What's your name, nationality, current function, and department?
My name is Sweekriti and I am from India. I’m a first-year Ph.D. student working under the supervision of Dr. Kristin Lemhöfer at the DCC.
What is the topic of your PhD project and what does your work look like in practice?
My research project involves understanding the cognitive basis of pronunciation talent in late second-language learners. Most of us struggle to learn a second language, especially its pronunciation. The first language often has a strong influence on our accents in the second language. However, some talented individuals somehow seem to achieve native-like accents. The focus of this study is to understand how are these individuals able to achieve this. We hypothesize that they have intrinsic differences in their episodic memory. Using behavioral measures, EEG and fMRI we hope to gain insight into the neural basis of their talent. At the moment I am compiling tests of language and memory, designing/tweaking a few, and piloting them. I hope to start the data collection for my project soon!
What did you want to be when you were younger?
When I was younger, my childhood aspiration was to become an astronaut and establish a human presence on Mars. But here I am, still earthbound working on my Ph.D. in psycholinguistics
What has your career path been so far and how did you come to your current position?
I did a bachelor’s in Speech and Hearing sciences and a master’s in Speech-Language Pathology from India. I got really interested to understand the neural underpinnings of language and went on to pursue a Master’s in Cognitive Neuroscience of Language from Spain. For my master’s thesis, I studied the inter-individual variability in resting-state language networks. This sparked my interest in understanding qualitative differences. Then I was offered a Ph.D. position at the DCC which aligned with my interests perfectly.
What does your perfect weekend look like?
My recipe for a perfect weekend would involve cuddling with my cat, ordering in some spicy chole bhature, and binge-watching Netflix endlessly.