Often, the research topics that fascinate us come from personal history. Because her parents are from Iran, Samira Amirazizi (Psychology, ’18) was interested in studying the brain functions of bilingual speakers. The focus of her research has a lot to do with her own life, and she finds it particularly relevant in current society.
With the support of the Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity (OURCA), Samira was able to spend the summer of 2016 studying whether or not “bilingual speakers are on the same emotional page as monolingual speakers.” She partook in OURCA’s competitive Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF), a ten-week intensive program during which undergraduates across academic fields and individual interests work side by side with faculty mentors. In addition to working on their own projects, SURF fellows attend bi-weekly lectures that expose them to other fields of study and to avenues for professional development.
Samira worked closely with Dr. Connie Shears, with whom she also works with during the school year at Crean College of Health and Behavioral Sciences. Samira sifted through archival research from prior experiments conducted over the last decade. She said, “Past experiments really only look at native English speakers, so now we’re looking at bilingual speakers.” She organized study participants according to those who were bilingual at birth, those who were bilingual from elementary school, those who were bilingual from high school, and those who were native English-only speakers.
The goal of the project was to decipher whether memory and emotional inference differed between bilingual speakers and monolingual speakers.
In the future, Samira plans to continue her research. She’d like to conduct a study specifically designed for and catering to bilingual speakers. After graduation, she expects to apply to PhD programs around the country. “More. School,” she said. Ideally, as was the case during her SURF summer, she’d like get paid to do what she loves: study brains.
If you’re a student interested in funding for your own research or creative project, or if you’re a professor looking to mentor undergraduate students, head over to OURCA’s site to see all of our events and opportunities!