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 sixth 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.
Andrea Ramirez Barajas, Graduate Student
I am a third 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.
Isabelle Pai, Graduate Student
I am a second year Ph.D. student in developmental psychology. I come from an Economics research background, with a B.A. in Economics from New York University and research experience at Nielsen and GfK after graduation. I received my Master’s degree in Developmental Psychology, with a Cognitive Development concentration, from Cornell University in 2020. My primary research interest is in Cognitive Development, particularly the development of information processing and language acquisition. I plan to study how infants and young children acquire language - how they learn semantic and pragmatic concepts, how they form abstract relations and how this acquisition facilitates their thought formation. I am particularly interested in understanding cognate facilitation and transference of inputs between the dominant and heritage language. In the Language Learning lab, I’d like to investigate the semantic and pragmatic differences in cognates and how the difference affects the way bilingual children form different abstract relations. In my spare time, I enjoy attending symphonies, cold weather sports such as hockey, figure skating, downhill skiing and cross-country skiing, and spending time in nature.
Summer Zhu, Research Assistant, Lead of Visual Data
I am a graduated international student from UC Davis, who majored 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.
Jessica Carrasco, Undergraduate Research Assistant
I am a third-year undergraduate student majoring in Psychology with a minor in Human Development. I was raised in a household where I was first taught how to speak Spanish, then I was later taught English by my siblings. English, then became my primary language. I’ve always found it completely fascinating how at such a young age, one has the capability of learning different languages simultaneously. This great curiosity motivated me to join the Language Learning Lab to expand my knowledge about the language development in children. I also have a great passion working with children; I have volunteered as a tutor at an elementary school and was a soccer coach for the youth. I believe this lab is a great opportunity to grow the different skills that I can incorporate into graduate school and my future career. In my free time, I enjoy going to the gym, discovering new places, and spending time with friends and family.
Naina Narain, Undergraduate Research Assistant
I am a fourth year undergraduate student at UC Davis majoring in Cognitive Science and Linguistics. Since my first quarter at Davis, I became interested in linguistics and its connection to the brain. I grew up speaking English in a Hindi-English speaking household, while learning Spanish in school. My personal experience with language acquisition, being monolingual in a bilingual household, and my interest in language and the brain have led me to join the Language Learning Lab. I aim to expand my knowledge in bilingual language acquisition, and language acquisition in general. In the future, I hope to apply my knowledge in linguistics and the mind to work with interactive linguistic devices. In my free time I love to paint, draw, and practice digital design.
Yuxuan (Lydia) Xiang, Research Assistant
I’m a graduated international student from UC Davis who majored in psychology and communication. I have explored different psychology fields, includes both clinic and research, and find that developmental psychology is the one I have the most passion with, especially language development. I have done several home assessments with 3-5 years old bilingual children, and their different language levels stimulate my interest to explore language development at different ages. I enjoy working with kids, and I have great experience working with children of different ages. I hope I can contribute to the lab and practice myself. Outside of academics, I enjoy painting, Chinese calligraphy, being outdoors, cute animals, and cooking.
Divya Khanna, Undergraduate Research Assistant
I am a fourth year Psychology and Human Development double major at UC Davis, who also studies Spanish! Growing up in California, I've spent all of my life mainly only hearing English, which is what inspired me to push myself to learn as much Spanish as I possibly could. Currently I've worked my way up to tutoring fellow students in Spanish at UC Davis and still have a strong passion for learning about language. Since I was really young I've always loved spending time around people, especially babies. While I am still exploring exactly what I'd like to do with my degree I know that I want to do something that involves working with children and understanding more about their development. For this reason I was drawn to the Language and Learning Lab and am very eager to expand my knowledge about language development! Outside of my school life, I work as a barista which allows me to continue interacting with people.
Cynthia Cortez, Undergraduate Research Assistant ( - 2021)
- I am a fourth-year student at UC Davis, double majoring in Psychology and Human Development. Within my household, my parents always stressed on the importance of learning Spanish first, given that English in America is taught upon entering K-grade. As a bilingual speaker today, I acknowledge the gift of being able to communicate in two distinct tongues and the culture-oriented ties that are implemented in my everyday life. My interest in the language learning lab stems from my curiosity about infants’ ability to learn two languages at the same time, as my current work position enables me to work by a parent’s side to teach an infant Spanish and English. My goal is to continue to facilitate communication among people and help assist interaction among others. Aside from the lab, my hobbies include dancing and drawing.
Jacklyn Jardel, Undergraduate Research Assistant ( - 2021)
I am a fourth year undergraduate student at UC Davis double majoring in Psychology and Cognitive Science with an emphasis in computation. I grew up in San Diego, where many people speak both Spanish and English, and many of my peers growing up speaking only Spanish at home and learned English when they started school. This made me very interested in learning different languages and the linguistic aspects of multilingualism. As I got older I also became very fascinated in psychology and human development. One aspect that intrigued me especially has always been language development and acquisition in children. In finding the Language Learning Lab, I saw it combined many of my different interests along with giving me an opportunity to further explore the research aspects of psychology. Outside of academics I enjoy embroidery, spending time with friends, and being outside.
