My name is Erika Exton and I am a junior double majoring in Linguistics and Communication Sciences and Disorders and minoring in math. Since Fall 2014 (my first semester at Penn State!) I have been a research assistant in Dr. Janet van Hell's Bilingualism and Language Development lab. Through that position, I have been introduced to a number of topics within bilingualism research and worked with a few different graduate students and post-docs. I also gained experience testing participants using the ERP method to study neurophysiological responses and learned how to do so independently.
This summer, I traveled to Radboud University in Nijmegen, The Netherlands in order to conduct independent research. My research project is an ERP study focusing on the concreteness effect--the difference in how abstract and concrete words are processed. I am testing to see whether bilinguals show the same pattern of concreteness effect in their second language as monolinguals do in their first, to better understand how the bilingual lexicon is organized. This research project is part of a larger study that combines Dr. van Hell's research on bilingualism with Dr. Chaleece Sandberg's research on people with aphasia. The two of them are co-advising me through this experience, and we plan to compare my Dutch-English bilingual participants to English monolinguals with and without aphasia.
After graduation, I plan to attend graduate school and eventually get a Ph.D. in the linguistics/psychology/cognitive science realm. While I haven't chosen my exact tract yet, that is because there are so many things about language science that I find interesting and could picture myself researching. The PIRE experience has opened my eyes to even more exciting directions that I could take and I am so grateful to have been given this opportunity.