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Winter Storm 2020

Winter Storm is here! January 14-16 and 21-23, 2020

Welcome to Winter Storm 2020! Winter Storm is the UMD Language Science community’s yearly two-week series of seminars and workshops designed to foster research skills, stimulate new interdisciplinary research projects, and boost career growth and job readiness. These workshops are FREE and open to all language scientists, encompassing undergraduates, research assistants, grad students, postdocs, faculty members, and researchers at affiliated research institutes.

When: January 14-16 and 21-23, 2020
Where: Language Science Center (2130 H.J. Patterson)

Please RSVP HERE by January 8!

Schedule overview

Week of January 13-17:
Monday: Bonus write-on-site session, 1-4pm
Tuesday - Thursday: Winter Storm sessions, 9am - 5pm (see below)
Friday: Bonus write-on-site session, 1-4pm

Week of January 20-24:
Monday: HOLIDAY (University closed for Martin Luther King Jr. Day)
Tuesday - Thursday: Winter Storm sessions, 9am - 5pm (see below)
Friday: Bonus write-on-site session, 1-4pm

Tues 1/14 Weds 1/15 Thurs 1/16   Tues 1/21 Weds 1/22 Thurs 1/23
9am (Writing groups meet)   (Writing groups meet)
  Writing   Writing
11 Prof Dev:
Online Presence
Prof Dev:
Prof Dev:
  Prof Dev:
outreach demos
outreach demos
12 Lunch Lunch talk:
Marina Bedny
Lunch   Lunch Lunch Lunch talk:
Shameka Stanford
1pm Research groups Research groups   Research groups Research groups
2 Break   Break
2:15 LS community projects Research groups LS community projects   LS community projects LS community projects Research groups
3:15 Break   Break Winter Storm Social
3:30 Methods:

Invited speakers

We're happy to announce two invited speakers. Talks will begin at 12:15 in 2114/2118 H.J. Patterson Hall (the large room next door to the LSC). Lunch will be available starting at noon.

Wednesday, January 15: Marina Bedny (JHU)

Contributions of experience to the mind and brain: insights from studies of language in blindness

Abstract Blindness has historically been a test case for resolving nature/nurture questions. Empiricist philosophers reasoned that a person born blind might say “visual” words but could never truly grasp their meaning. According to Locke, a man born blind might say that marigolds are yellow, but to a blind man, yellow would merely refer to a marigold’s texture. Empirical studies of language among individuals born blind contradict Locke’s supposition and challenge current assumptions about neurocognitive development. We find that blind individuals develop rich and accurate causal theories of how color works, but are less likely than the sighted to learn arbitrary verbal color associations (e.g. bananas are yellow). These studies suggest that in the absence of first-person sensory access, linguistic communication is sufficient to support the development of rich conceptual knowledge through inference. While “visual” meanings are resilient to blindness, the neural basis of language changes in a surprising way: parts of cortex that evolved for visual perception undergo dramatic plasticity and are incorporated into the fronto-temporal language network. In those blind from birth, early “visual” cortices become sensitive to grammar and meaning. Blind individuals also show enhanced performance on sentence processing tasks, suggesting behavioral relevance. Studies of blindness suggest that the neural phenotype of language emerges through a dynamic process that includes competition for cortical real estate between language and other cognitive functions. The human brain is ready for language and is transformed by it.


Thursday, January 23: Shameka Stanford (Howard)

Eleven years old, a clean slate and rose colored lenses: The impact of language impairments on juvenile justice

Abstract: Youth with untreated language and learning impairments are increasingly becoming one of the largest incarcerated and detained population in the United States. They are also one of the most vulnerable populations to be coerced into confessions, falsely accused of crimes and tracked through the school-to-confinement pipeline. This population enters the school system with minimal opportunity to succeed without prejudice. This presentation will discuss the impact of language and learning impairments on risk for delinquency, involvement with the criminal justice system, and even criminal recidivism. As well as, what role we as researchers and clinicians play in disrupting this epidemic.

Program details


Following the success of last year's daily "Cocoaloquium", we will begin each day with two hours of writing time in the LSC Hub, 2130 HJP. If coffee and cocoa aren't quite enough to motivate you to get your writing done, consider joining a writing accountability and support group. Veterans of the year-round student writing groups will help you craft achievable goals and stick to them. Groups will meet at 9am sharp.

By popular demand, we will also have extended writing sessions 1-4pm on Monday 1/13, Friday 1/17, and Friday 1/24, with coffee and light snacks provided.

