Debate Union: Travel & Quilted Trophies?

I sat down with sophomore Miriam Kohn, linguistics major and vice president of the U of R Debate Union. She shared with me her experience in the club so far.

 

Debate team is my primary time commitment. Some weeks, it’s probably even more than my classes!

I wandered into the debate office by accident. My high school didn’t have a debate team, so it was something that was completely unfamiliar to me. I kind of thought, “maybe I should do this in college,” but then I thought, “maybe I’m going to get way too into it,” and, surprise… that’s what happened!

Overall, it’s a very positive experience, so I stick around. I work hard at debate. I’m a hard-working person in general. I enjoy reading things like Foucault. It’s probably hyperbolic to say I spend more time on it than my classes, but I certainly do spend a lot of time on it.

None of my trophies are shiny

Miriam Debate clubI was in the novice bracket last year. I was a real novice, unlike a lot of people on the circuit who walk in [with high school experience].

There are three formats of debate; Rochester does two. With one of them, Policy, you don’t have novice eligibility if you do it in high school. The format I do primarily is British Parliamentary, or Worlds. You get a lot of people who take the novice eligibility [for Worlds], who are really not novices. They could have done four years of high school British Parliamentary.

I’ve had a fair amount of success on the circuit with my partner; we won the novice bracket of regionals, novice finals at North American championships, and we were semi-finalists at Northwest regionals. They didn’t have trophies for the novices. I wanted hardware! There was one trophy which I took home from my first tournament freshman year, at SUNY Binghamton. That was a quilted trophy; not so shiny.

Traveling debate

We travel a lot of places, primarily up and down the Northeast. That’s where a lot of the most competitive tournaments are. Nationals for USU, that’s United States Universities, are in Alaska this year. We were just up in Toronto, on Mel weekend, because the University of Toronto debating society at Hart House always hosts a big, really well respected tournament there. They actually hosted North Americans last year.  We also we went to Europe last year!

The rule is the team won’t send you anywhere it can’t afford. If you get chosen to go, then the team pays your way, The team pays your transportation, your hotel fees, and your tournament entry fees. It includes a few meals a day. That way debate’s not just an activity for those who can afford it.

It’s free to join

We have a really, really big alumni base. There are lots of lawyers and doctors; a lot of them tend to do pretty well and they help support us. We also get very generous support from the school. It used to be the students’ association, now we’re part of the athletic department. We get more money, more support, and more infrastructures. It’s free travel; you just have to make it clear that you actually care.

To be chosen to travel to the most competitive tournaments you have to put in the time. There are some that everyone gets traveled to, like the one on Halloween weekend. And there are some of them that everyone wants to go to, like Europe, and Florida. We sent some folks to Miami for the Pan-American championships, for those, you have to work harder.

Pinky and The Brain

We joke around all the time, all the time: I think “irreverent” would have to be the first adjective I’d go with to describe us.

We give each other stupid nicknames, and there are lots of running jokes. For example, two of the assistant coaches have been trying to convince my partner and myself that we should go for Halloween to this tournament we’re having as Pinky and The Brain. Apparently I’m Pinky. I mean, I would like to take over the world, but that’s a separate issue!

It’s really a very relaxed atmosphere; debate draws in a nice crowd of people. The coaches are wonderful. They work very hard to make the program accessible to everyone. They’re willing to help anyone out that cares to get help from them. That sets the tone as very welcoming.

Whether it’s trying to take over the world, or discussing the latest hot-button issues, the Debate Union is among the U of R’s strongest student organizations, with meetings on Monday and Thursday nights at 7:00.

Spotlight on Natural Sciences Alumni: Leslie Richardson

richardsonName: Leslie Richardson

Occupation: Optics Research

Education (UR and additional): UR: BS 2007 BCS, BA 2007 Linguistics, Simon: MsBA 2011 Marketing

Current city/state/country of residence: Rochester, NY


When and how did you choose your major(s)?