Claire Choi, Undergraduate Research Assistant
I am a third year undergraduate student at UC Davis majoring in Psychology and minoring in Human Development. Before moving to California, I grew up in Texas and lived in Korea as well. Because of this, I grew up to speak both English and Korean fluently, which also sparked my interest in learning more about how infants learn language and their development. Ever since I was little, I've always loved being around infants and children. My interest for this lab was because I want to understand what kind of features infants look at when learning a language and what differences there are between the brains of monolingual and bilingual/multilingual infants. I can see the work of this lab to be helpful to me in the future when I become a speech therapist or psychologist focusing on children. I really enjoy listening to music, going to the beach, and making little characters with clay.
Molly Bainbridge, Undergraduate Research Assistant
I am a graduated student from UC Davis who majored in Biological Psychology and a minored in Human Development. I have known I wanted to work with children since I was in middle school. I used to work at various children's summer camps, and now at UC Davis I am getting involved with research involving children. I think the way children learn is fascinating, especially since we cannot remember learning things ourselves as infants. I joined the Language Learning Lab to understand how infants learn, while enjoying a welcoming research environment. My hope for the future is to enter a doctorate program for Clinical Psychology, focusing on children and adolescent psychology. Outside of school and lab work I enjoy reading, embroidery, and hiking.
Clara Dresselhaus, Undergraduate Research Assistant
I am a graduated student from UC Davis who majored in Psychology and Applied Mathematics. My interests are cognitive development, and early language acquisition which lead me to the Language Learning Lab. My future career goals involve going to graduate school and becoming a research psychologist. When I'm not buried in schoolwork, I like to swim, read and play the cello.
Lucia Gonzalez-Gamez, Undergraduate Research Assistant
I am a fourth-year undergraduate at UC Davis studying both psychology and chicana/o/x studies. I was drawn to the language learning lab for their interesting studies regarding language acquisition in infants, particularly their work with bilingual children. As someone who grew up speaking two languages at home (Spanish and English), I acknowledge the difficulty that comes with learning two languages at once; however, I continue to be fascinated by children’s ability to recognize and use multiple labels for words. I am eager to see how working with the LLL will further my understanding of the complexity of language along with my passion for research. Outside of the lab, I enjoy trying new foods, baking, and spending time with my loved ones.
Celeste Inostroz-Vazquez, Undergraduate Research Assistant
I am a fourth year undergraduate student at UC Davis majoring in Psychology and working on attaining a minor in English. I was raised in a bilingual household in Pomona, California where Spanish and English are predominantly spoken. Although bilingualism is a fascinating way language has impacted my life, my inspiration to learn more about language development sprouted because of my brother's speech delay. My brother's speech delay was new to our family and we didn't know how this happened. Thankfully, as a family we were able to help my brother improve his speech development! My brother's struggle with his speech delay motivated me to be a part of the Language Learning Lab because I believe that the lab will help me gain a better understanding of my brother's situation and I want to answer any questions my family still has regarding his speech delay. In addition, one of my career goals is to work with children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). My experience in this lab will help me learn new speech development strategies that I can one day apply in the future when I work with children with ASD who also have difficulty acquiring language. I want to make an impact in the lives of children with ASD and most importantly, to be an advocate for them. In my free time, I enjoy cooking and playing tennis.
Angelica Gomez, Undergraduate Research Assistant
I am a second-year undergraduate student at UC Davis majoring in Psychology. I am from Los Angeles and grew up speaking mostly Spanish. When I started going to school, I was taught more English and was put into speech therapy, which helped me in English, but not in Spanish. As I got older, and while my Spanish wasn't the best, it has greatly improved. It is because of that I want to learn more about how language is developed and hopefully help other children in the future with similar experiences like mine. In my free time, I like painting and listening to music.
Malia Tieu, Undergraduate Research Assistant
I am a third-year undergraduate student at UC Davis majoring in Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior. Growing up as one of the oldest children in a large, extended family, I have always been surrounded and fascinated by children, especially babies. Through personal experience, I have observed, and been enamoured, by the nuance in infant development--especially regarding their ability to adapt so well to our complicated world. My parents are Chinese-Vietnamese immigrants and I have been exposed to Chinese, Vietnamese, and English in my household, but only grew up to be fully fluent in English. Because of this, my relationship with language and multilingualism has been quite complex with its connection to identity, culture, and family. The work being done at the lab feels quite personal to me and I hope, through my time here, to not only gain research experience and develop lab skills, but to also delve deeper into the complexities of language acquisition in infants and how it may connect to my own childhood experiences. In the future, I hope to continue working with and helping children as a Pediatric Psychiatrist.
