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.
Dylan Antovich, Graduate Student
I graduated in 2010 from the University of Washington with a B.S. in psychology and minors in Italian language and music. I am currently in the Developmental Psychology Ph.D. program at UC Davis, with a focus on early language development. My research interests include bilingualism, cognitive development, communication disorders, language learning mechanisms, and early word acquisition. Working at the Language Learning Lab will be a great way to pursue these interests and to learn about the fascinating field of language development.
Erica Verde, Graduate Student
I am second 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.
Dasha Tsakke, Lab Manager
I have received my Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and minor in Spanish at CSU-Sacramento. As a multilingual speaker of English, Russian, and Spanish who is now learning American Sign Language, I am still very much fascinated by language learning. Previously, I held a reading job at a recording studio where the linguistics of spoken language played an essential role in the production of audio books, so this lab seemed to mesh well with my experiences. This lab is a fantastic place to witness early language learning. Because of my invested interests in learning in general throughout various contexts, I am also working on a study with UCLA which involves applying mechanisms of learning to an educational-like context. I really enjoy fitness and nature.
Grace Katzenson, Lead Undergraduate Research Assistant
I am a junior transfer student at UC Davis majoring in Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior and minoring in Sociology. My interest in language development stems from my international background. I was born in the United States but have lived in Turkey, Germany and the Netherlands and traveled extensively in these regions. Therefore, I have been around bilingual and multilingual people for the majority of my life. I am planning to attend medical school and become a physician, and I strongly believe the skills and experiences learned in the Language Learning Lab will help me become a stronger doctor. Outside of the lab, I am the Chair of Osteopathic Medicine (D. O.) for the UC Davis Pre-Health Conference as well as a member of Phi Delta Epsilon International Medical Fraternity.
Maya Bowen, Undergraduate Research Assistant, Head of Visual Data
I am a third year student at UC Davis, double majoring in Psychology and Human Development. I have a passion for working with children, helping guide them as they develop emotionally, physically, psychologically, and studying what factors might influence them as they grow up. These interests come from the time that I spent working with children in classrooms, camps and various internships. I joined the language learning lab because it is a great chance to study early language development in children and it is also an amazing opportunity to gain research experience. My experience working with children has primarily focused on the educational side, and I have seen how important it is for educators to understand how a child develops in order to help the child reach their full potential. I hope that by learning more about language development in children that I can become a better educator as well as gain valuable experience in the research field.
David Mena, Undergraduate Research Assistant, Head of Online Learning
I am a third-year student at UC Davis studying Spanish and Cognitive Science. I am from San Juan Capistrano in Orange County. While at UC Davis, I have found a huge interest in learning about the capability of human beings to be able to learn a language and even be able to master two languages at a young age. I have worked with middle school student in the past and I can see a need for future educators in the field of language acquisition. I would like to pursue higher education in the field of linguistics to further expand my knowledge in how it is that language is acquired and how to be able to change current teaching techniques to help students with difficulty acquiring a second language at school. The Language Learning Lab is my first step towards understanding how language acquisition works especially in children and it is also introducing me to research. With the skills learned in this lab, I hope to be able to conduct on my own in the future. I am very excited to be able apart of the Language Learning Lab!
Sofia Theodoridis, Undergraduate Research Assistant
I am a transfer student from American River Community College currently attending UC Davis as a senior undergraduate working towards my Bachelor’s Degree in Linguistics. I am specifically interested in dialectical variation, which I think is a fascinating aspect of language acquisition. My love of language developed from growing up in a Greek-American family and eventually being fortunate enough to travel to Greece on various occasions. I am a native English speaker with conversational skills in Greek, and basic skills in Italian. With many of my family members having come from Greece, I truly learned to appreciate the value of language and how vital it is to everyday life. I love working with children, and working at the Language Learning Lab will be a perfect way to combine real- world skills with my education in Linguistics!
Erica Skytte, Undergraduate Research Assistant
I am a third year student at UC Davis pursuing my degree is Psychology with a minor in Communications. I have always loved working with children and during my time here at UC Davis, I have found myself fascinated with the development of the capabilities of children as they grow older. My motivation for joining the Language Learning Lab is to gain insight on the development of a child; I think that language is one of the most interesting components of a child's development. I hope to take my experiences from the lab and use them to help me in my future career plans of becoming a Child Psychologist. I hope to use my knowledge to better understand the mind of a child so I can learn the best ways to help children cope with any situation. Outside of academics I am a supervisor at the ASUCD Coffee House on the UC Davis campus. I also enjoy reading, hiking, and watching movies.
Prachi Bulsara, Undergraduate Research Assistant
I am a third year undergraduate student majoring in Psychology and minoring in Human Development. Coming from an Indian heritage, I have been exposed to two different languages, Gujarati and English, all my life. I have a huge interest in how infants are able to acquire two languages at the same time and are able to distinguish between the two. Having so many young kids in my own family, I find the minds of infants extremely fascinating as they navigate through the world. The Language Learning Lab will help me gain research experience, as well as experience working with children. I am so thrilled to be a part of this team! I plan on working in either Developmental Psychology or Speech Therapy in the future so this lab with definitely help put me on the right track. Putting academics aside, I enjoy watching Netflix, dancing, and spending time with family and friends.