My freshman year, I really took advantage of U of R’s limited academic requirements (outside of your declared major), and took classes in everything from religion, to astronomy, to philosophy, and BCS. I took BCS110 in the fall, and fell in love with the subject. I decided that semester I wanted to major in it. I loved how BCS taught you aspects of both psychology and neuroscience, and how it had links to so many other growing fields from linguistics to marketing. (Both of which I ended up getting degrees in as well.)

 

What resources did you use on campus that you would recommend current students use?

The Career Center is a fantastic resource that I used, but not enough. I couldn’t recommend them strongly enough, especially Amber Graham.

 

What did you do immediately after graduation?  How did you decide to take this path?

Immediately after graduation, I was offered a full-time position in a BCS lab I had been working in part-time. I knew I wanted to stay in research, and was also offered a position in labs at a few other universities around the country. I stayed in Rochester because the research was fascinating, because I still had friends here, and because the cost of living could not be beat. I grew to love Rochester, especially in the summer when there are so many festivals and events going on. I am still in research, still working in the BCS department, but now in a different lab that studies advanced optics.

 

Where would you like to be in five years?

I have recently completed a graduate degree in marketing from the Simon School, and would like to utilize my cognitive science background with my new marketing experiences and work in market research. There is a growing interest in combining the fields, and it is definitely an exciting time to be a part of it all.

 

How you are still connected with the University?

I still work in the BCS department, specifically the Center for Visual Sciences. I am still on campus nearly every day. There are many changes and improvements (Danforth and the Pit come to mind first) as well as many things that are still the same. Despite graduating over 5 years ago, the university still feels like home.

 

What advice do you have for current students?

Go to as many things as you can! When I was here we were fortunate enough to get amazing speakers like Dr. Maya Angelou, and Anderson Cooper. There are countless activities and events that go on around campus that you won’t get a chance to experience later. Also take advantage of the freedom you have to read and study as much as you can on what interests you. Never again will you have this combination of freedom and ability to focus on exactly what you want to do.

 

 

Spotlight on Natural Sciences Alumni: Kate Kelliher

kelliherName: Kate Kelliher

Occupation: Graduate Student

Education (UR and additional): University of Rochester, class of 2011: Brain and Cognitive Science, Linguistics, American Sign Language. Beginning Fall 2013 Bowling Green State University, Masters (2015?) and Ph.D. (2018?) in Speech Language Pathology

Current city/state/country of residence: Bowling Green, OH

Current Community activities: Rowing, bicycle touring, young adult group at church, swing dancing (none of these are in OH as I will be starting there next week but they are some highlights from Baltimore where I have been for the past 2 years)


Why did you choose to attend the University of Rochester?

I chose to come to UR for a variety of reasons, but the freedom to take the classes that interested me was certainly a huge factor. The BCS major intrigued me from my first visit and I wanted the chance to explore it further, an opportunity not available at many schools. The deciding factor, however, was probably the friendliness I encountered when visiting campus. That was what let me know this was a place I could not only get a wonderful education and build a strong foundation but also be truly happy.

When and how did you choose your major(s)?

I started out thinking I might be a BCS major which led me to take two classes in this field my first semester. I liked them well enough that I loaded up on the classes I would need for a major that spring which not only held my interest in BCS but introduced me to linguistics. I loved that too so took a few more classes and then didn’t want to choose so avoided the decision by working out a plan to major in both. Tweak that a bit to add in an ASL major, I had planned to take at least a few classes from day one, and you have a rather full schedule for a girl who just doesn’t like to pick just one of the things that interests her. So I chose my majors relatively early and they seemed to fall into place without my giving it too much thought, the choice was just clear. 

What activities were you involved in as a student and what did you gain from them?

