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Research: Center for Language Science PIRE program
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Mary Beth Spang

Mary Beth Spang

Paterno Fellow
Majors: English, Linguistics (via B. Phil), Spanish

How did you learn about this opportunity?

Initially, I learned about the PIRE program through my professors/advisors Giuli Dussias, John Lipski and Janet VanHell. I have been hearing about this program since I was a freshman getting involved with research in the Center for Language Science, and each of these professors mentioned that the opportunity existed. I also heard about it through two of my friends who participated in it before their senior years, Emma Hance and Lauren Perrotti. Additionally, I heard about the program via the Spanish major listserv and Center for Language Science listserv.

This experience has helped me to realize how much I truly love research. This is going to impact my decision about when, where, and whether or not I would like to attend graduate school in this field.

Tell us a little bit about your experience

I have just completed the first part of my experience in Palenque, Colombia. We were there for 13 days, and I am surprised by how much we were able to learn in such a short period of time. We lived in a house within the town, and each day walked around the town with resident members of the community to ask for participants. My study consisted of a series of open-ended response questions and translation responses. I ran 49 participants ranging from 21 years of age to 65 years of age. Each interview lasted between 12 and 20 minutes. In addition to our specific research, we were able to learn some of the language that they speak in this community, Lengua Palenquera. It is a Spanish-based creole language, so there were various aspects that were similar to Spanish. We learned from the family that we stayed with, as well as various community members who were excite d to help us learn. I have not yet completed the second component to the project, but will be leaving for the Netherlands soon to do so.

How did this experience impact you academically?

This experience has given me a firsthand look at what it takes to put together your own research project. Additionally, it gave me the opportunity to learn about language field work. I have worked in a lab for two years now, but this type of research was very different. I learned that I prefer the field work setting.

What are your career goals or plans? How did this experience impact them?

This experience has helped me to realize how much I truly love research. This is going to impact my decision about when, where, and whether or not I would like to attend graduate school in this field. It has helped me to realize that I would like to attend graduate school at some point in the future, and would like to continue studying Spanish Linguistics.

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