Professional development and communication skills

Before lunch (11am-noon each day), we'll tackle professional skills and communication. Sessions are designed to benefit students, but faculty participation would be very welcome. All sessions held in the GARAGE (HJP 2124).

  • Web Presence ≠ Website (1/14, workshop led by Colin Phillips): “Your CV is boring and hardly anybody is reading your papers.” -Colin Phillips, LSC Director. Cultivating your online presence is more about being part of a community than building a pretty website. Come to this session to hear from Colin about the wide range of options for communicating with the world about your work.
  • Authorship and collaboration: It's Complicated (1/15, panel discussion): Collaboration is a critical aspect of conducting high-quality research in today’s world. But, forming and maintaining collaborative relationships can be intimidating (especially for early-career scientists and students), and collaborations can complicate the publishing process. In this session, a faculty panel will share what they’ve learned about collaboration and authorship.
  • Leadership and management skills (1/16, workshop led by Shevaun Lewis)
  • How to Post-doc (1/21, panel discussion): Come to this session to learn the ins-and-outs of post doctoral fellowships. A panel of current and recent post-docs will discuss their post-doc experiences, including timelines, various funding mechanisms, mentorship, and how their training compares to graduate school training. It’s never too early to start thinking about what you’re going to do once you earn your PhD!
  • Developing outreach demos (1/22 and 1/23): Work with the student Outreach Committee to develop interactive demonstrations to explain language science topics to a broad audience.

Research reading and discussion groups

After lunch (1-2pm each day) research groups will have time to meet for discussion. Groups are generally open to anyone, but you may want to contact the group leader in advance.

  • Expectations and attention in language processing (GARAGE, led by Colin Phillips, colin@umd.edu): This research discussion group aims to bring together questions and insights from psycholinguistic and computational research on how context is used to make predictions about language input, and how strong expectations guide allocation of attention, even leading to ignoring or hallucination of some linguistic input.
  • Methods for analyzing eyetracking data (HJP 2123, led by Zach Maher, zach@umd.edu): Eye-tracking is a popular methodology in psycholinguistics research, but there is considerable debate in the field about the best ways to analyze eye-tracking data. We will explore both practical and statistical issues with methods such as growth curve modeling.
  • Developmental language disorder (HJP 2114, meets T/Th, led by Erika Exton, eexton@umd.edu and Julianne Garbarino, jgarbari@umd.edu): We will be discussing developmental language disorder (DLD), with a focus on existing mechanistic explanations of the disorder and implications of DLD research on our understanding of typical development. The reading group will also work to identify areas of interest in the field of DLD to be focused on in a workshop planned for fall 2020.

Future language science initiatives

Working groups focused on language science community initiatives will meet in the afternoon, 2:15-3:15. For now, please contact Shevaun (shevaun@umd.edu) if you'd like to join one.

  • Language Science Student Cooperative (HJP 2114, led by Shevaun Lewis)
  • Undergraduate education (GARAGE, led by Colin Phillips)
  • Language science graduate certificate (HJP 2123, led by Yi Ting Huang)

Methods/analysis workshops

The end of each day (3:30-5pm) is dedicated to analysis methods.

  • Improving your statistical questions (ISQ, daily in the GARAGE, led by Phoebe Gaston and Hanna Muller): Together we will work through Daniel Lakens' online course, “Improving your statistical questions,” following up on his previous course that we completed at Winter Storm in 2018. Before the session on Day 1, please enroll in the course on Coursera and watch all 3 videos for Module 1. We will then work through the assignments together in person during our afternoon sessions. We’ll send out updates after each session about how far we got and what to watch in preparation for the next session so that you can do the work on your own if you need to miss a session. Hanna and Phoebe will be doing the course along side anyone who wants to participate, not instructing.
  • Analyzing MEG responses to continuous speech (MEG, 1/14-1/15 in HJP 2123; led by Christian Brodbeck)
  • Data visualization: Dimensions of analysis (DV, 1/16 in HJP 2123; led by Eric Newburger): Data visualizations can provide us insights into our data, and a way to communicate those insights to a broad audience.  But when we work with multidimensional datasets, are their limits to what data viz can do? And are there better (or worse) ways to convey dimensions of one kind or another?
  • R best practices (R, 1/21-1/22 in HJP 2114/2118, led by Adam Liter): Organizing, visualizing, analyzing, and reporting data


WS 2020 organizing committee: Jan Edwards (HESP), Jeff Lidz (LING), Shevaun Lewis (LSC)