Dr. Katharine Graf Estes, Principal Investigator - Lab Director
Infants are immersed in a world of immense complexity, yet they display knowledge of the people, objects, actions, and sounds in their environments very early in life. My research explores the mechanisms that support this early learning. In particular, the ability to detect statistical regularities may play a fundamental role in how infants learn about a highly complex, highly salient aspect of the auditory world: language. Infants become especially attuned to regularities in the sound patterns of the ambient language, including its phoneme distinctions, sound combinations within words, and its cues to word boundaries in fluent speech. Thus, when infants begin to understand and produce words, they do not start as a blank slate. I am investigating how infants learn from statistical regularities in the language they hear and the nature of what they learn.
Erica Verde, Graduate Student
I am a fourth year doctoral student in the developmental area in the psychology department. A simultaneous English-Spanish bilingual originally from Miami, I hold a bachelor's degree in Psychology from the University of Miami and a master's degree in Linguistics from Florida International University. Before joining the Language Learning Lab, I managed an infant language lab at Stanford University under Dr. Anne Fernald, as well as the ISI bilingual language processing lab under Dr. Paola Dussias at the Pennsylvania State University. I am broadly interested in lexical and semantic acquisition and processing in both monolingual and bilingual populations. In particular, I hope to explore the role of statistical learning in these processes and how variability in the input affects infants' ability to recognize meaningful language features.
Danielle Bucks, Lab Manager
I am a junior transfer student at UC Davis studying Psychology with a minor in Human Development. Starting at an early age in life, I have always had an interest in children and how their minds can be so brilliant at such a young age. Working with or around children has always been something I love, and from my time at Davis, learning about the progression of development in children has made my fascination grow even stronger. I was motivated to join the Language Learning Lab to further advance my knowledge about not only the development of children, but specifically the growth of language in infants. I hope to use my experience and forthcoming encounters in this lab towards my future career working with children. Outside of academics I really enjoy cooking, watching Netflix, being outdoors and hiking, going to the gym, and being around friends and family.
Andrea Ramirez Barajas, McNair Scholar
I am a first year doctoral student in the Developmental area in the Psychology department. I graduated from UC Davis with a degree in Spanish and Psychology B.A. Before starting my PhD at the lab, I worked as a McNair Scholar for two years with Dr. Graf Estes where I was able to conduct and present research in infant bilingual language acquisition. I am broadly interested in the variations in lexical and acoustic properties in a bilingual as well as a monolingual population. More specifically, I’m interested in parent-child interactions and the effect the parent’s speech has on their infant’s language development in a social context.
Carolyn Ta, Undergraduate Research Assistant, Lead of Business Communications
I am a third year undergraduate student at UC Davis majoring in Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior, with a minor in Education. I have a passion for working with kids, which originated from teaching at a local summer school over the past five summers. I am amazed at how children, especially infants, can absorb and understand so much information in such a short amount of time. I joined the Language Learning Lab to work with children in a new research environment, as well as to learn more about this process of understanding information. I plan to go to medical school and pursue my goal of becoming a pediatrician. I think the lab is a great experience that will make my passion for working with children stronger and help make me a better professional. Outside of lab, I enjoy running, eating, and spending time with family and friends.
Madeline Wenner, Undergraduate Research Assistant, Lead of Media Platforms
I am a fourth year pre-med student at UC Davis majoring in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and minoring in Classics. Taking Latin classes and comparing them to my knowledge of English and Spanish recently sparked my interest in languages, the history and development of languages, and how they are learned. There are many fascinating complexities in the ways different groups of people choose to communicate, and I hope to continue learning more about linguistics through this lab and through my classes. I also plan on becoming a doctor; my love for children has led me to consider Pediatrics or Obstetrics as a specialty in order to spend time helping kids. I am excited to work with children while doing research here and learn from how kids interact with the world around them. I hope my time spent in this lab will help me to become a better health-care provider someday, and a more well-rounded student.
