October 08, 2021

Volunteering opened up Valuable Opportunities for Ali Wilson in the PhonoLab

Ali Wilson is an ESL teacher with a passion for linguistics. Her goal is to teach English in Korea, and although she has a lot of experience, she needed to complete her BA in order to qualify. She pursued a major in Linguistics and a minor in Education (Curriculum & Instruction) and graduated this Fall.

After learning about the Phonological Processing Lab in a course with Lab Director Dr. Ashley Farris-Trimble, Ali applied to volunteer. She was a “floater” in the lab when she began volunteering last January, which allowed her to help out on a variety of projects and exposed her to a wide range of research. Volunteering also led to a Directed Study course this past summer and a Research Assistant position this fall.

Volunteering opened up opportunities

“Getting to do lab work so far has been a pretty cool experience, mostly because it opened up opportunities with my course work,” says Ali. “The fact that I got to do directed research was pretty spectacular because I don’t think I would have stumbled into it any other way.”

Toward the end of the spring semester, Ali started working on the lab’s “fantasy name phonology” project, which grew into the Directed Study course. She was investigating the phonological patterns that listeners associate with “alien” or “non-human” place names (e.g. imaginary cities, galaxies, stars).

Teamwork in the lab makes for a fun working environment

Ali loves being part of the research process and notes that the level of motivation and interest in the labs is very high, which makes it fun. “Teamwork in a lab is different than group work in classrooms,” she says. “Group work in labs is more collaborative, almost voluntary. In the classroom there’s not a lot of time to sort out group dynamics. In the lab there’s more of an opportunity to work with people and collaborate effectively.” She also notes that it’s been great to see what working in academia is like.

Ali’s tips for fellow students

“Make friends with your teachers! There are great opportunities to be had if you just chat with people.”

Ali graduated this fall with a major in Linguistics and a Certificate in the Linguistics of Speech Science. We thank her for sharing her story with us and encouraging current students to add to their academic experience in Linguistics through hands on research. We wish her success in her continuing academic journey!