Convocation, Profile

June 11, 2020

Taking the MA outside of academia

Before Heikal Badrulhisham was an undergraduate student, he was introduced to Linguistics through the book “Introducing Linguistics: A Graphic Guide.” Heikal took an interest in how language interacts with the ways people see the world through the topics presented in that book.

While studying Economics in university, Heikal needed to fulfill a humanities breadth requirement and decided to take Linguistics 101. After that course, he added Linguistics as a second major.

Life in academia appealed to Heikal and pursuing a Master’s degree was a stepping stone toward that life. Although staying in academia is not Heikal’s goal anymore, he does not regret the time he spent at Simon Fraser University (SFU) with Professor John Alderete as his supervisor.

Working in the Language Production Lab with Alderete, Heikal was a part of the team working on the Simon Fraser University Speech Error Database (SFUSED).

“I would have never imagined I could do something as intense as detecting errors in speech,” says Heikal. “The side effect is that I can still pick up errors when I listen to people talk.”

Heikal is graduating this spring with a Master of Arts in Linguistics. His thesis, “Formulaicity of affixes in Turkish,” is a corpus study that examines the patterning of suffix sequences in Turkish to determine if they are formulaic in nature.

Now a data science intern at Global Relay in Vancouver, Heikal is working at the intersection of Computing Science and Linguistics. He cites the data fluency that resulted from studying linguistics as a large factor in finding his job in data science.

“It is an advantage to understand what your data mean and what kind of story you can and cannot tell with them,” says Heikal.


In general, you should be prepared that a graduate program can be a more-than-full-time job. In the beginning I looked at my schedule of activities that would require being on-site at specific times (e.g., classes, RA work) and it seemed that I would have a lot of free days. But no, the work spilled over into those days as well.

Spring 2020 Featured Graduates

This spring convocation, the Department of Linguistics is recognizing a small group of graduating students for their accomplishments in the department.