Baggett Program

The Department of Linguistics, in conjunction with the Language Science Program at the University of Maryland, is pleased to offer two innovative research opportunities for undergraduate and post-baccalaureate students.

These awards are called Baggett Fellowships and Baggett Summer Scholarships, in recognition of the former University of Maryland student whose support has made this initiative possible. Baggett Fellowships are full-time post-baccalaureate research positions, open to US or Canadian citizens or permanent residents, with no restrictions on where the fellow received the bachelor's degree. Baggett Summer Scholarships are faculty-mentored summer research positions, open only to University of Maryland undergraduates.

Research at our top-ranked department spans syntax, semantics, phonology, language acquisition, computational linguistics, psycholinguistics and neurolinguistics. Connections between these areas are strong, with theoretical, experimental, and computational work typically pursued in tandem, and with the benefits of unmatched research facilities. A network of collaboration at all levels sustains a research climate that is both vigorous and friendly. New ideas develop in conversation, stimulated by the steady activity of our labs and research groups, frequent student meetings with faculty, regular talks by local and invited scholars, and collaborations with other language scientists at Maryland. The University supports the largest and most integrated language science community in North America, joining the Linguistics Department with members of other departments such as Psychology, Second Language Acquisition, Human Development, Speech and Hearing, the iSchool, Computer Science, and Philosophy, in the pursuit of interdisciplinary approaches to language research.

The Baggett Fellowship and Summer Scholarship programs offer a unique hands-on approach to the lab environment for students at the undergraduate and post-baccalaureate levels to benefit from and contribute actively to these many research programs. We encourage you to look at the Past Fellows page to see what people have worked on in the past and how they have benefitted from the Baggett Fellowships and Summer Scholarships, including first-hand accounts of the advantages they have gained from the program. We also encourage candidates for the Fellowship to consider the benefits of living in the area of Washington D.C.


About Dave Baggett

"A big part of business is creativity. If you think of creativity as the juxtaposition of things that seem unrelated, the way to encourage your creativity is to learn about different things," says linguist, software executive and UMD Board of Trustees member David Baggett '92. This interdisciplinary approach to learning and his environment as a child were significant factors in his decision to study linguistics and computer science as an undergraduate. Although his father is an electrical engineer and his mother a freelance cookbook writer, both are "pretty versatile and I think that rubbed off on me," says Baggett.

To encourage more students to delve into linguistics research at Maryland, Baggett made a generous gift to the Department of Linguistics, creating the Baggett Fellowships and the Baggett Summer Scholarships. Baggett's deep affinity for his alma mater stems from the rich research opportunities he was afforded as an undergraduate at Maryland. "I had a number of really good research interactions with some of the faculty. If you give an undergraduate a chance to see what it's like to do real research, that's intoxicating and it's great practice."

As a young student, he had a keen interest in the fundamental study of how language works. In every human culture, Baggett says, "babies learn how to segment words pretty early. We see it all the time, but we don't think about it much. We have no idea how that mechanism works. It's fascinating!"

Computational linguistics, an interdisciplinary field that applies software to the study of language, became his focus. "I wanted to figure out what is that thing in your brain that enables you to learn language," says Baggett. The brain is incredibly complex, and how it works remains a mystery to scientists. For example, Baggett says imagine finding a computer in the woods and the user cannot take it apart to see how it works. One can only type and see what happens on the screen. "It doesn't tell you much," he says, "but if you're clever about how and what you type, you could learn some things slowly. That's like the brain, a black box. Linguistics is trying to figure out how the brain works, but you can't really take it apart and analyze it at a micro-level."

Creativity is a common thread in Baggett's life. After graduating from Maryland, he began working on his doctorate in computational linguistics at MIT. However, an opportunity to put his creative juices to work developed. Baggett and his fellow classmates created Sony PlayStation's "Crash Bandicoot." This enormously popular computer game series was the beginning of a highly successful career in software development.

In 1997, Baggett and his MIT colleagues co-founded ITA Software. Anyone who has shopped for an airline ticket at an online site like Orbitz or through an airline's web page most likely used ITA Software's program. It allows an air traveler to produce a much greater scope of choices - different price ranges and levels of convenience.

Baggett's latest entrepreneurial pursuit, since selling ITA Software to Google in 2010, is an innovative email program called inky that sorts incoming mail by how meaningful it is to the recipient.

Baggett acknowledges the critical role of education in his business success. "I wanted to do something for linguistics in particular because it was so useful for me to have the interdisciplinary development. There's a certain intellectual purity to what the linguistics department is doing," says Baggett. "It's just a great environment that promotes inquisitiveness about very profound questions and day-to-day, very pragmatic concerns."

Read about Baggett's latest venture, inky, here.


Goals of the Program

Full-year post-bac fellowships

The objective of the Baggett Fellowships program is to provide intensive research training for post-baccalaureate students who wish to pursue a research career in the scientific study of language. Fellows will be exposed to a range of methods and tools for studying human language in the context of a collaborative research environment. Fellows will be fully engaged in the scientific investigation of fundamental questions about the human language capacity: How is linguistic knowledge represented in the mind? How is it instantiated in the brain? How is language acquired by infants and older children? How is linguistic knowledge deployed in speaking and understanding? What types of computation are involved? How did language evolve in our species? How does mental retardation affect the ability to acquire and use language? In what ways is cross-linguistic variation constrained, and what are the causes and consequences of such constraints? How does knowledge, acquisition, and use of language relate to other cognitive abilities?