Andrea Ramirez, McNair Scholar
I am a third year student at UC Davis double majoring in Psychology and Spanish with a minor in Chicano/a Studies. I’m originally from Woodland, CA, where I started to work with children that had a learning disability. As a bilingual person myself, I became interested in the developmental capacities that children have as they grow older, especially those who speak more than one language. I decided to join the Language Learning Lab because I believe it will allow me to gain knowledge about the topic of infant directed speech in bilingual children. I am currently working as a Spanish tutor at the Spanish for Spanish Speakers Program at the Department of Spanish and Portuguese; I’m also a McNair Scholar.
Carolyn Ta, Undergraduate Research Assistant
I am a second 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.
Julia MacLaren, Undergraduate Research Assistant
I am a third year student at UC Davis studying Psychology and Cognitive Science with a minor in Education. As a child, I was always fascinated with the brain, with how people learn and acquire new knowledge. Through my internships at UC Davis, I was able to work closely with children which increased my love of childhood development. I hope to use the knowledge I gain from this internship to help me with my future career goal of becoming a school psychologist. With this new knowledge I hope to help children in every aspect of their lives. Outside of academics I enjoy going to coffee shops, reading books in the quad, watching Netflix, and cooking meals for my friends. I am so excited to have the opportunity to work at the Language Learning Lab.
Madeline Wenner, Undergraduate Research Assistant
I am a third 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 lead 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.
Melody Kosik, Undergraduate Research Assistant
I am a junior transfer student at UC Davis, majoring in Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior, and minoring in Spanish. The significance of language has always permeated my life; my first language was Spanish and my mother is a court interpreter. While I ultimately plan to work in pediatric endocrinology, I continue to be particularly excited about learning more about bilingualism, working with children, and gaining a valuable research experience.
Shelby Mancini, Undergraduate Research Assistant
I am a second year student at UC Davis, currently pursuing my undergraduate degree in Psychology, with a minor in Human Development. I am fascinated by language development and the brain processes that drive it. I have always loved working with children, so the research conducted in the Language Learning Lab has captured my interest immensely. Prior to this opportunity, I worked with children with learning science concepts through experimentation at an elementary school and I found this to be extremely fun and rewarding. I hope to use these experiences as learning tools in my future career. Outside of academics, I enjoy spending time with my friends and family, hiking, dancing, and watching Game of Thrones.
Monica Spillane-Jimenez, Undergraduate Research Assistant
I am a fourth year undergraduate transfer student majoring in Psychology with a minor in Education. As a child I had always been aware of the significance of language and the importance of communication. I am bilingual in Spanish and English with a passion for further studying the topics of bilingualism, language acquisition, and language development throughout young children's first years. Though someday I hope to become a teacher, in the near future, after graduating with my BA, I am looking forward to continuing onto graduate school furthering my study of Psychology. The intelligence young children take on from such a young age is both fascinating and sparks my curiosity as I find myself gravitating towards working with them in my career. Additionally, it is my hope to work alongside the Latino population as I can relate to the difficulties many face upon coming to a new country. Outside of my busy life of being a student, I enjoy taking walks with my dog and traveling to new countries! I am looking forward to my time here at the Language Learning Lab.
Summer Zhu, Undergraduate Research Assistant
I am a first 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.
Christina Chin, Undergraduate Research Assistant
I am a second year undergraduate student at UC Davis majoring in Psychology with a minor in Human Development. My passion for Developmental Psychology is rooted in my enthusiasm both for mental health and for learning disabilities, which stems from my own experience growing up with a learning disability. I am fascinated with not only how children infants learn differently but also how quickly they learn and adapt to the world in different ways. It also captivates me how capable babies are of learning, especially language, in ways that we as adults are not. I plan on taking what I learn from my experience in this lab to pursue a PhD in Developmental Psychology and hopefully achieve my dream of being a child and adolescent clinical psychologist. During my free time, I enjoy climbing at Rocknasium, playing piano, and going out for a good day of hiking.
Rachel Chaffin, Undergraduate Research Assistant
I am a third year student at Amherst College majoring in Psychology and French. I am originally from Elk Grove, CA, and found the Language Learning Lab while looking for research internships for the summer that would be close to home. UC Davis was a great option, but I couldn't have found a more interesting, supportive, fun lab to work in! Infant language acquisition is one of my primary interests in the field of psychology, and I am thrilled to be able to spend the summer at this Lab, getting experience in a lab setting and mastering the studies we run here. I definitely want to work with kids in the future, and hope to incorporate what I learn this summer (and throughout my undergraduate academic career) into my other interests in child development, especially related to early education.