February Update

This last weekend was the USU Psychology Department’s interview weekend for the fresh crop of applicants for fall, so my own interview and application process has been on my mind lately. With how far I feel like I’ve come in the last year or so, I thought I’d give an update on how things are going with me.
I’m midway into my second semester of my PhD program here at Utah State, and I honestly could not be happier. Having four seasons definitely suits me; fall and winter have both been absolutely beautiful here, even though we’ve had about six feet of snow total so far with more on the way. I’m finally taking a day off of school stuff to go snowboarding tomorrow (Wednesday, 2/15), so I definitely can’t complain about snow! My lab is extremely close-knit and supportive; there are four graduate students and two of them will be (dissertation gods willing) graduating this semester, which will make me the senior grad student in the lab come fall. I’ll also be lab manager starting my second year, which is intimidating but also awesome. The current lab manager says that he’s extremely happy to have me here though, as he feels like he’s leaving the Multisensory Cognition Lab in good hands. In fall I’ll also be taking over the USU Neurodiversity Group, which is a sort of informal support group for the neurodiverse students, staff, and faculty. We have biweekly discussions and workshops about how to survive/navigate the academic atmosphere while experiencing depression, anxiety, ADHD, autism, etc. I’ve also very recently joined the Language, Education, and Auditory Processing (LEAP) Brain Imaging Lab and will be learning how to work the fNIRS machine later this week, which is very exciting.
Classes and lab work have been fantastic so far. Right now I’m taking Neuroscience II, Cognition & Instruction, and Dual Language Immersion Education, as well as teaching the lab sections for Cognitive Psychology. I don’t have any data collection of my own going yet, but in late January I submitted my first IRB proposal for a study I designed. Hopefully it will be approved soon. Here at USU we have a second year project that we have to propose to the entire psychology department at the end of our first year, then conduct the study and present the results and analysis at the end of the second year. I’m hoping to use the study I designed for this second year project; it’s the same study that I proposed in the NSF GRFP grant (does language of instruction affect the way that children learn about and think about place value?). I’ve been observing a few DLI classrooms around town and am in contact with several schools about conducting research in fall 2017, so everything on that front looks good. 
I’ve also got another really cool opportunity coming up for summer; I’ll be participating in the University of Maryland Summer Field School in Guatemala! For the entire month of June, I’ll be in Guatemala learning to speak Mayan and conducting mentored field research on the dual language immersion and bilingual education programs that are present in rural Mayan villages. In theory I’ll be using the same measures that I proposed for my GRFP grant but in predominately Mayan-speaking populations. There’s a whole unique and complex number system in Mayan so it’ll be an interesting contrast. With any luck I’ll get some awesome cross-cultural comparison data. We’ll see! During the whole trip though I’ll also be teaching an online course, so hopefully the wi-fi holds up through Guatemala’s rainy season!
My adviser, Dr. Kerry Jordan, is amazingly supportive of my research ideas, even the somewhat off-the-wall ones involving Mayan ethnomathematics and numerical cognition. I feel extremely lucky and profoundly blessed to have had the opportunity to join this lab and attend USU.
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