Skip to main content
Skip to main content

Past Baggett Fellows and Research Assistants

Each year several post-baccalaureate scholars join us as Baggett Fellows and Research Assistants. Browse their names and achievements here.


Jad Wehbe

Baggett Fellow - 2019-20
Currently - PhD student, Linguistics, MIT

Laurel Whitfield

Baggett Fellow - 2019-20


Anissa Zaitsu

Baggett Fellow - 2018-19
Currently - PhD student, Linguistics, Stanford University

Aura Cruz Heredia

Research Assistant - 2017-2019
Currently - PhD student, Psychology, University of Pennsylvania

As a Baggett, Aura worked primarily with Ellen Lau running EEG and MEG experiments focusing on understanding and localizing sustained electrophysiological responses associated with working memory in the brain. Aura then headed to the University of Pennsylvania to work with Sharon Thompson-Schill on issues at the intersection of language and memory.

Lalitha Balachandran

Research Assistant - 2017-19
Currently - PhD student, Linguistics, University of California, Santa Cruz

Zachary Wellstood

Research Assistant - 2018-19
Currently - PhD student, Linguistics, Berkeley


Bethany Dickerson

Baggett Fellow - 2017-18
Currently - Linguistics PhD student, University of Massachusetts at Amherst

Bethany worked primarily with Ellen Lau running EEG experiments focused on understanding sustained anterior negativities reported in previous work for sentences with long distance movement. She is currently graduate student in the Linguistics department at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and is looking at the relationship between speech perception and phonology.

Maggie Kandel

Research Assistant - 2017-2018
Currently - PhD student, Psychology, Harvard University


Jackie Nelligan

Baggett Fellow - 2016-17
Currently - Linguistics PhD Student, University of Maryland

Jackie worked with Naomi and Philip on a project about machine teaching of bias and beliefs. Their question was: How can we choose information to present to a person in order to get them to change their beliefs about something? For instance, if we know someone associates immigrant with criminal, what should we present to them in order to get them to instead associate immigrant with hard-worker? Could we train a model to select the most convincing or relevant document to present? The group chose to formulate belief space as a vector space model and expressed changes in beliefs as the update to a vector space when a new document is introduced to learn from. They also used retrofitting of word vectors to modulate how much a person's belief state might be resistant to change. Most of the year was spent exploring how we can characterize and evaluate a change in belief state relative to a goal given these methods of representing belief states and updates. After her Baggett year, Jackie continued on at University of Maryland studying computational linguistics and natural language processing, working towards both a PhD in Linguistics and a Masters in Computer Science, still advised by Naomi and Philip.

Michaela Socolof

Baggett Fellow - 2016-17
Currently - PhD student, Linguistics, McGill University

Hanna Muller

Research Assistant - 2016-17
Currently - PhD student, Linguistics, University of Maryland


Mina Hirzel

Baggett Fellow - 2015-16
Currently - Linguistics PhD student, University of Maryland

Christopher Baron

Baggett Fellow - 2015-16
Currently - Linguistics PhD student, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Chris worked with Valentine Hacquard, Alexander Williams, Jeff Lidz and Baggett alum Rachel Dudley, largely on the acquisition of attitude verbs, especially think and know. He also went to Guatemala with the Summer Field School, learning Kaqchikel and working on the semantics of prospective aspect in the language. Since 2019 he has been a graduate student at MIT, focusing on topics related to degrees and gradability. He has also continued working on Mayan languages, including Santiago Tz'utujil, in collaboration with UMD PhD students Paulina Lyskawa and Rodrigo Ranero, and former UMD postdoc Ted Levin.

Julia Buffinton

Research Assistant - 2014-16
Currently - Data scientist, LMI Management Consulting


Christopher Hammerly

Baggett Fellow - 2014-15
Currently - Linguistics PhD student, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Tom Roberts

Baggett Fellow - 2014-15
Currently - Linguistics PhD student, UC Santa Cruz

Caitlin Richter

Research Assistant - 2014-15
Currently - PhD student, Linguistics, University of Pennsylvania


Natalia Lapinskaya

Baggett Fellow - 2013-14
Currently - PhD student, Neuroscience, McMaster University

Aleksandra Fazlipour

Baggett Fellow - 2013-14
Currently - Lead Teacher, KIPP DC

Ilia Kurenkov

Research Assistant - 2013-14
Currently - Working Student, UP TRANSFER GmbH, Berlin


Josh Falk

Baggett Fellow - 2012-13
Currently - Data Scientist at University of Illinois Chicago ACER

Laurence Chen

Research Assistant - 2012-3
Currently - PhD candidate, McGill University

Glynis MacMillan

Research Assistant - 2012-3


Rachel Dudley

Baggett Fellow - 2011-12
Currently - Postdoctoral research fellow, Department of Cognitive Science, Central European University

