Amanda Nili recommends undergraduate research to her fellow students as a wonderful opportunity for growth. Through her research, she has improved her writing and presentation skills, and developed the ability to conduct a project from its initial concept through its successful conclusion. Amanda’s dedication to her research was recognized with the acceptance of her paper, “Frequency of What: How Simple is the Story of Syntax Acquisition?” for publication in the 2014 UCI Undergraduate Research Journal.

1. What is your specific area of research (include the name of your faculty and/or laboratory)?

I am studying Language Acquisition (specifically how children learn the grammar of their native languages) under the supervision of Dr. Lisa Pearl in the Computation of Language Laboratory. I also participate in a study of STEM lecture practices under the School of Education.

2. When and how did you first get involved in research?

I first got involved in research at UCI in our School of Education, at the end of my sophomore year. I attended a Faculty Coffee Hour hosted by the Campuswide Honors Program and met a mentor who shared my research interests. I met Dr. Pearl in a similar way, and began involvement with my current project at the end of my junior year.

3. How has research enhanced your education?

Research at UCI has taught me a very valuable set of skills. It has helped me improve my scientific writing. Even more importantly, my research experiences have taught me how to research: what constitutes a good, well-defined research question, how best to find appropriate sources, and how to make sense of my data in a larger academic context.

4. What has been your favorite experience with research (include any interesting stories or specific events)?

My favorite experience with research has been presenting my research findings through UROP—first in the collaborative environment of the Computation of Language Lab, then to my friends in the School of Education (members of an unrelated project who were still excited to help me prepare), and finally, at the Symposium, to an audience that included members of both of my labs. Preparing that presentation was a wonderful growing experience, and I received the support of many great researchers and fellow Anteaters throughout the entire process.

5. What are your future plans and how has being involved in research helped to prepare you to meet your goals?

I plan to apply for Ph.D. programs in Clinical Psychology, and am hoping to attend a UC campus for the completion of this degree. My involvement in research at UCI has given me many relevant skills, but mostly it has helped me realize that research is something I want to do professionally, and not just as a hobby.

6. What advice would you give to a student interested in pursuing a faculty-mentored undergraduate research project or creative activity?

Pursue! My faculty mentors have taught me so many things that I never would have learned in a classroom, and participating in undergraduate research has given me a connection with this campus that can only be achieved by individualized instruction. My research projects have been my most challenging activities at UCI, and I would advise that students thinking about starting a project regard it as a real undertaking. Taken seriously, undergraduate research can be a really wonderful opportunity for growth.

Past Researchers of the Month

Dec. '15 Ka Hei (Eric) Chan
Nov. '15 Timna Medovoy
Oct. '15 Soraya Davia
Sep. '15 Amanda Nili
Aug. '15 Soo Song
Jul. '15 Tian Harrison
Jun. '15 Rommel Santos
May. '15 Mariyah Saiduddin
Apr. '15 Angel Rodriguez
Mar. '15 Sarah Tang
Feb. '15 Jay Tolentino
Jan. '15 Yuhao Ma