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Eight Undergraduates Join the Language Science Center’s PULSAR Program

As part of its mission of enhancing training in language science at UMD, the Language Science Center initiated an exciting new interdisciplinary training program geared towards undergraduates, the Program for Undergraduate Language Science Ambassadors in Research, or PULSAR. The program just admitted its first cohort of eight undergraduate students. These students represent a wide variety of majors, including Linguistics, Computer Science, Hearing and Speech Science, Psychology, Persian, German, and Biology. Their future goals are similarly broad, encompassing such areas as field linguistics, computational linguistics, bilingual language acquisition, and sign language acquisition.

The first cohort of undergraduate students in Language Science:


Ashley Thomas, Hearing and Speech Sciences


Stephen Devilbiss, Linguistics & Psychology


John Mathena, Linguistics & Psychology


Kristen Carlson, Hearing and Speech Sciences


Courtney Cooper, Linguistics


Jay Ritch, Linguistics, German & Persian


Neomi Rao, Biology & Linguistics


Eliana Vornov, Computer Science & Linguistics

As part of PULSAR, students take interdisciplinary coursework to broaden their background in language science and gain hands-on research experience. “PULSAR will help me gain a more complete understanding of language science, in addition to helping me figure out what parts of language science interest me the most. PULSAR will also help me get more involved within the language science community here at UMD,” said incoming PULSAR student Ashley Thomas.

Another major component of the program involves participating in outreach activities, and the PULSAR students are looking forward to their role ambassadors for language science. “Not many people in high school know what the field of language science entails – especially since it is so interdisciplinary,” said Neomi Rao. “I think a good goal would be to increase awareness of language science, especially for soon-to-be students.”
Eliana Vornov agreed. “I would love to be able to introduce language science to high school students who would not be otherwise aware of it. I became interested in language science because of a family member who is involved in cognitive science research; without his influence, I would never have even considered taking my first linguistics course. I want to help introduce students without a similar influence to language science, so that they will also be able consider it as a possible field of study.”  Ashley Thomas added, “I was fortunate enough to begin my research in language science during high school, but my placement in a language science lab was merely by chance. I would like to help get the word out about language science within the surrounding community.”

The PULSAR program also includes a weekly seminar series, where students learn about research opportunities on campus and have the opportunity to present their own research to their peers. “I am actively looking for opportunities to gain experience presenting and the seminar and other opportunities would provide this….I think in that type of environment, I can best tap into and share what is so thrilling for me about research,” commented Steven DeVilbiss.

The PULSAR program develops students’ abilities in integration, communication, discovery, and leadership, while becoming a member of a strong, collaborative group of peers. “PULSAR is a great way to learn more about Linguistics and express my love of Linguistics with people who feel the same way,” said John Mathena.