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.
Melody Kosik, Lead 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.
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.
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.
Natalie Ho, Undergraduate Research Assistant
I am a third 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 first year pre-med 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 bilinguality 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.
Megan Moore, Undergraduate Research Assistant
I am a senior transfer student at UC Davis; I am majoring in Psychology and plan on graduating Spring 2019. I have always had an interest in the mechanisms of childhood development. I aspire to be a Clinical Social Worker in the future and hope to encounter children and adolescents from various backgrounds. Culture and language differences have always intrigued me due to our society's rich diversity. I hope my experience and further discoveries of a child's development will carry on to other areas in my field and allow me to have a better understanding of how unique childhood truly is.