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Research? In my department? It’s more likely than you think.

Tate details his experience presenting research at a linguistics conference.

Tate details his experience presenting research at a linguistics conference.

If you visit Carleton and go to an info session, you’ll probably hear the statistic that around three-quarters of Carleton students do research during their time here. There are lots of ways to do this. Students conduct independent research through the Office of Student Fellowships, work alongside a professor, or complete research as part of a course (among other ways). And oftentimes, when you do research, you’ll have the opportunity to present your findings. This past year, I completed and presented research from my LING 315 class, Topics in Syntax.

Tate stands in front of blackboard and screen, presenting his talk "Extreme Locality Applied Globally: The Case for Extreme Locality in Malagasy."
Here I am, giving my presentation on Extreme Locality in Madurese and Malagasy at CULC16! Picture by Julien Sobel.

Submitting to conferences

I wasn’t confident in my final paper from Topics in Syntax. In it, I advocated for a fringe theory about a small, underdocumented language and tried applying it to another language I hadn’t studied extensively. But, my professor really liked the paper! When I asked if I should submit it to conferences, she immediately said yes. Professors here are really encouraging of research and all it entails. I submitted my research to four undergraduate linguistics conferences, and it was selected for presentation at three! I was elated to be recognized for the work I had done. Ultimately, I decided to present at just one: the Cornell Undergraduate Linguistics Conference. Incredibly, I didn’t have to do much additional work to prep for it. I had already written a final paper detailing my arguments and put together a slideshow. Now, I just had to revamp my research for a new audience!

Getting there

But even though my presentation was just about ready, I still had a lot to figure out. Finding a flight and housing for Ithaca on short notice was not an easy task. Eventually, I booked a flight and an AirBnB for the weekend. And, I applied for a Student Academic Grant from Carleton to help subsidize this trip. Carleton has lots of funding to help students to conduct, present, and publish research. Luckily my professor recommended that I apply for this funding, because it was able to make the trip affordable! So the day before the conference, I flew from the Minneapolis airport to Ithaca, New York. On my trip, I frantically edited my presentation, making sure all the slides were as solid as they could be.

The day of reckoning

Over the weekend, I listened to tons of presentations about all things linguistics. I connected with students and professors from other schools, and explored Cornell’s campus. And, of course, I presented my independent research! It went over really well, and I had good support from my family, friends, and professors, who joined over Zoom.

I know this might sound cliché, but I did come back from this experience truly excited about what I could do next. Although this was an undergraduate conference, I felt like I got my foot in the research door, and I got some great ideas and connections from people who were at the conference. I’m even hoping to submit more research (on another tiny language) to some undergraduate conferences this coming year, actually!

The in-person presenters at CULC16 pose for a picture outside Cornell's clock tower.
The presenters and keynote speakers of CULC all gathered for a picture after the conference outside of the Cornell Linguistics building. Picture by Julien Sobel.

Presenting from home!

Obviously, not everyone’s research experience looks quite like this. Not every student flies across the country to present research. Carleton students often show their work at our Undergraduate Research and Internship Symposium. Here, Carleton students who have conducted projects through internships and research opportunities present it for their peers, professors, and even parents (the symposium is generally held during Family Weekend). And it’s a big event. This past year, the amount of people who presented was almost too much for the atrium in the Weitz Center for Creativity (which isn’t small, by the way). So, this coming year, the symposium will be held in the much-larger Rec Center, to accommodate everyone who wants to present and attend. 

A room of student presenting their research posters in the Weitz commons
Carleton’s Undergraduate Research and Internship Symposium, held in the Weitz Atrium! Students from all disciplines present here.

Research is a big part of Carleton life. Carleton encourages you to take advantage of research opportunities, regardless of your major. Lots of people think that these types of projects and opportunities are only confined to STEM majors, but there’s a lot of room to explore. Regardless of your major, whether it’s History, Biology, Geology, or even Linguistics, you should consider research!

Tate (he/him) is a senior hailing from Colfax, WI (just two hours east of Carleton). He is double majoring in Linguistics and Music and minoring in Cognitive Science. Outside of academics, he sings in Carleton Choir, Chamber Choir, and Exit 69 A Cappella, serves on the Experimental Theater Board, and DJs for KRLX. He also founded Off The Cuff, Carleton’s storytelling organization. When he’s not occupied by these activities, he enjoys hiking in the Arb, attending screenings in the Weitz cinema, and telling anyone who will listen about ridiculous linguistic example sentences. Meet the other bloggers!