Summer Research Opportunities

Are you interested in how people tell the stories of their community? 

Or in how the pandemic might have affected the way people speak?

Do you want to gain some research experience?

Apply to join us this summer at Michigan State Sociolinguistics Lab!

MI Diaries has lots of opportunities to get involved over the summer! Undergrads can join the project as volunteers, or as hourly RAs, when we have paid positions available. Check out our “Join Us” page to learn more!

For students looking for a full-time paid experience, we offer Summer REU (research experience for undergraduates). MI Diaries is a National Science Foundation funded summer REU site. Undergraduates, including incoming freshmen, from any institution can apply to join the MI Diaries team for a full-time paid position for 8 weeks in the summer (May 30-July 24). REU students may be in-person or virtual. Students do not need prior linguistics experience to apply!

We’ll host an informal webinar via Zoom on March 3, 2022 from 2:00-3:00. You can meet the professors, the graduate student mentors, and get to know more about what the summer research experience will be like! If you missed our webinar, scroll down on this page to watch the recording. 

What summer research students do

As a summer researcher, you’ll join our existing MI Diaries team, in all aspects of our research. You can expect to spend at least 30 hours a week doing program related activities including research, outreach, professional development and networking, and optional social events. REU students receive a living stipend of $600 per week for 8 weeks. 

Research

  • Meet weekly with your graduate student mentor and faculty advisor.
  • Attend main project meetings each week.
  • Listen to diary entries, and help select which stories get featured each week.
  • Learn and do the basics of sociolinguistic analysis: transcription, coding, how to develop a good research question, and analysis.
  • Recruit new participants to the project.

Outreach

  • Help run MI Diaries’ session at “Grandparents University”, where we introduce kids and their grandparents to the secrets behind asking great sociolinguistic questions. 
  • Identify and participate in other outreach ideas across Michigan.

Professional development and networking

  • (Optional): conduct a small original research project with MI Diaries data (with the support of your mentor and faculty advisor), to be presented at MSU’s MID-SURE conference.
  • Be a part of our intellectual community: listen to practice talks and hear about cutting-edge research being done by sociolinguists at MSU!

Optional social events

  • Bowling, ice cream, and a Lugnuts (baseball) game in our downtime (COVID-permitting)! 

Meet the REU Mentors

Faculty Advisors

portrait of a smiling woman with shoulder length hair and a striped top
Dr. Betsy Sneller

Dr. Sneller is an Assistant Professor of Linguistics at Michigan State, and the head of the MI Diaries project. 

Overall, her research looks at how language is impacted by social factors (like a whole city changing its pronunciation over time), and how speakers use language to show their identity (like how certain pronunciations get interpreted as sounding “tough”). You can check out some of her work on her personal website.

Her favorite ice cream flavor is Moose Tracks, and is always interested in trying new kinds of food. Even though she doesn’t know anything about baseball, she loves the Lansing Lugnuts. 

Dr. Suzanne Wagner

Dr. Wagner is an Associate Professor of Linguistics at Michigan State, and the co-lead of the MI Diaries project.

Her research looks at how social meaning gets attached to linguistic variation, with the goal of understanding what motivates language change. She’s especially interested in the extent to which individual speakers do or do not participate in ongoing changes in their communities. You can check out some of her work on her personal website.

Suzanne likes long walks in the woods with her family, reading memoirs, and exploring new cities. Her favorite comfort food is Marmite on toast.

Graduate Student Advisors

portrait of a woman smiling at the camera, she is wearing a jacked and standing in front of a cliff-like terrain
Yongqing Ye

Yongqing Ye is a 3rd year Ph.D student in Linguistics at Michigan State.

Her research interests are in phonetics, language variation, and sociolinguistics. In other words, she works with sounds, and how language varies with social factors! In a recent project, Yongqing investigated whether listeners perceive words (like “ban”) differently from non-words (like “shan”).

In her spare time, Yongqing enjoys hiking, journaling, and going to medieval festivals.

Adam Barndardt

Adam Barnhardt is a 1st year Ph.D student in Linguistics at Michigan State.

His research interests are in sociolinguistics and sociophonetics. His MA thesis investigated how listeners interpret social information (like whether they think the speaker went to college), based on how speakers pronounced words. Adam’s current research project investigates how speakers might change their pronunciation when they are trying to present different aspects of their identity. 

 

portrait of a young person standing in front of s snowy field. They are wearing a winter jacket and smiling at the camera
Jack Rechsteiner

Jack Rechsteiner is a 2nd year MA student in Linguistics at Michigan State.

Their research focuses primarily on sociophonetic variation in nonbinary speakers. They are broadly interested in how personal identity is expressed through and formed by language usage.

Jack grew up in the area around Saginaw, MI. In their spare time, Jack likes to play guitar, go for hikes, solve puzzles, and spend time with their pets.

How to Apply

To apply, please see the instructions below. All applications are due Friday, March 25 by 5pm EST. Email items 1-4 directly to our project email address (mi.diaries.project@gmail.com). 

