Summer ’19 Graduate Research Fellowship

Call for Proposals

The Expression, Communication, and Origins of Meaning (ECOM) Research Group is pleased to introduce its Summer Graduate Research Fellowship Program, which will support UConn graduate students pursuing ECOM-related work. 

Applicants should propose a project (a paper, conference submission, interdisciplinary workshop, or grant application) that will foster academic progress on topics related to the mission of ECOM, and which has the potential of reaching beyond the confines of one discipline. Proposed interdisciplinary collaborative projects will be given special consideration. In the case of proposed workshops, ECOM will supplement funding for carrying out the proposed event.

The available fellowship funds, which total $7,500, will be divided among the most successful project applications. The amount awarded to each project will be determined by the strength and promise of the project’s proposal, though no more than $6,000 will be allocated to any single project. If the applicant(s) propose to work with a faculty sponsor, the sponsor will be offered $750 in research funds.

Applications should include the following, combined into a single PDF document:

CV: One for each participant contributing to the proposal. Two-page maximum (per CV), 12pt. standard font.

Proposal: No more than 2 single-spaced pages, 12pt. standard font. The proposal should:

  1. Identify the scholars who will be working on developing the project;
  2. Explain the issue to be investigated in the project, its significance, and (where relevant) how interdisciplinary investigation in particular is well-suited to make progress on this issue;
  3. Discuss the type of event to be generated, and explain why the proposed forum is the appropriate one for executing interdisciplinary collaboration on this issue.

Timeline: One page maximum, 12pt. standard font. The timeline should:

  1. Indicate the work plan for the summer during which the fellowship will be awarded;
  2. Indicate (approximately) the timeframe for the proposed project.

All applications must be sent to the ECOM research specialist, Teresa Allen (, by no later than April 1st, 2019. Applicants will be notified of ECOM’s decision by April 15, 2019.

A one-page report on what has been accomplished with the use of the fellowship award is to be submitted to the ECOM director, Dorit Bar-On (, by September 20, 2019. Any publications/presentations resulting from the ECOM fellowship award should acknowledge the award.

Summary of Faculty Presentations from ECOM Meet & Greet

(Including Some Suggested Proposals)

On February 8th, ECOM hosted a Meet & Greet/Information Session about this fellowship opportunity, which included short research presentations by ECOM-affiliated faculty. The following is a list of summaries of the faculty presentations. (Importantly, fellowship proposals need not intersect with any of the particular projects described in the document. The summaries are largely intended to give applicants a sense of the different kinds of ECOM-related projects that exist, and to spark inspiration for promising proposals.)


Dr. Letitia Naigles, Department of Psychological Sciences and the Cognitive Science Program

Dr. Naigles studies the language of children with autism spectrum disorder. In particular, she studies how children with traditional language development (TD children) utilize more creative language than children with ASD. Here are her suggested proposals for grad students interested in her work:

  1. Study how children (both TD children and children with ASD) acquire emotion expressions (focusing on the pattern of development and/or the role of parental input).
  2. Design additional tasks to investigate more specific aspects of language. Tasks might relate to:
    a. Categorization/categorical induction
    b. Motion event expressions
    c. Complex syntax
    d. Pragmatics/implicatures
  3. Design additional games for parent-child interactions (e.g., laptop-based joint categorization)**(For 1) and 2), there is a very large data base available for analysis from Dr. Naigles’ previous longitudinal studies.) **

Dr. Dimitris Xygalatas, Anthropology Department and the Cognitive Science Program

Dr. Xygalatas studies what motivates people to engage in extreme or bizarre behaviors—for instance, painful rituals or extreme sports fanaticism. He directs the Experimental Anthropology Lab (which develops methods and technologies for quantifying behavior in real-life settings), and has conducted several years of fieldwork in Southern Europe and Mauritius.

Dr. Eiling Yee, Department of Psychological Sciences and the Institute for Brain and Cognitive Sciences

Dr. Yee studies conceptual knowledge with a focus on the sensory and motor underpinnings of concepts. For instance, her lab studies the extent to which a concept like COFFEE has more olfactory underpinnings than a concept like MOUNTAIN, why people tend to associate sounds like “ooo” with soft-edged objects and sounds like “eee” with sharp-edged objects, and how both sensorimotor and situational context shapes the representations of abstract concepts like LOVE and THEORY.

Dr. Whitney Tabor, Department of Psychological Sciences

Dr. Tabor studies language change, processing, and emergence. To take an example from language change, Dr. Tabor has studied the way in which “sort of” grammatically took on different roles over time—functioning originally in English solely as a noun+preposition pair (e.g., “The sort of person to do X…”), and then later on functioning as an adverb as well (e.g., “I sort of see where you’re coming from…”). According to his findings, when grammar changes, the change is carried through subgrammatical (“subsymbolic”) statistical behaviors.

Dr. William Snyder, Linguistics Department and Director of Humanities Institute

Dr. Snyder is a researcher at UConn’s P.A.L. (Parametric Approaches to Language) Lab, which studies how children learn language. Despite language being very complex and rule-governed, children are able to learn their native language in the space of a very few years, at an age when they are unable to master mathematics or other cognitive skills of comparable complexity. Linguists have argued that this rapid learning is possible because a child is born with knowledge of the basic principles of language structure and the parameters of permissible variation. Dr. Snyder and other researchers at P.A.L aim to empirically evaluate such claims. They are also concerned with developing new empirical methods for assessing children’s grammatical knowledge.

Dr. Michael Lynch, Philosophy Department and Director of Humanities Institute

Dr. Lynch studies the nature and significance of truth, especially its relevance in this “post-truth” era. He aims to collaborate with linguists, psychologists, and cognitive scientists in future work in order to better understand how our concept of truth functions in different contexts, including the current political context. He is also interested in so-called “internet epistemology”—i.e., our way of coming to know and share information in the age of social media. In particular, he is interested in the effects of our reliance on the internet, as well as how to understand what kinds of linguistic (or other) acts we perform when we engage with others on social media.


More Information

For more information about the fellowship or application process, including information about what kinds of projects fall under the umbrella of ECOM, please contact Teresa Allen at