PhD student Emily Darley visits University of Maryland
16 December 2015
Emily visited the linguistics department at the University of Maryland, just outside Washington DC in the USA, for 12 weeks starting in September. The trip was funded jointly by the ESRC (as an Overseas Institutional Visit) and by UMD's International Graduate Research Fellowship program.
My visit to Maryland was a chance to spend time in a more language-focused department, experience a little of the American "grad school" system, and exchange research-related thoughts and ideas with a new set of people asking similar questions from a different perspective. These aims were certainly achieved: research discussions and input from several UMD people culminated in the designing and running of a small eye-tracking study directly related to my PhD research on processing of negation in sentences, while classes in Psycholinguistics, Cognitive Neuroscience of Language, and Computational Linguistics gave me plenty of new tools, skills and approaches to apply when thinking about language processing questions, as well as providing the chance to participate in some lively and enlightening discussions.
Such discussions were not confined to the classroom, either; the weekly Language Science Lunch Talks, colloquia, and Cognitive Neuroscience of Language lab meetings were invariably engaging, and my own opportunity to present my research in this last venue provided plenty of helpful food for thought from audience comments, questions and suggestions. I also had the honour of being invited to participate in the "pre-holiday debate" tradition for the last lab meeting of the semester, taking a stance in favour of the proposal "Prediction is SO last year!".
Non-science activities included hiking and scrambling in the beautiful Shenandoah National Park, a slightly insane overnight 200-mile relay running race from Cumberland, MD to Washington DC (in weather kindly supplied by a nearby hurricane), and the happy discovery that grad students in America are nearly as obsessed with board games as our own denizens of 5 Priory Road.
Despite missing the fun and very smart people I got to know in Maryland, not to mention the mid-December sun and temperatures in the high teens, I am happy to be back in Bristol and to settle into the final year of my PhD.