the last year, with the growth of the PULSAR undergraduate program and two new training grants (NRT and ProPELL) which are expanding our graduate opportunities.
  • LSC’s Field Research Station in Guatemala will officially open in 2016, with the inaugural language school and research trip scheduled to take place in June followed by a clinical study abroad program from Hearing and Speech Sciences in January 2017. Undergraduate student Neomi Rao reported on her experience piloting field station activities in Guatemala in Summer 2016.
  • The renovation of LSC’s fancy new space in HJ Patterson is on track for completion in early 2017.

Public Impact Discussion
Following lunch, it was all hands on deck for a brainstorming session about how language scientists can influence policy and practice in health, education, technology, and public understanding of language science. We often lament the lack of public understanding of our field, but it is challenging for individuals to see how to improve this situation and how to effectively share research findings.

Panelists Hal Daumé (CS/UMIACS), Cathy Doughty (CASL/SLA), Jeff Lidz (LING), Megan Madigan Peercy (TLPL), Alyson Reed (Linguistic Society of America), and Colleen Worthington (HESP) highlighted opportunities and challenges in disseminating language science knowledge in their respective fields. Groups then discussed concrete steps that the language science community could take to address these issues. We’ll be sharing a write-up of the discussion soon, as well as scheduling a series of brown bags to try and turn ideas into action; watch this space for more.

Research Fair
The poster session this year featured 28 posters from many different language science research groups. With such a diverse research community, it can be hard to keep on top of what everyone is doing, and the Research Fair enables groups to showcase their interests in an engaging and accessible way, highlighting recent research results as well as opportunities for collaboration.

Cognition and Computation
We wrapped up LSD with a panel which considered how cognitive and computational research on language should inform each other and how to bridge the divide between them in both research and training. Panelists Allyson Ettinger, Naomi Feldman, Hal Daumé, Mohit Iyyer, Ellen Lau, and Philip Resnik spoke about their experience approaching language science from a computational and/or cognitive perspective and the challenges that each discipline faces in research and collaboration.

Many came to continue the lively discussion into the evening at our Science is Social dinner party, hosted by Colin Phillips and Andrea Zukowski. 

Language Science Day is a student-led event. Thank you to this year’s organizing committee: Nick Huang and Nur Başak Karatas (committee co-chairs), Sunhee Kim, Eric Pelzl, and Laurel Perkins, assisted by LSC staff and faculty leaders.