Graduate student Christina Kim is among the winners of the 2024 National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) awards. Kim, a second year student in the Ph.D. Program in Educational Neuroscience (PEN), will use the training fellowship award to support research on language anxiety.

Woman with shoulder-length straight black hair smiles at the camera. She is posing outside.
Christina Kim, a second year student in the Ph.D. Program in Educational Neuroscience, researches language anxiety. At top, she is pictured with mentor Dr. Rachel Pizzie at the December meeting of the local chapter of the Society for Neuroscience, DC Metro Area.

The GRFP recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students who have demonstrated the potential to be high achieving scientists and engineers, early in their careers. The purpose of the GRFP is to ensure the quality, vitality, and diversity of the scientific and engineering workforce of the United States. The five-year fellowship provides three years of financial support, inclusive of an annual stipend of $37,000.

Kim, who works with Dr. Rachel Pizzie, the director of the Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience (CAN) lab, is researching how negative emotion relates to learning, perceiving, or expressing language.

Our society puts deaf, deafblind, deafdisabled, and hard of hearing people at risk for potential language deprivation and creates barriers to incidental information access, says Kim, who wants to understand how the brain responds to these experiences. “I’m really thankful for this support and opportunity, as well as for my classmates, advisor, lab team, and Deaf parents who gave me early exposure to ASL and taught me to sign.”

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Linguistics graduate student Phoenix Cook, who is mentored by Dr. Deanna Gagne, received an honorable mention for the GRFP award.

Linguistics graduate student Phoenix Cook received an honorable mention for the GRFP award. This is considered a significant national academic achievement. Cook, who has been mentored by Dr. Deanna Gagne, proposed exploring how age of exposure to sign language affects bilingual deaf individuals’ descriptions of spatial relationships. Gathering this data can “provide a unique window into the cognitive changes that occur with the acquisition of two languages of different modalities,” according to Cook’s research plan. Cook will graduate with an MA in May, and will join the PEN program this fall. Gagne currently mentors another linguistics student, Melissa Avino, who received a GRFP fellowship award in 2023.

Pizzie notes that Dr. Lauren Berger, who graduated from the PEN program in 2020, received a GRFP award during her time as a student.

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