During her Baggett year, Rachel worked on studies in both acquisition and adult psycholinguistics. Her work on acquisition had two topics: preschoolers' comprehension of factivity, pursued with PhD student Naho Orita and undergraduate major Morgan Moyer, alongside faculty Valentine Hacquard and Jeffrey Lidz; and preschoolers' ability to use syntactic cues to learn novel attitude verbs, where she joined Valentine Hacquard and Jeffrey Lidz. The adult psycholinguistic studies she was involved in include adults' implicit knowledge about the syntactic and semantic properties of attitude verbs with Aaron White, Valentine Hacquard and Jeffrey Lidz as well as adults' perception of simple causal events with Erin Bennett, Alexis Wellwood, Brendan Ritchie and Christopher Vogel. Rachel was also an active member of the Theory of Mind research group and PHLING, a research group comprising students in Philosophy and Linguistics. She then continued the work she began as a Baggett as a PhD student in Linguistics at Maryland, before graduating in 2017 with a dissertation on the acquisition of factive verbs. Since then she has been a postdoctoral research fellow, first in Paris and now in Budapest.

Of her time as a Baggett, Rachel says: "The Baggett Fellowship is a great opportunity for anyone interested in pursuing graduate work in language science. From the experimental skills I acquired to the relationships I developed with fellow researchers, my Baggett year has only positively affected my research and my life."

Erin Bennett

Baggett Fellow - 2011-12
Currently - PhD student, Psychology, Stanford University

In her Baggett year, Erin worked with Naomi Feldman and PhD student Yakov Kronrod on a project comparing distributional models of vowel learning in Spanish and Catalan to lexically informed ones. She also worked with Naomi Feldman and PhD student Annie Gagliardi on a model of novel word learning that made use of children's growing knowledge of grammatical categories. With the PHLING research group, she programmed and ran experiments exploring the semantics and perception of events. She is now a researcher in the Computation and Cognition Lab at Stanford.

Erin says, "I learned so much doing research at UMD, and worked with wonderful people. I also benefited immensely from participating in workshops, attending conferences, and meeting people from other departments and other universities who do interesting work in Linguistics. I'm so grateful for my time as a Baggett!"

Cybelle Smith

Research Assistant - 2011-12
Currently - PhD student, Cognitive Neuroscience, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Cybelle examined the pattern of sensitivities to semantic stimuli of the N400 electrophysiological neural component in two projects with Colin Phillips and Ellen Lau, plus PhD students Wing Yee Chow, Sol Lago, Shannon Barrios, Dan Parker and (Hearing and Speech Sciences) Giovanna Morini. She also helped Sol Lago with her work on anaphora resolution using eyetracking. After volunteering in rural Yunnan (China) for a non-profit organization called Prop Roots, which empowers child speakers of the endangered language Zaiwa through creative arts and language education, Cybelle is currently a graduate student in Psychology at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.


Shayne Sloggett

Research Assistant - 2010-11
Currently - Postdoctoral fellow, Linguistics and Cognitive Science, Northwestern University

Shayne worked with Colin Phillips and (former Baggett and then PhD student) Brian Dillon on the use of cue-based retrieval as a model of morphosyntactic licensing, and the effects of intrusion on the perception of agreement and reflexive dependencies. He also worked with PhD students Sol Lago and Wing Yee Chow on the processing of pronouns, looking at the kinds of information about antecedents accessed in the course of determining reference. Shayne then went on to the Linguistics PhD program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, before taking his postdoc at Northwestern.

"I cannot overstate the benefits of my experience as a research assistant in the CNL lab. I came from a fairly theoretical undergraduate department, and my year in the lab was instrumental in getting me thinking about sentence processing, as well as acquainting me with a number of experimental methodologies. The CNL's active and lively lab culture have, for me, set the bar for an excellent lab experience, and the collaborations I engaged in there have continued to shape my interests and research since."

Myles Louis Dakan

Baggett Fellow - 2010-11

Myles worked with PhD student Akira Omaki, as well as Ellen Lau and Colin Phillips, on an eyetracking study investigating whether English speakers construct filler-gap dependencies before verb transitivity information is available. He also developed a study with Naomi Feldman looking at the lexical identification shift in stimuli with simultaneously ambiguous onsets and codas, and assisted Annie Gagliardi in a study on children's generalization of new words. He then spent a year as a lab manager in the Psychology Department at Northeastern University.

Nora Oppenheim

Baggett Fellow - 2010-11
Currently - Legal Operations Specialist, YouTube

As a Baggett, Nora worked on a diverse set of projects pertaining to phonology and phonetics with Bill Idsardi, including a study of dialect perception using both behavioral and electrophysiological methods (MEG). She also worked with PhD student So-One Hwang on phonological processing in sign language, with postdoc Bridget Samuels on an MEG study about phonological acquisition, and in the infant acquisition lab on a large scale eye-tracking study involving 400 infants.