Summer Zhu, Undergraduate Research Assistant, Lead of Visual Data
I am a second year international student at UC Davis majoring in Psychology with a minor in Education. I was born and raised in Shanghai, which is a typical bilingual city for Shanghai dialect and Mandarin. I came to United States at the age of 14 with the aspiration to broaden my world perspective, and this experience of overcoming language barriers made me really interested in Education and Linguistics. I am attracted by the process of how infants learn two languages simultaneously and by the cognitive ability of a child to see environmental patterns. Joining the Language Learning Lab can help me gain practical research experience, which will directly relate to my future career as an early childhood educator. I also had several experiences of working with children before. Other than my passion for language and
children, I enjoy hiking and playing badminton.
children, I enjoy hiking and playing badminton.
Natalie Ho, Undergraduate Research Assistant
I am a fourth year student at UC Davis majoring in Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior and minoring in Psychology. I grew up speaking English and Vietnamese at home and learning Spanish at school. My love for working with children began from my huge family where I experienced babysitting, educating/mentoring, helping with homework, and playing with my little cousins and brother. It is because of my love for the younger demographic that inspires my future career goal in pediatrics! I am extremely excited to be a part of the Language and Learning Lab because I will get to witness infants absorb new information and process language through a scientific perspective. I am also interested in how different environments and varying teaching methods can help children learn effectively.
Jerice Banola, Undergraduate Research Assistant
I am a second year undergraduate student at UC Davis, majoring in Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior. I was originally born in the Philippines, making Tagalog my first language. However, my family eventually moved to America when I was an infant, causing me to lose my ability to speak Tagalog and learn English. Learning how bilingualism develops in infants is something I’m very interested in learning about and a big reason why I joined the Language Learning Lab. I am very excited to learn more about the progression of languages in infants and also the growth of myself through this lab, hoping to use what I learn in my future endeavors.
Delphine Golly, Undergraduate Research Assistant
I am a third year undergraduate student at UC Davis majoring in Cognitive Science with a minor in Psychology. My parents are both from Ivory Coast, so I grew up in a bilingual household of English and French. All of my siblings were exposed to French at different points in our childhood/adolescence, which has led to some speaking fluent French and others, including myself, barely remembering the basics from memory. Being in this position has led to a great interest in how the ability to learn languages processes and changes with and without environmental and cultural influences, and I think the Language Learning Lab is the perfect place to explore this idea! In the future I plan to pursue a graduate degree in hopes of becoming a clinical psychologist researching the development of mental illnesses throughout one’s life. In my free time I enjoy going to the gym, listening to music, shopping, and being with friends and family.
Cindy Ceja, Undergraduate Research Assistant
I am a third-year student double majoring in Psychology and Communications. My interest in language development began when I was enrolled in an Introduction to Linguistics course. Instantly, I was enthralled by how humans have the capability to acquire and use language. Also, as a simultaneous English-Spanish bilingual individual, I would like to expand my knowledge on bilingualism and its effects on how children can learn to identify new sounds and words. I plan on becoming a Child or School Psychologist as I am interested in helping to guide children as they continue to develop emotionally, physically, and psychologically. Thus, I hope to help children develop in every aspect of their lives alongside helping them cope with any foreseeable situation. Outside of academics, I enjoy cooking, visiting art museums, and checking out new cafés.
Alexis Elliott, Undergraduate Research Assistant
I am a fourth year Human Development major at UC Davis. I have grown up working with children who have difficulties learning to speak, or who use sign language to communicate. It has always amazed me at the versatility and importance of language. I look forward to using what I learn from this lab in my future career as a nurse.
Jinlin Xie, Undergraduate Research Assistant
I am a fourth year undergraduate student majoring in Psychology and minoring in Education. My native language is Chinese, and I started learning English as I got older. The difficulties of learning English have prompted me into studying language development. I remember after I learned that “-er” can be used to make nouns mean someone who is performing the action, I called a chef “cooker”. It was an embarrassing experience, but also caused me to become interested in how categorization may influence and facilitate language learning. I also love taking care of kids and I want to work in a pre-school setting in the future. Working in the Language Learning Lab would be an ideal setting for me to explore every aspect I am interested in. I enjoy hiking and going to the gym in my spare time.
