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Winter Storm 2021

Winter Storm will be ONLINE January 11-15 and 19-22, 2021

Welcome to Winter Storm 2021! 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.

This year we'll be all virtual, including Zoom meetings and asynchronous Slack chats. Join the "UMD language scientists" workspace on Slack.

RSVP to receive email updates with the daily schedule and zoom links.

Schedule overview

For easy access to the schedule and zoom links, add our Google calendar.

Week of January 11-15:
Monday: Launch writing groups (10:30am)
Tuesday - Friday: Winter Storm sessions, 11am - 3:30pm (see below)
Friday: Writing group meetings, afternoon social event

Week of January 19-22:
Monday: HOLIDAY (University closed for Martin Luther King Jr. Day)
Tuesday - Thursday: Winter Storm sessions, 11am - 3:30pm (see below)
Friday: Writing group meetings

Tues 1/12 Weds 1/13 Thurs 1/14   Tues 1/19 Weds 1/20 Thurs 1/21
10am (Writing groups check in)   (Writing groups check in)
11 Stats Stats Stats   Stats Stats Stats
1 Bilingualism/L2;
Policy book club; Syntax/semantics
Outreach Bilingualism/L2;
Policy book club
Policy book club; Syntax/semantics
Outreach Bilingualism/L2;
Policy book club
2:30 TBA Talk + Q&A:
Susan Teubner-Rhodes
Remote research
lightning talks
  Career panel Talk + Q&A:
Ewan Dunbar
Video communication
research group
5pm     Social       Social

Invited speakers

We're happy to announce two invited speakers, both alumni of UMD's IGERT program in language science. Each will give a talk and discussion, followed by a half-hour Q&A with students about their career path after completing their PhD at UMD.

Susan Teubner-Rhodes (Auburn, NACS '14)

Wednesday 1/13, 2:30pm [Zoom link]

Persistence and Control during Recognition of Speech in Noise

Abstract: Understanding speech in background noise is challenging, especially for older adult listeners. As speech intelligibility decreases, the potential for competition from distracting auditory signals and similar-sounding lexical representations increases. I will discuss recent work examining how individual differences in persistence and cognitive control affect speech recognition in background noise, with a focus on older adults who are most likely to experience communication difficulties. Results suggest that the cingulo-opercular network, a set of brain regions involved in applying effort to overcome challenges and signaling to implement cognitive control, is critical for understanding speech in background noise.

Bio: Susan is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences at Auburn University. She investigates the cognitive and neural mechanisms that support language processing under conditions of uncertainty, when communication is most likely to break-down. Research in her lab uses converging behavioral (choice reaction time, preferential looking, eye-tracking) and neuroimaging (fMRI, DTI) techniques to explore how individual differences in domain-general cognitive functions, such as working memory, cognitive control, and persistence, influence language processing across the lifespan.

Susan got her PhD in Neuroscience and Cognitive Science from UMD in 2014. After graduating, she became a Postdoctoral Scholar and Research Assistant Professor in the Hearing Research Program at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, before starting as an Assistant Professor at Auburn in 2018.

Ewan Dunbar (Toronto, LING '13)

Wednesday 1/20, 2:30pm [Zoom link]

Modelling early language acquisition from raw speech data

Abstract: The problem of language acquisition is key to the way questions are posed and answered in linguistics and in the cognitive sciences of language more broadly. And we now know quite a lot about the earliest stages of language acquisition, which, quite reasonably, show infants tuning into the signal, learning the sound inventory of the language and developing an early lexicon between six and twelve months. What can recent advances in machine learning bring to the table? I will discuss how we have been able to take advantage of an interest from industry in applied problems in speech, and channel the forces of modern machine learning towards cognitively interesting problems in early language acquisition. I will cover the small number of initial results that seem to come out of this line of research, which suggest that abstract phonet/emic categories are both critically important and somewhat overrated, depending on what facts need to be explained.

Bio: Ewan is an Assistant Professor in the Department of French at the University of Toronto. He specializes in computational linguistics and aims to build and understand computer systems that can learn and use human language. His work focuses on speech perception, automatic speech recognition, text-to-speech synthesis, as well as understanding and explaining commonalities between human languages and the sounds they use.