I was a member of the women’s rowing team and that shaped my experience at UR from my third day on campus. It took a large chunk of time every week and forced me to be organized and budget my time. It honed my discipline, commitment, teamwork, and ability to push past perceived limits. These skills spilled over into my academic life and I firmly believe I would not have had the same level of academic success, nor have been as well equipped upon graduation, without being a varsity athlete. It also introduced me to a second family and the majority of friends I have kept in touch with post graduation have been rowers. The other group that was essential to my experience at UR was the Catholic Newman Community. Whereas rowing gave me a place to push myself Newman gave me a place to relax and reflect. This was my place where I could shed pressures and forget about the cares that build up, where I could refocus on what is important in life and put things in perspective. Newman gave me opportunities to give back through St. Sebastian Society, chances to get away with Kairos, and the weekly opportunity to sit down for a nice family style dinner among friends. It is the balance between these two groups that allowed me to keep myself on track.

What did you do immediately after graduation?  How did you decide to take this path?

After graduation I began working as a research assistant at Johns Hopkins University in the Language and Cognition Lab. I worked in a lab for three years during my time at UR, but before committing to grad school I wanted to try on full time research and see how I liked it. I HIGHLY recommend doing something similar to all new graduates, I have learned more than I ever could have imagined.

What do you do now and why did you choose this career?

I am starting grad school in speech-language pathology this fall. I picked this field because I believe it will allow me to balance my passions for research and helping people on an individual basis. Fingers crossed it goes well!

Where would you like to be in five years?

Graduating with Ph.D. in hand.

What advice do you have for current students?

Have fun and follow your heart. Do something that makes you feel happy and fulfilled, that matters far more than what the world thinks.

Tongue Twisters Topic of Students’ Studies

By Blake Silberberg ’13
Univ. Communications

Former University of Rochester students Catie Hilliard ’10  and Katrina Furth ’10 recently saw two research papers written during their undergraduate studies published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition and Frontiers in Psychology. Working with Florian Jaeger, Wilmot Assistant Professor in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Furth and Hilliard examined how word choice is affected by phonological overlap, or how the sounds of words affect how we choose them in everyday conversation.

Furth became interested in the field of brain and cognitive sciences because she wanted to research psychiatric disorders and how the brain creates perceptions and thoughts. “I was inspired by a family member who dealt with episodes of mental illness to understand how normal brains work and develop in the hopes that we may be able to prevent serious mental illness someday,” she explained.  

As an undergraduate student working part time at Tim Horton’s, Furth sought out undergraduate research opportunities in the hopes of doing something with her summer that was more meaningful and relevant to her studies. She was referred to Michael Tanenhaus, who hired her to create videos that would be used in psycholinguistics experiments.

For one of her projects, Furth worked with Susan Cook to study people’s gestures as they described videos to their friends. “As we were making the videos, I noticed that people were using the verbs ‘hand’ and ’give’ at different frequencies to describe videos in which one character passes a gift or a hat to another character.”

This is where the idea for their project was born. “Dr. Jaeger had just joined the University and I started discussing my idea with him. He offered to continue paying me to figure out what was going on,” she said. “I was particularly curious to know if people avoided repeating the same initial syllables if they had the choice. No one knew whether people naturally avoided tongue twisters, though.”

The initial goal of the project was to examine if people avoid phonological overlaps (“hand hammer,” for example) when planning sentences. The project quickly expanded to include word order, speech rate, and fluency to see if people “strategically” avoid sentence constructions that may make them less fluent. “One idea that always really excited me was that we could make these choices without consciously thinking them through – people speak at about 3 syllables per second and so we certainly were not stopping to choose the best words,” she explains. “I was also really excited by the idea that information about how words will be produced can affect things that we think of as getting planned early – you choose your words and the sentence structure before you retrieve all of the sounds, right? Well, the whole premise of this work was that the sounds of words are getting accessed so early that they are affecting which words even get chosen, and in which order you produce those words.”