  1. Statement of purpose (1 page, single-spaced, 12pt font)
    • This essay should state your short-term and long-term professional goals, and explain why you are applying for this opportunity. You should discuss how the experiences afforded by the REU program aligns with your goals and how your academic background has prepared you to benefit from the program. You should explicitly state your interest in and experience with any or all of the following subfields in linguistics: sociolinguistics, cultural linguistics, language acquisition, language documentation and revitalization, psycholinguistics, etc. You are encouraged to visit the MSU Linguistics website (https://lilac.msu.edu/linguistics/) to get an idea of the research currently being done by faculty and graduate students in the department.
  2. Personal Statement (1 page, single-spaced, 12pt font)
    • This is your chance to tell the committee about yourself as a person in ways that may not be visible in your other materials: any challenges you’ve overcome in getting to or getting through college, any achievements or accomplishments you’re especially proud of, anything in your personal background that prepares you for this opportunity. This statement and the statement of purpose are equally important.
  3. University Transcript
    • An unofficial transcript is sufficient.
  4. Resume/Curriculum Vitae (submit either one, not both)
    • Resume: This is a document of no more than two pages summarizing your education, work, research, and/or volunteer experience relevant to the program.
    • CV: This is an extensive summary of your cumulative experiences. The CV should provide a more detailed account of your education, work, research, and/or volunteer experience, including any publications, public presentations, and/or other academic accomplishments. It may be as long as you wish.
  5. Two Faculty letters of Recommendation
    • You should request letters from any two college-level faculty members who can speak to your academic and research potential, as well as the character traits that facilitate your ability to succeed in a new environment. If you are a rising Freshman (just finished high school), you may ask for letters from high school mentors instead. All letters should be sent directly from the recommenders to mi.diaries.project@gmail.com and should be addressed to Professor Betsy Sneller and Professor Suzanne Wagner, Department of Linguistics Languages & Cultures, Michigan State University.

Informational Webinar Recording

Summer REU FAQs

This summer, REU students can choose to join us remotely or in-person. All of the research in MI Diaries is done remotely (mostly via Microsoft Teams). We will have a few optional in-person bonding events for students who are here in person, and one in-person public outreach event (Grandparents University) June 28-30 that REU students are encouraged to participate in.

  • There is no preference given to students who apply to work in person vs. remotely – any student with a great application will be considered!
  • Students may also decide to join us in person for part of the time if they wish (or begin remotely and change their minds!). If you do decide to come in person for part of the time, we strongly recommend planning to be in East Lansing the week of June 26 – July 2, so that you can participate in our outreach event with Grandparents University!
  • Students must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident

  • Students must be enrolled as an undergraduate

Because most of MSU’s summer research support is remote this summer, we are not able to offer housing or transportation. However, if you decide to apply for an in-person option, we can connect you to low-cost housing on campus. Rates for on campus lodging may change, but as of our last communication, they are the following:

  • $50.79 per day for a dorm room & 3 meals provided in the dining hall 

We will update the website here as we get more information about housing – but please feel free to email us with any specific questions as well!

The REU summer experience begins on May 30th, which may overlap with the end of the term for some students (especially those on the quarter system). This can still work! If you are still finishing up with your school term when the REU program starts, we will work with you to make an adapted schedule for the beginning of your REU experience, so that you can finish up your term and still be a part of the REU summer experience.

The short answer is no. We are looking for letters from supervisors who can speak to qualities that would make you a great candidate for this position.

  • It’s best if at least one of your recommenders is a professor, who can speak to your academic background, intellectual curiosity, and/or experience and abilities to do analysis. If you’ve taken a Linguistics course, it’s even better to ask your Linguistics professor. If you’ve never taken a Linguistics course, any mentor or professor is another great person to ask.

  • But we are also looking for team members who are reliableself-motivateddetail-oriented, problem solvers, and who can bring creative ideas to the table. Anyone who has supervised some work (it doesn’t need to be academic work) of yours who can speak to these abilities is a great person to ask! This could be a supervisor, a coach, a boss, etc.

Yes! We want to give REU students a full experience. This includes putting some work in on each of our “sub teams” each week. Estimated time per week is given – but this will fluctuate from week to week, as needs arise! 

  • Main project meeting: coming up with prompts, overall MI Diaries goals and progress (1 hour per week)
  • Story selection team: listen through diary entries as they come in, help pick the 3-6 stories that we’ll feature on our website (2-4 hours per week)
  • Analysis team: hand correct automated transcripts and prepare diaries for acoustic analysis (5-8 hours per week)
  • Community team: come up with ideas for community outreach and participant recruitment, help make those ideas happen! (3-6 hours per week)
  • Brand team: help design some of the projects that help the Community Team recruit; manage our social media accounts, help make sure our website is up to date (4-7 hours per week)
  • Project maintenance: learn a little bit about project management through helping our Project Manager (Caroline) with some project maintenance tasks (2-3 hours per week)
  • Individual research (optional): work with faculty & grad student mentors to come up with a small research question, obtain and analyze the data, and report your answers back to the team (2-5 hours per week)
  • Professional development: GRE prep, CV prep, etc – in connection with MSU’s SROP program (1-3 hours per week)