Colleen Hernandez, Research Assistant
I have recently finished my MS in Child Development at University of La Verne and am applying to a PhD in Developmental Psychology at UC Davis and am a certified early childhood educator. I grew up speaking English and learning Spanish in high school, then in college I studied several years of Japanese. While I was living in Japan teaching English for 3 years, I became interested in learning more about the mechanics behind how children acquire a second language. I became an early childhood educator upon returning to the US and gained experience with infants and toddlers as well as bilingual preschoolers. While raising my own two daughters, being involved in their linguistic development day by day has been exciting and very informative. I am interested in early word acquisition, cognitive development, semantic learning, how parents' speech might affect learning, and the mechanisms involved in multilingual learning. I look forward to learning more about the research process.
Kimberly Francis, Undergraduate Research Assistant
I am a fourth year undergraduate student pursuing degrees in both English and Linguistics with a minor in Education. Throughout my academic career, I have been able to explore my passion for education and experience an immeasurable amount of joy working closely with children in a variety of settings. I am excited to further my understanding of cognitive and linguistic implications upon language processing/development and apply the skills I will acquire through this position to my future career as a Speech-Language Pathologist.
Ann Cheng, Undergraduate Research Assistant
I am a fourth-year undergraduate student at UC Davis majoring in Psychology and minoring in Human Development and Education. I chose to join the Language Learning Lab because I grew up bilingual. I am interested in learning and researching about the cognitive development of children and being able to apply what I learned to my future career. I am also a member of the Social Environment and Stress lab where I learn about how children from different family backgrounds react to stressful situations. In my free time, I like to explore new coffee shops, bookstores, and play the piano.
Emma Wong, Undergraduate Research Assistant
I am a second year international student at UC Davis majoring in Psychology, and hope to attain a minor in English as well. I was born and raised in Hong Kong my entire life before coming to the states for college. Ethnically, my mother is Japanese and my father is Chinese—since they didn’t know each others’ languages, they only communicated in English, and this was what they raised me with. Though English is my native language, my life was sprinkled with various levels of exposure to Japanese, Cantonese, and Mandarin—resulting in a very discombobulated ethnic-language identity due to a lack of fluency in these three languages. So naturally, the research on bilingual and multilingual children in this lab struck a personal chord with me. In other words, I applied to this lab not only to gain practical lab and research skills, but to find answers to the linguistic training I lacked in my own childhood. In the future, I hope to continue my psychology studies in graduate school and one day work in the social work and counseling fields in the states or back in Hong Kong.
Mariam Ali, Undergraduate Research Assistant, Media and Language Questionnaire Manager
I am a third-year student at UC Davis majoring in Cognitive Science with Computational emphasis and minoring in Arabic. I was born and raised in Assiut, Egypt and grew up speaking Arabic until I came to the United States in 2010, and learned English. I have always had a passion for kids since I grew up babysitting my cousins and my sister. It was also because of this love that I started to tutor from a young age. I wanted to create a difference by helping children grow. For this reason, I applied to work for the Language Learning Lab to know how the age of a child can cause a difference in learning and how the brain can have a large capacity to absorb more than one language. I want to immerse myself with kids to not only understand them linguistically and cognitively, but to also figure out how parents can affect children’s development. In the long term, and through this experience, I will expand my knowledge and be able to help children around the world. Outside of my academics, I like to go on new adventures, try new food and listen to Arabic songs.
Ellie Lacaze, Undergraduate Research Assistant
I am a second year undergraduate student at UC Davis pursuing a double major in Cognitive Science and Psychology. I was raised in Fremont, California in a monolingual household, despite my parents' efforts to teach my twin sister and I Spanish. We both picked it up easily when we were young, but quickly forgot everything later on. This affinity for language that we possess as children intrigues me, and joining the Language Learning Lab will allow me to explore infant learning patterns in a more hands-on and focused environment than a classroom could provide. Also, I have always loved working with children, whether it be babysitting or volunteering as an assistant teacher at a science camp over the summer. After completing my undergraduate degrees, I hope to continue my education at graduate school. In the meantime, though, I enjoy meeting up with friends between classes, thrifting in downtown Davis, and reading a good science fiction novel whenever time allows.