VIDEO: See a video clip used in the research study

Furth was tasked with designing the experiment, creating the videos that would be used to test the subjects, recruiting and testing subjects, and instructing other undergraduates on how to annotate the collected utterances. Once the data was collected, Furth sought Jaeger’s help to calculate statistics on word frequency. “I learned a great deal about experiment design and data analysis by working on this project. Since I had never designed an experiment before, I made a lot of mistakes at the beginning, but the biggest piece that I learned about experiments is that one extra hour of planning before you start can save 40 hours of careful analysis at the end of the experiment.” Jaeger, Furth, and Hilliard found that speakers are less likely to choose words that result in phonological overlap, and that this tendency is based on early effects on lexical selection rather than later corrective processes.

About a year and a half into the project, Hilliard joined the team as they began to design more experiments looking at word order and fluency when the words shared similar endings instead of similar onsets. “That was the most fun/weird part of it — having an idea in your head and trying to come up with a way to test it,” Hilliard said.

BCS-Research-2Hilliard had been on track to complete a major in linguistics, but after a family member experienced a stroke which resulted in a loss of nearly all language abilities, she became increasingly interested in brain and cognitive sciences. “Suddenly, all of these cognitive processes that I had taken for granted seemed so complex and laborious. I wanted to learn more about cognition, how it develops, and the neural structure underlying these abilities.”

Hilliard combined her interests to pursue a concentration in psycholinguistics within the BCS department. After taking a psycholinguistics class with Jaeger, she worked as an assistant in his lab for the summer. This experience with the research process led her to join Furth and Jaeger’s project for the following year.

Both Furth and Hilliard refer to their research with Jaeger as one of the most valuable experiences of their undergraduate career. “I was particularly blessed to have an opportunity to pursue my own research idea as an undergraduate, present the work at international conferences, and be an author on multiple manuscripts,” Furth says. “My mentor, Florian, also sent me to the Yucatan peninsula to help collect data working with native Mayan speakers. These were once-in-a-lifetime experiences as I navigated the world in Spanish and attempted to do basic research in rare languages.”

Furth said the research experiences were pivotal in the graduate school admission process. “I believe that these experiences, and the letters of recommendations that came from them, were the major reason that I was accepted by 12 of 14 graduate schools to which I applied.”

Hilliard has similarly positive things to say about her experience. “Before I had even realized I wanted to continue doing research in graduate school, working in a lab gave me a sense of responsibility and independence that I didn’t always feel for my classwork,” she said. “I became really invested in the projects I was working on. I thought about them a lot, and learned how to communicate my research ideas to other people.”

Like Furth, Hilliard said that conducting research as an undergraduate prepared her for graduate school. “I felt confident in my abilities, and continued to feel supported by Florian, Katrina, and other members of the lab. When I applied for admission, several lab members shared their own experiences and advice, and I ended up in the best program for my research interests.”

Jaeger also emphasized the importance of having Furth and Hilliard in his lab. “Katrina was the first RA I hired six years ago. It was wonderful having Caitie and Katrina in the lab, I got lucky,” he says. “I hope that the University will continue to expand their support for undergraduate research and that we can strike a balance between providing research opportunities for undergraduates and all the other responsibilities of faculty. I think it’s one of the most appealing properties of a place like Rochester that you can actually get your feet wet and get involved in research.”

Katrina Furth (Pictured top right with Professor Florian Jaeger) is now enrolled in the Graduate Program for Neuroscience at Boston University, and is working at the National Institutes of Health with Dr. Andres Buonanno. She is examining the role of the dopamine D4 receptor in modulating cognitive ability and neural network oscillations called gamma rhythms. “Children with an allelic variant of the D4 receptor are more likely to have ADHD and many antipsychotic medications target this receptor as well as others. I am recording from individual neurons using patch-clamp electrophysiology.”

Caitie Hilliard (pictured bottom left) received the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship for her work with Dr. Susan Cook, a full scholarship for three years of graduate study in the University of Iowa Psychology department under Dr. Cook, a former Post-Doc at the University of Rochester. Hilliard is studying the role of hand gesture in communication, focusing on how speakers modulate their gestures based on the shared information they have with their listeners. She has run two studies examining how speakers’ gestures change when they know that their listener lacks task-relevant information, and is currently investigating how the listeners’ perception of these gestures affects their own cognition.