Gabriela Regalado, Undergraduate Research Assistant
I am an incoming third year undergraduate student at UC Davis pursuing a degree in Psychology. I was born and raised in Oakland, CA in a bilingual home, speaking Spanish at home and English at school. My parents were very strict on teaching my siblings and I Spanish, I spoke it solely until I was five years old and picked up English when I entered kindergarten. The idea that as a five year old I was able to balance both languages and understand them is what interested me in the Language Learning Lab. By joining this lab , it will allow me to explore the learning patterns and behaviors of infants when dealing with bilingual and monolingual households and help me better understand my own experience. I am excited to work with children and be able to put my psychology knowledge into practice. In the future, I would like to work with children while being in the medical field. Aside from academics, I enjoy painting, going on hikes, and hanging out with my friends!
Giselle Nevarez, Undergraduate Research Assistant
I am a fourth-year undergraduate student at UC Davis majoring in Psychology with a minor in Communications. I have grown a huge passion for working with children, which began as I volunteered in the child care unit at the Mind Institute in early 2020. I followed my passion and became a behavior technician for kids that are autistic! Being alongside children daily, I have grown fond and interested in the ways children continuously understand information as they develop. In the future, I plan to become a pediatric clinical psychologist and continue helping and sharing my passion for working with children. I am so excited to be a part of the Language Learning Lab and look forward to being alongside the research process!
Yaritzi Cuevas Lua, Undergraduate Research Assistant
I am a third-year undergraduate student at UC Davis majoring in Psychology and minoring in Human Development and Spanish. Being raised by immigrant parents originally from Mexico, my mother tongue is Spanish, and I learned English upon entering elementary school. Growing up with a large extended family, I have been able to observe how several of my relatives who were exposed to the same degree of Spanish did not grasp the language to the same magnitude. I have always wondered what could have been the causes of the noticeable differences in fluency. I am thrilled to be a part of the Language and Learning Lab not only for the opportunity to gain research experience, but also for the ability to strengthen my understanding of the underlying factors behind monolingual versus bilingual language development in children. Outside of my academics, I enjoy playing basketball, going to the beach, and spending time with my friends and family. I am still undecided on what I want to pursue after completing my undergrad, but I hope my time in this lab can help guide me towards a pathway to a career I can enjoy.
Sharon Tan, Undergraduate Research Assistant
I am a third year undergraduate student at UC Davis double majoring in Cognitive Science and Psychology. I grew up with Chinese parents, learning both English and Cantonese. When taking psychology and linguistic courses at UCD, I found language development in bilingual children to be intriguing. I was fascinated at how infants were able to juggle the acquisition of multiple languages despite having to process so much in their environment. I also used to volunteer at a daycare and found a lot of joy interacting with children. In the future, I hope to become a child psychologist to help children process their trauma. In my free time, I like to play badminton, hike, have cute picnics, and explore Asian grocery stores.
Johnalyne Love, Undergraduate Research Assistant
I am a third-year undergraduate student at UC Davis, majoring in Psychology with a Biological emphasis and minoring in Human Development. Immigrating to the United States at a very young age, I have experienced how challenging it can be to grow up in an entirely new environment with many different cultures and how those kinds of changes can significantly affect a child’s development. Two of my main goals are to gain a deeper understanding of how children develop to adapt to all of the new things that are presented to them, like learning languages, and to find what resources help different individuals learn best. The Language Learning Lab gives me the opportunity to explore the learning process we develop in the early stages of our life and I’m curious to see how our learning process changes or stays the same over time. Outside of academics, I enjoy reading, finding new music, and spending quality time with my friends and family.
Mrinalini Singh, Undergraduate Research Assistant
I’m a third year undergraduate student majoring in Cognitive Science, with a minor in Computer Science. I grew up speaking both Hindi and English at home, and I started taking Spanish classes in high school. I’ve always been fascinated by how children learn, and especially how they can learn different languages at the same time fairly quickly, compared to how hard it is to learn a new language as an adult. I was really drawn to the studies here at the Language Learning Lab that focus on studying bilingual and monolingual children, and the impact that being bilingual has on how kids learn and understand language. I joined this lab because I wanted to be in an environment where I could learn in depth about language development while getting to work with kids! I look forward to developing my own research skills, and using this opportunity to help me gain some insight on what I’d like to do in the future. In my free time I like to spend time outdoors, listen to music, and hangout with my dog!
Anastasia Leones, Undergraduate Research Assistant
I am a fourth year undergraduate student at UC Davis majoring in Psychology, I was drawn to the Language Learning Lab after taking the developmental psychology course with Dr. Graf Estes. I didn't realize how smart and how quickly infants learn! I am also fascinated by research methods, such as eye tracking and attention measurements, that are able to tell us how this learning process takes place in the brain even before infant's are able to speak. In the future, I hope to pursue my PhD in psychology with an emphasis in learning and development.