Summer scholarships for undergraduates

The objective of the Baggett Summer Scholarships program is to enrich undergraduate linguistics training by providing in-depth research experience under close faculty supervision. Under the guidance of a linguistics department faculty mentor, students will participate actively in one of many possible research projects. The range of projects associated with participating mentors all represent different approaches to the scientific study of the human language faculty, and they address interrelated questions: How is linguistic knowledge represented in the mind? How is it instantiated in the brain? How is it acquired by infants and young children? How is linguistic knowledge deployed in speaking and understanding? What types of computation are involved? How does mental retardation affect the ability to acquire and use language? In what ways is cross-linguistic variation constrained, and what are the causes and consequences of such constraints? How does knowledge, acquisition, and use of language relate to other cognitive abilities?



Baggett Fellowships

Overview

One-year Baggett Fellowships are full-time positions intended for individuals with a BA or BS degree who are interested in gaining significant research experience in an active interdisciplinary environment before pursuing graduate study in some area of linguistics or cognitive science. One or two fellowship positions are available for the 2014-2015 year. Salary is competitive, with benefits included.

Eligibility

Applicants must be US or Canadian citizens or permanent residents, and should have completed a BA or BS degree or equivalent by the time of appointment (Summer or Fall 2014), but should not have completed any graduate training. Previous experience in linguistics is required, and relevant research experience is preferred. The ability to interact comfortably with a diverse group of people (and machines, where appropriate) is essential.

Faculty Mentors

Baggett Fellows often work with several faculty members on collaborative research projects. The following Maryland Linguistics faculty can serve as mentors for the 2014-2015 fellowship year:

  • Naomi Feldman (computational modeling, language acquisition)
  • Valentine Hacquard (semantics, language acquisition)
  • Bill Idsardi (phonetics and phonology, speech perception in first and second language learners)
  • Ellen Lau (as co-mentor in the Spring: language processing, neurolinguistics)
  • Jeff Lidz (language acquisition, language typology, language processing)
  • Colin Phillips (language processing, neurolinguistics, language acquisition)
  • Paul Pietroski (as co-mentor: semantics)
  • Philip Resnik (as co-mentor: computational modeling, applied computational linguistics)
  • Alexander Williams (as co-mentor: syntax, semantics, language acquisition, language typology))
  • Andrea Zukowski (language acquisition, language production)




Baggett Summer Scholarships

Overview

Baggett Summer Scholarships are available to University of Maryland undergraduate students with prior training in linguistics who wish to pursue linguistics research in a more in-depth manner than is possible in the context of the classroom, and under close faculty supervision. A minimum commitment of 8 weeks should be expected. Up to three or four scholarship positions are available for the summer of 2014.

Eligibility

Applicants must be currently enrolled University of Maryland undergraduates (no citizenship requirement) with some training in linguistics or cognitive science. Graduating seniors may apply, however preference will be given to freshmen, sophomores and juniors. Graduating seniors may want to consider applying for a Baggett Fellowship instead of, or in addition to, a Baggett Summer Scholarship.

Faculty Mentors

  • Naomi Feldman (computational modeling, language acquisition)
  • Valentine Hacquard (semantics, language acquisition)
  • Bill Idsardi (phonetics and phonology, speech perception in first and second language learners)
  • Jeff Lidz (language acquisition, language typology, language processing)
  • Colin Phillips (language processing, neurolinguistics, language acquisition)
  • Andrea Zukowski (language acquisition, language production)


Application

Required items

Applicants for a Baggett Fellowship and or a Baggett Summer Scholarship must submit:

  1. A cover letter. This should outline your background experience and identify faculty mentors of interest. Post-baccalaureate Fellowship applicants should feel free to indicate multiple mentors of interest, as co-mentorship is both possible and fruitful. Cover letters should be in pdf format (please name your file this way: lastname_cover.pdf).

  2. A current curriculum vitae. This should also be in pdf format (please name your file this way: lastname_cv.pdf)

  3. The names and email addresses of 3 potential referees (letters are not needed as part of the initial application). This information should be provided both on your cv, and in the text of the email that contains these file attachments.

  4. A writing sample


Timeline

Review of applications will begin immediately. Positions are open until filled, but for best consideration, complete applications should be received by Monday, April 7, 2014. Applicants should feel free to send a preliminary letter of interest ahead of the completed application.

Contact for Post-Baccalaureate Fellowships

All application materials should be submitted electronically to Dr. Andrea Zukowski (zukowski@umd.edu). NOTE: Put "Baggett Fellowship" in the subject line.

Contact for Summer Scholarships

All application materials should be submitted electronically to Dr. Andrea Zukowski (zukowski@umd.edu). NOTE: Put "Baggett Scholarship" in the subject line.