Article written by Blake Silberberg, an intern with University Communications and a member of the Piggies. He is a senior majoring in political science.

Spotlight on Social Sciences Alumni: Stephanie Huston

Name: Stephanie Huston
Age: 23
Major while at UR: B.A. in Linguistics, University of Rochester, 2010
Occupation: Senior Linguistic Analyst
Current city/state of residence: Philadelphia, PA
Community activities: Crisis counselor for a suicide prevention hotline, hiking


When and how did you choose your major?

I actually chose my major before entering college—I believe I was a junior in high school. The way I chose linguistics originally was from watching an episode of Law and Order in which a psycho-linguist was brought in to analyze interrogations. While this was a misguided representation of linguistics, it sparked me to do further research on the science and find my niche.

What did you do immediately after graduation? How did you decide to take that path?

Two weeks after graduation I started with Verilogue Inc (a pharma market research company) as a Linguistic Analyst. I had originally planned to do grad school at Georgetown, but was unexpectedly offered this “perfect” job, so I decided to defer my acceptance to Georgetown and work for a year. I chose this path to ensure that when I went to grad school, it would be in an area I could maintain a long-term career.

What do you do now and why did you choose this career?

Right now I still work at Verilogue Inc. I decided not to go back to Georgetown yet because I absolutely love my job and receive a lot of empowerment to create new analyses and take on management roles. I still plan to go back for an advanced degree eventually, but I have a job I love and I make a very good living, so right now I am completely satisfied.

What skills, tools, or knowledge from your major have been most useful to you since graduation?

I am one of the fortunate few who have found a job using their degree. I use a lot of skills and knowledge from my years at UR and from my linguistics major. Most specifically, I use concepts from psycholinguistics, pragmatics, and corpus analysis (on which my honors thesis was based).

How do you balance your work and professional life?

That is certainly an area of constant struggle. I used to think I was busy in college, but that was nothing compared to the work I put in now. I love my job, and I am fascinated with the analyses and projects I have, but I certainly put an exceptional amount of time in. The most important thing for me is to put a cut-off time every night and stick to it. 7pm the laptop has to close and I go to the gym to unwind.

Where would you like to be in five years?

This is an interesting question. While I am still evaluating aspects of my life, from a career standpoint I would like to continue in the field of medical linguistics, progressing in the pharmaceutical industry for a while.  I can see making my way into forensic linguistics and governmental work, but that may be more than five years down the line.

What advice do you have for current students?

You don’t have to know what you want out of life when you’re 20 years old and it is counterproductive to stress about it throughout your college experience. Understanding yourself, and understanding what you don’t want is just as important as figuring out what you do want. Take a deep breath, enjoy your time, and learn as much as you can—I can genuinely say I miss learning in a classroom (never thought I’d say that).


Spotlight on Social Sciences Alumni: Carol Faden

Name:  Carol Faden
Occupation: Attorney
Education (UR and additional): B.A. in Linguistics, University of Rochester, 2006; Brooklyn Law School 2011, Juris Doctor
Current city/state of residence:   New York, NY


What did you do immediately after graduation? How did you decide to take that path?

For about six months after graduation I was waiting tables.  Wait, I know what you’re thinking: Why do I need to go to college to be a waitress?  You don’t.  But you do need money while you’re figuring out your career path.  When I put down my tray and apron, I was able to find a paralegal job within a week.  Within the span of eighteen months I’d gone from waitress, to paralegal, to law student

When and how did you choose your major?

When I was a freshman at UR I really wanted to go straight to law school.  I was pretty disappointed there was no prelaw major.  When I saw “Linguistics and Law,” in the course catalog, I signed up as quickly as I could.  Professor Christine Gunlogson was at the helm of the class and I was sucked right in: linguistics is really interesting!  I thought, “this will be great for my law career!”.  I took another linguistics class, and then another, and then I was totally hooked.  I declared my major shortly after the start of sophomore year and I never regretted it.

