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PULSAR Students Shine

The Program for Undergraduate Language Science Ambassadors in Research, or PULSAR, welcomed its first cohort of students in Fall 2014. After just one year, we’re pleased to announce the first graduating members of PULSAR in the Class of 2015: Stephen DeVilbiss (Psychology, Linguistics), Jay Ritch (Linguistics, Persian, German), and Eliana Vornov (Computer Science, Linguistics).

Following graduation, all are going on to new and exciting endeavors. Stephen will serve as an American Sign Language interpreter, Jay will spend next year in a language immersion program with UMD’s Persian Flagship and then plans to move abroad, and Eliana is starting work as a software engineer at Clarabridge in Reston, VA.

While most students participate in PULSAR for 4 semesters, Stephen, Jay and Eliana were already rising seniors when PULSAR began. They still wanted to participate in the program, and all three had valuable experience to contribute to the group. They were already very involved on campus (with two or three majors each and a dizzying variety of clubs, honor societies, and academic organizations), but nevertheless committed to participate in outreach events, weekly seminars, language science coursework, and research activities.

Eliana, Stephen and Jay say they valued PULSAR’s weekly seminars, with presentations by faculty and graduate students from across the language science community. “Many of the speakers who came to the PULSAR seminar talked about areas of language science which I knew very little about,” Eliana says, “so it helped me broaden my understanding of what else is happening in language science.”

Building connections with peers in other language science areas, as well as with faculty and graduate students, is also an important goal of PULSAR. Jay says this was his favorite part of the program: “PULSAR really allows students to interact and get to know each other a lot, and we made it a point to get to know each other as much as possible and hang out outside of the program, too.”

The weekly seminar was led by graduate students Lara Ehrenhofer (Linguistics) and Alix Kowalski (Hearing and Speech Sciences) during the 2014-15 academic year. They developed strong relationships with the PULSAR students and helped them grow academically and personally. “It’s our job to prepare them for doing research… but it’s also a very personal journey,” Lara notes. “A lot of our job this year has been being encouraging and helping them find their strengths.” This mentoring relationship is integral to the program, claims Stephen: “It's really nice to have a truly safe space to ask whatever.”

In just a year the program has almost doubled in size, from the 8 students initially admitted last Fall to the 15 students from 8 majors who will be participating in Fall 2015. New applications are accepted each semester.

For students who are interested in applying for PULSAR in the future, Jay says: “PULSAR is a great way to get to know people. If you're looking to work with a particular professor, then PULSAR is a great conversation starter... If you don't know who you want to work with, then PULSAR will help you explore different options and find the right kind of research for you!” You can learn more about the PULSAR program here.

Thursday, June 18, 2015
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