Undergraduate Research

VTLx provides lots of opportunities for undergraduate students to be involved in research:

  • Work as a research assistant in one of our labs!

  • Conduct independent research with a faculty member.

  • Take the capstone course of the Language Sciences Minor (ENGL 4084), which centers around an independent research project.

We’ve put together some resources that might be helpful for VT undergraduates looking to do research:

Sometimes our students’ projects have lead to conference presentations and even publications; see their stories below!


Amy Southall & Rachel Hargrave

In Fall 2016, Language Sciences Minors Amy Southall and Rachel Hargrave collaborated with Dr. Abby Walker (ENGL) to look at /z/-devoicing in Southern American English. For their project they designed and ran an experiment that had around 40 participants. Amy presented their findings at the Southeastern Conference on Linguistics (SECOL), and Rachel Hargrave presented at the Appalachian Studies Conference (ASC). Both students received funding from the Undergraduate Research Institute for conference travel, and Rachel was also named a Fralin Undergraduate Research Fellow. They have submitted their results for publication in a linguistics journal. 

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Emily Walters

In Spring 2017, Language Sciences Minor Emily Walters did a collaborative project with Dr. Abby Walker (ENGL) and Jen Hay (NZILBB) on gendered words in New Zealand English. The project involved analyzing a large corpus of conversational speech and seeing the words that were said comparatively more by men or women. She received funding from the Undergraduate Research Institute to present their project at the Georgetown University Round Table (GURT). 


Katie Conner

In Spring 2016, Katie Conner collaborated with Abby Walker (ENGL) to investigate the role of gender in false memories, where people report having heard a word they did not. Their study involved designing an experiment and collecting data from over 100 listeners. They presented their work at New Ways of Analyzing Variation (NWAV) in Wisconsin in 2017. After going on to do her MA in linguistics at NC State, Katie is now doing her PhD in Linguistics at Ohio State.

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Thea Stoller and Chelsea Rinn

Language Sciences Minors Chelsea Rinn and Thea Stoller traveled to Austin, Texas with Dr. Katie Carmichael (ENGL) to present their research on Cajun English vowels at the Symposium about Language and Society (SALSA) in Spring 2016. Both students received undergraduate research grants that helped cover their travel expenses.


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Casey Myers

Undergraduate Linguistics Club Vice President Casey Myers (Fall 15-Spring 16) presents her poster on double modals at the Sociolinguistic Variation and Language Processing (SVALP) Conference held at Virginia Tech in Spring 2016. Her project started as a class project for ENGL 4074: English Syntax, then developed into independent research with Dr Walker. For the project, she ran an online study collecting listener judgments of double modal constructions. A write up of her study was published in vtreview!


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Leigh Marques

Undergraduate Linguistics Club Member Leigh Marques discusses their poster on gender-neutral anaphora resolution at the Sociolinguistic Variation and Language Processing (SVALP) Conference held at the Inn at Virginia Tech in Spring 2016. They designed their project for class in Language and Gender, then did independent research with Abby Walker (ENGL) and ran the study, which involved collecting grammatical judgments from queer and straight members of the VT community. 


Andy Burlile & Katherine Askew

Language Science Minors Andy and Katherine were hired by Dr. Walker (ENGL) to collect data for a project that investigated how different listeners responded to different accents in various listening tasks. She invited them on as collaborators, and they presented their work at the Sociolinguistic Variation and Language Processing (SVALP) Conference held at Virginia Tech in Spring 2016. The are writing up their results for publication in linguistics journals. 

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Meghan Kolcum

After taking ENGL 4004: Discourse Analysis with Dr. Carmichael in Fall 2016, Meghan was really excited about conversations were changing over time. Since Dr. Carmichael was on maternity leave, she reached out to Dr. Walker who agreed to advise her in independent research over the next year. She presented the result of that labor - Exploring Turn-Taking and Discourse Markers through Generations - at SECOL 2018 held at Virginia Tech, and published her study in Philologia.

(Pictured second from left, with other VT-connected presenters at SECOL 2018).


Esther Cho

Inspired by her final project in ENGL/WGS 3134: Gender and Linguistics in Spring 2018, Dr. Walker started a collaboration with Esther and two researchers at Korea University, South Korea, to investigate why speakers of Korean lower their pitch when being polite (counter to claims that raising pitch for politeness is a language universal). Esther received funding to present the team’s data at VALing in Williamsburg and at SECOL 2019 in Boca Raton (hence the beach in the photo!). The authors are currently working on extending the project and writing it up for publication.

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Nicole DeFoor, Brittany Russell and Linh Buckley

These students each received funding to present their own independent research projects at VALing in Williamsburg in Spring 2019. Brittany’s poster (“Perceptions and Ideologies Surrounding Cardi B's Stigmatized Speech”) and Linh’s poster (“Crazy De-Accented Singaporeans: Linguistic Representation in Crazy Rich Asians”) grew from their final projects in Dr Carmichael’s class ENGL/RLCL/SOC 3144: Language and Ethnicity in the United States. Nicole’s talk (“Synthetic Speech and its Effects on Human Trust”) was the product of an independent research project she conducted with Dr. Walker in 2018-2019.

(Pictured left to right, with Esther Cho).


Kate Rustad

In Spring 2016, Kate conducted an independent research project with Dr. Walker that investigated whether students’ attitudes and social and emotional competency were affected by taking linguistics classes. This work served as the pilot study for her MA thesis in Linguistics at UNC, which she presented at the Linguistic Society of America (LSA) Annual Conference in 2019, in New York.

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