What activities were you involved in as a student and what did you gain from them?

When I came to University Rochester I signed up for almost every group at the activities fair.  I ended up being involved with none of these organizations.  By the end of freshman year I had my heart set on the Drama House.  From sophomore to senior year I lived there happily:  I don’t remember exactly how I got involved with TODD Theatre, but before I knew it I was an intern for the costumes department.  To this day I make excellent costumes, and I can credit my time at good ol’ UR for that.

How do you balance your work and personal life?

I am just starting my career now, so it is difficult for me to assess my work-life balance.  The main goal, however, is to make sure I can tell the two apart.  I work to live, not the other way around.  To the extent possible I will work hard during the day, and then take back my life at night to work on what’s really important: my friends and family

Where would you like to be in five years?

Five and a half years after my graduation from University of Rochester I am exactly where I want to be.  I’ve graduated from law school and I just landed my first attorney position at a small firm in Midtown Manhattan.  I’m hoping I’ll get to put some of my linguistic insight to work as I assist with our clients’ trademarks and other intellectual property concerns.  This is where I’ve always wanted to be!

What advice do you have for current students?

My advice to current University of Rochester students is to concentrate on learning as much as possible.  I mean this as opposed to trying to get the highest possible grades.  While there is a certain extent to which your GPA is important in determining the course of your life; this is somewhat limited.  I am by no means suggesting you slack off, but what employers and schools really want to see is that you make the best of your opportunities; and that you stretch your knowledge and experience.  When it comes to interview time, it is your personality and conversation skills that will win you the job: not a digit on a paper.


Spotlight on Social Sciences Alumni: Rebecca Baier

Name: Rebecca Baier
Age: 29
Occupation: Electrical Engineering student at the University of Maryland
Major while at UR: Linguistics
Current city/state of residence: Greenbelt, MD
Community activities: Tutoring and mentoring


What activities were you involved in as a student and what did you gain from them?

I was a part of InterVarsity Christian fellowship, fencing and Grassroots. I also worked at the post office and as a TA in Lingusitics, and I studied abroad in Ghana. Study abroad had the biggest impact on me, and gave me the chance to interact with people I probably couldn’t have met otherwise. On campus activities also developed a great sense of community and led to great friendships.

Who were your mentors while you were on campus? Have you continued those relationships?

Joyce McDonough and Jeff Runner. Over the years we’ve kept in touch and it’s been great to get together when that’s possible.

What did you do immediately after graduation? How did you decide to take that path?

I started working for the University of Maryland Linguistics Department in the fall after graduating. I really wanted to work in linguistics and use my degree, and I was lucky enough to get a position working in a language acquisition research lab. Before moving to Maryland, I spent the summer in Rochester and worked on research projects with Joyce McDonough.

What do you do now and why did you choose this career?

I chose to go back to school for electrical engineering. I like math and looked for ways I could combine my language and math interests – and EE is where they do speech technology. Since I was working at the university I could take classes part time for a while before I decided to go for it full time. I’ll graduate in a year so I’m going though the process again of deciding where I’d like to work next.

How do you balance your work and personal life?

I limit the extracurricular commitments I make in order to keep stress low while I’m working and taking classes. I look forward to graduating and having more free time to jump back into activities, but for now I’ve learned my lesson that I’m happier keeping life simple. I like having free time to socialize, cook, bike, make pottery…or just stay in and watch a movie if it’s been a busy week.

Where would you like to be in five years?

I hope to have found a good niche for myself as an engineer by then, and maybe I’ll be pursuing a grad degree. I’m taking things one step at a time though since I have a lot of decisions to make about focusing my degree and getting internships to see what I like to do.

How are you still connected with the University?

I have great friends from Rochester, now living all over the country. I also have family in Rochester and I enjoy visiting the University when I’m in the area. Of course I get alumni mail and emails, too that keep me in the loop.