Ewan got his PhD in Linguistics from UMD in 2013. After graduating, he spent four years as a postdoctoral researcher at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris, and three years as faculty at the Université Paris Diderot, Paris VII, now Université de Paris, before returning to Toronto to join the French linguistics group in the Department of French.

Program details


Writing groups will launch on Monday 1/11 with Zoom meetings [link], and then continue checking in via Slack throughout the week.

Accountability groups. Get together with other students to set writing goals and check in regularly. Exchange tips and strategies for productive writing time.

Peer feedback groups. Pair up with another student to exchange feedback on working drafts. We'll share some best practices for giving and receiving good feedback.

Data analysis skills

Before lunch (11am-noon each day), we'll tackle data analysis skills.

  • R for Beginners (1/12-1/14, led by Ben Rickles). [Zoom link, Slack channel #ws-r]
  • Practical tips for R (1/12-1/13, led by Meg Cychosz and Zach Maher). Topics will include using RMarkdown, LaTeX, and using git/github (version tracking) within the RStudio interface [Zoom link, Slack channel #ws-r]
  • Intermediate/advanced R (1/19-1/21, led by Meg Cychosz and Zach Maher). Topics will include data wrangling with the tidyverse (dplyr, tidyr), plotting in ggplot2, and writing more efficient code for large datasets. [Zoom link, Slack channel #ws-r]

Research discussion groups

Groups are generally open to anyone, but you may want to contact the group leader in advance. See schedule above for specific meeting dates.

  • Bilingualism and L2 processing: Perspectives on codeswitching (T/Th 1pm, led by Lauren Salig and Mike Johns) [Zoom link]
  • Informing policy with research: "What's wrong with the poor?" book club (T/Th 1pm, led by Arynn Byrd) [Zoom link] You can get the eBook from the UMD library here.
  • Syntax/semantics interface (T 1pm, led by Clara Cuonzo) [Zoom link] According to the inverted Y-model of language, syntax creates structures that are interpreted separately by PF and LF, and no direct interaction between these two is possible. However, this assumption has been challenged by scholars working on various phenomena (prosody, pragmatic meaning etc). In this syntax group, we will compare these different approaches to the syntax/semantics interface.
  • Remote research lightning talks + discussion (Th 1/14, 2:30pm). Students will present short talks about the research they've conducted remotely, followed by an open Q&A on strategies and tips for remote research. If you'd like to present, please contact Erika Exton (eexton@umd.edu). [Zoom link, Slack channel #online-data]
  • Video-based communication research group (Th 1/21, 2:30pm, led by Yi Ting Huang, Shevaun Lewis, Zach Maher, Junaid Merchant, and Lauren Salig). We're about to start collecting a lot of data on how people have conversations on Zoom. Come find out what we're planning and if our dataset might be useful for your research questions too. [Zoom link]

Outreach (Wednesdays, 1pm)

The outreach working group will work on ways to continue our language science outreach remotely, including writing blog posts and adapting our in-person demos to be accessible online. Anybody is welcome to join us, whether you have previous experience with outreach or not! [Zoom link, Slack channel #outreach]

Career panel (Tuesday 1/19, 2:30pm)

The Professional Development committee is pleased to virtually host some UMD language science alumni to talk about their (non-academic) career paths. If you have questions about the job market and want to explore other career options, make sure to come! [Zoom link]
Panelists include:

  • Lucy Erickson (former HESP postdoc, PhD Developmental and Child Psychology, Carnegie Mellon '15), Child Safety Policy Advisor at Google.
  • Brittany Jaekel (HESP '20), medical writer for Regulatory and Quality Solutions, in the medical device industry.
  • Brooke Larson (LING '13), Language Engineer at Amazon


Clara Cuonzo will be hosting trivia on Friday 1/15 at 3pm [Zoom link]. Come for an afternoon of trivia on everything from linguistics to world history and pop culture. We will (try to) answer easy and tough questions with the only aim to have some (brainy) fun!