Aaron Steven White

Baggett Fellow - 2009-10
Currently - Assistant Professor, Linguistics and Data Science, University of Rochester

Aaron spent his time as a Baggett fellow immersed in a number of projects. His work in acquisition studies included infant parsing with Jeff Lidz and attitude verb comprehension in preschoolers with Valentine Hacquard, Jeff Lidz and graduate student Shevaun Lewis. The work Aaron did with semantics involved a study on number cognition and quantifier understanding with Jeff Lidz, Paul Pietroski and Justin Halberda, and a study on the psychosemantics of the "Epistemic Containment Principle" with Valentine Hacquard and graduate student (and former Baggett Fellow) Alexis Wellwood. Aaron then joined Maryland Linguistics as a PhD student, and graduated in 2015, with a dissertation on the distributional information that infants might use to infer the meanings of verbs via 'syntactic bootstrapping.' He then had a postdoctoral research position Johns Hopkins’s Science of Learning Institute, before joining the faculty at Rochester. 

Dave Kleinschmidt

Baggett Fellow - 2009-10
Currently - Research scientist, Beacon Biosignals

Alan Mishler

Research Assistant - 2009-10
Currently - PhD student, Statistics and Data Science, Carnegie Mellon University


Alexis Wellwood

Baggett Fellow - 2008-9
Currently - Associate Professor, Philosophy, University of Southern California

Alexis worked on an acquisition of quantification study with Jeff Lidz and Jennifer Merickel, adult and child behavioral studies on the conservativity property of natural language determiners with Tim Hunter, Jeff Lidz, and Stacey Conroy, behavioral studies on the "Epistemic Containment Principle" with Valentine Hacquard and Michaël Gagnon, production/comprehension studies of comparative illusions with Colin Phillips, Valentine Hacquard, Roumyana Pancheva, and Scott Fults, and a processing study of comparative ellipsis using EEG with Roumyana Pancheva. Alexis received her PhD in Linguistics from UMD in 2014, with a dissertation developing a neo-Davidsonian semantics for a range of comparatives, and the took a position as Assistant Professor of Linguistics at Northwestern University. She has been in her position at USC Philosophy since 2018, receiving tenure in 2020. 

Alexis says about her time as a Baggett Fellow, "I have benefited greatly from the amazing support and resources (both machine and human) available in the CNL and the Ling Dept in general; my time could not have been better spent!"

Michael Shvartsman

Research Assistant - 2008-9
Currently - Research scientist, Facebook

Jennifer Merickel

Research Assistant - 2008-9
Currently - Assistant Professor, Neurological Sciences, University of Nebraska Medical Center

Jennifer worked on the acquisition of phonological rule systems with Bill Idsardi, Jeff Lidz, and Elika Bergelson, asymmetries in place vs. manner encodings with Mathias Scharinger, Josh Riley, and Bill Idsardi, the acquisition of quantification systems with Jeff Lidz and Alexis Wellwood, active filler-gap processing with Akira Omaki, and infant speech perception in noisy environments with Rochelle Newman. She then went on to receive her PhD in Brain and Cognitive Sciences from the University of Rochester, followed by a postdoc at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, for joining the faculty there.


Dave Kush

Baggett Fellow - 2007-8
Currently - Associate Professor, Linguistics, University at Toronto

Dave worked on apparent Island Violations in Swedish with Norbert Hornstein and Akira Omaki, online c-command computation with Colin Phillips, Jeff Lidz, Akira Omaki, Brian Dillon, and Pedro Alcocer, processing generics with Shannon Hoerner, David Poeppel, and Sandeep Prasada, and Hindi modality with Valentine Hacquard. Dave went on to join Maryland Linguistics as a PhD student. After graduating in 2013, with a dissertation on comprehension of bound variable anaphora, he received a postdoctoral research position at Haskins Laboratories in New Haven, CT, and then became Assistant Professor of Linguistics at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in 2016. He took his position at Toronto in 2020. 

Elika Bergelson

Baggett Fellow - 2007-8
Currently - Assistant Professor, Psychology and Neuroscience, Duke University

Elika worked on an infant rule learning project with Jeff Lidz and Bill Idsardi, an MEG study of two-tone dyads with Bill Idsardi, and an MEG study on the differentiation of words and other human sounds with David Poeppel. She went on to receive her PhD in Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania in 2013, where she was awarded an NSF Graduate Fellowship. After getting her diploma, she became  Assistant Professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at the University of Rochester. In 2014, was awarded $1.25 million by the NIH for being named one of the 2014 Early Independence Award recipients, and in 2015 was named one of Forbes Magazine’s 30 Scientists Under 30. In 2016 she joined Duke University as Assistant Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience.