Spotlight on Social Sciences Alumni:Elisabeth Ginsburg

Name: Elisabeth Ginsburg
Age: 25
Occupation: Student
Major while at UR: Linguistics
Current city/state of residence: Madison, Wisconsin
Community activities: Volunteer for Humane Society (I play with cats and do laundry); Volunteer for world languages day


Why did you choose to attend the University of Rochester?

I loved the idea that I could study whatever I wanted without having to take core classes.  It allowed me to really take advantage of all of the classes I wanted to take and I pushed myself in my classes more because I was so interested in the material.

When and how did you choose your major?

When I discovered that there was a field dedicated to understanding language I was hooked!  I quickly changed my major from pre-med/psychology/japanese to linguistics and I loved every minute of it.

What activities were you involved in as a student and what did you gain from them?

As a student, I was most involved in juggling and swing dancing.  I gained lasting friendships, a sense of community and physical activity that never felt forced.

Who were your mentors while you were on campus? Have you continued those relationships?

My two primary mentors in the Linguistics department were Joyce McDonough and Scott Paauw.  The two of them were always there for me when I had any questions and were very open about helping me to network, even overseas.  I have continued both relationships, and hope to keep them well into the future.

What did you do immediately after graduation? How did you decide to take that path?

I had a whirlwind year after graduating from the University of Rochester.  I presented a paper with Scott Paauw in Indonesia, then I attended the LSA Summer Institute in Berkeley, CA and finally I began my MA program at SOAS in London.  With the help of my mentors I was able to choose programs and activities which are taking me far in my linguistics career.

What skills, tools, or knowledge from your major have been most useful to you since graduation?

I continue to use the skills I gained in two consecutive Field Methods courses in all of the research I have done with native speakers since graduating.  Additionally, the analytic skills I gained from my theoretical classes continue to influence my perceptions.

Where would you like to be in five years?

If all of my wishes come true, then in five years, I would like to have graduated from the Australian National University with a PhD in Linguistics and be nearly finished with a post-doctoral position working with the Max Planck Institute.  Then I would like to either become a full time researcher or a professor.


Spotlight on Social Sciences Alumni: Jill Thorson

Name: Jill Thorson (BA ’05, MA ’07)
Age:  28
Occupation:  Doctoral Student at Brown
Major while at UR: Linguistics
Current city:  Providence, RI



When and how did you choose your major?

I took “People and their Language” on a whim during my freshmen year at UR after the President of the College gave us a speech about the flexibility of the Rochester Curriculum.  I ended up loving the class, the professor and the topic of linguistics in general and subsequently made it my major.

What activities were you involved in as a student and what did you gain from them?

I was involved in the Equestrian Club at UR, so I was able to train weekly and attend horse shows throughout the region.  This experience provided a great non-academic outlet that I think was an invaluable counterpart to learning.  Both meeting new friends and spending time with the horses made my four years at UR much more manageable.

What resources did you use on campus that you recommend current students use?

The Career Center and the Fellowships Office were of great help to me.  The Career Center was fantastic for getting applications together and making sure my CV was well organized.  Also, with the dedication of many people from the Fellowship Office, I was able to prepare and submit a Fulbright application that I later received to spend a year in Spain.

Who were your mentors while you were on campus? Have you continued those relationships?

My mentor at UR was Prof. Joyce McDonough in Linguistics.  She was the professor of my first Linguistics class and went on to be both my undergraduate and masters adviser.  We are still in great contact today and I now consider her both a colleague and friend.

What did you do immediately after graduation? How did you decide to take that path?

After graduation I stayed at UR to do a Masters degree in Linguistics and then went on to do a Fulbright Research Fellowship in Barcelona, Spain.  I took this time to really figure out exactly what it was that I enjoyed studying before entering into a PhD program.

Where would you like to be in five years?

In five years I hope to be teaching and doing research in lingusitics and cognitive science.  Ideally I would love to find a job in the New England area.


Nine Rochester Students Awarded Fellowships for Graduate Research

Univ. Communications – Nine University of Rochester students and six alumni have been named recipients of the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships. Additionally, 18 current students and recent alumni also were given honorable mentions by the NSF. The fellowship, which is part of a federally sponsored program, provides up to three years of graduate study support for students pursing doctoral or research-based master’s degrees. Since the program’s inception in 1952, it has supported nearly 50,000 students conducting research in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and selected social science disciplines. Of the more than 12,000 applicants, only 2,000 were awarded fellowships and 1,783 were given honorable mentions. The fellowship includes a three-year annual stipend of $30,000, a $10,500 educational allowance to the institution, and international research and professional development opportunities.

The following graduating seniors received fellowships:

  • Emilia Sola-Gracia ’12, bachelor of science in ecology and evolutionary biology
  • David Kaphan ’12, bachelor of science in chemistry
  • Sharese King ’12, bachelor of arts in linguistics, minor in American Sign Language
  • Mark D. Levin ’12, bachelor of science in chemistry, minor in mathematics
  • Susan Pratt ’12, bachelor of arts in mathematics and bachelor of science in physics

The following graduating seniors received honorable mentions:

  • Chad Hunter ’12, bachelor of science in chemical engineering, minor in mathematics
  • Matej Penciak ’12, bachelor of science in physics and bachelor of arts in mathematics
  • Benjamin E.R. Snyder ’12, bachelor of science in chemistry and bachelor of arts in mathematics

The following graduate students received fellowships:

  • Michael Baranello, doctoral degree candidate in chemical engineering
  • Ellie Carrell, doctoral degree candidate in pharmacology and physiology
  • Jason Inzana, doctoral degree candidate in biomedical engineering
  • Vijay Jain, doctoral degree candidate in physics

The following graduate students received honorable mentions:

  • Esteban Buz, doctoral degree candidate in brain and cognitive sciences
  • Dev Crasta, doctoral degree candidate in clinical and social sciences in psychology
  • Adam B. Johnson, doctoral degree candidate in ecology and evolutionary biology
  • Patrick S. Murphy, doctoral degree candidate in microbiology & immunology
  • Ian Perera, doctoral degree candidate in computer science

The following recent alumni, who are currently pursing advanced degrees elsewhere, received fellowships:

  • Molly Boutin ’11, bachelor of science in biomedical engineering
  • Caitlin Hilliard ’10, bachelor of arts in brain and cognitive sciences and American Sign Language
  • Patrick Sheehan ’11, bachelor of science in physics & astronomy and bachelor of arts in mathematics
  • Raisa Trubko ’10, bachelor of arts in physics and bachelor of science in optics
  • David J. Weinberg ’11, bachelor of science in chemistry
  • Hannah (Geswein) Williamson ’08, bachelor of arts in psychology

The following recent alumni, many of whom are currently pursing advanced degrees elsewhere, received honorable mentions:

  • Samuel Anderson ’11, bachelor of science in chemistry
  • Isthier Chaudhury ’11, bachelor of science in chemical engineering and bachelor of arts in interdepartmental programs
  • Emily (Grzybowski) Dennis ’11, bachelor of science in molecular genetics and bachelor of arts in studio arts
  • Aaron Gorenstein ’11, bachelor of science in computer science
  • Seth Kallman ’09, bachelor of science in brain & cognitive sciences
  • Kathleen Mulvaney ’10, bachelor of science in molecular genetics
  • Alison Ossip-Klein ’10, bachelor of science in ecology and evolutionary biology
  • Camillia Redding ’10, bachelor of arts in political science
  • Maria Strangas ’10, bachelor of science in ecology & evolutionary biology
  • Adam Williamson’08, bachelor of science in electrical & computer engineering and bachelor of arts in physics

Article written by Melissa Greco Lopes, editor of The Buzz and student life publicist in University Communications. Photo courtesy of  the NSF website.