Elika says, "This was really an amazing experience to get involved with research in a hands-on way. The fellowship gives you great freedom to engage in the research that interests you, and allows you to gain skills with lots of different methodologies, and form relationships with faculty and graduate students. The department itself is a really caring and nurturing environment, and the faculty and facilities are really amazing."


Annie Gagliardi

Baggett Fellow - 2006-7
Currently - Student at Cummings School for Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University

Annieworked on the acquisition of filler gap dependencies with Jeff Lidz, categorization systems (like noun classes) with Jeff Lidz and Colin Phillips, and quantifier scope with Takuya Goro. She then became a graduate student in linguistics at Maryland, winning a UMD Summer Research Fellowship, an IGERT Fellowship, and a NSF Graduate Fellowship. As a graduate student she continued to work on the projects she started in her Baggett year, eventually writing a dissertation on the acquisition of noun class systems. She completed an NEH-funded postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Linguistics at Harvard University, working with Maria Polinsky (then at Harvard), followed by a postdoc in the School of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh. Annie then decided to change tracks, and become a veterinarian.

Annie says, "The Baggett fellowship was overall a really good experience - it really showed me what life as a grad student/linguist would be like, helped me develop as a researcher and (I think) helped to have a good range of choices for grad school."

Brian Dillon

Research Assistant - 2005-2007
Currently - Associate Professor, Linguistics, University of Massachusetts at Amherst

Brian worked with Colin Phillips and Ming Xiang on illusory licensing in negative polarity item (NPI) dependencies, using both behavioral and electrophysiological measures, as well as with visitor Andrew Nevins and PhD student Shiti Malhotra on the processing of Hindi agreement and tense. He went on to study Linguistics at UMD, and wrote a dissertation on memory access during the construction of long-distance dependencies in online sentence comprehension. In 2011 Brian then became Assistant Professor in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he is now a tenured Associate Professor.

Brian tells us, "Being the CNL RA was a great experience for me, and I learned just about everything I know about doing psycholinguistics during my time in this position. I can't emphasize enough how the whole experience (the research, the people, the environment) impacted me as a researcher."

Rachel Shorey

Baggett Fellow - 2006-7
Currently - Software engineer, New York Times

Rachel worked with Bill Idsardi on formalizing a phonology and morphology representations system based on directed graphs, investigating formant ratios in vowel sound samples, and writing code to try to learn words in an unsupervised environment by segmenting transcribed speech. She received her MS in Computer Science from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where was awarded an NSF Graduate Fellowship, and went on to work as a software developer.

Rachel says, "It was my first experience in a research environment. I went to a small college with no graduate students. I got to do interesting research as an undergrad, but it was mostly done in isolation with one or two other students and a professor. At UMD I participated in lab meetings and heard about and was inspired by the work going on around me."


Ellen Lau

Research Assistant - 2003-4
Currently - Associate Professor, Linguistics, University of Maryland

Ellen worked with Colin Phillips on a series of self-paced reading experiments examining the extent to which predictive mechanisms underlying the comprehension of backwards anaphora respect grammatical constraints, and syntactic category prediction in comprehension. She then joined the PhD program at Maryland, and was awarded an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. After graduating, she had a post-doctoral position at the the Massachusetts General Hospital and Tufts University Department of Psychology, and then in 2010 returned to Maryland Linguistics as faculty. 

Ellen says, "Having a year out of school, close to but on the outside of a graduate program, gave me an outsider's perspective on graduate school that helped me mentally prepare myself to push back a little against the natural tendency for overachievers in high school and undergrad to throw everything into succeeding in school. When you're in graduate school you'll never have done everything you can do in terms of your research, so if you keep that same perspective you'll go crazy. Having that year in between I think put me in a better position to find a better work-life balance through graduate school and after."

Henny Yeung

Research Assistant - 2003-4
Currently - Assistant Professor, Linguistics and Cognitive Science, University of British Columbia

Henny worked on phonological and sentence processing with Colin Phillips. He then completed his doctorate in the Developmental Psychology Department at the University of British Columbia, was awarded an NSF Graduate Fellowship, and took a postdoctoral position in Paris, before joining the faculty at UBC.

Henny says, "What really stands out in Maryland is the human resource. After having had experience in 4-5 different laboratories, one realizes how uniquely collaborative and exciting the people are in Linguistics at Maryland. I remember this experience with distinct fondness: the environment there is fosters real intellectual discussion in a relaxed setting. It was not uncommon to schedule impromptu roadtrips to attend workshops or conferences, or debate the finer aspects of Chomsky over barbecue. It really helped me a lot in thinking about a career in research, especially after I had finished my university degree, wondering how to move forward."

Alison Austin

Research Assistant - 2003-4

Jaiva Larsen

Research Assistant - 2003-4
Currently - Clinical Assistant Professor, College of Medicine Tucson