Undergraduate Research

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Kelsey Ball

Kelsey Ball
Major:
Electrical and Computer Engineering
“One of the most rewarding parts of education is the interdisciplinary aspect.”

Faculty Supervisors: Dr. Almeida Jacqueline Toribio, Spanish & Portuguese; and Dr. Barbara E. Bullock, French & Italian

Briefly describe your research project.

The first phase of the Spanish in Texas project was collecting interviews of Spanish as it is spoken throughout Texas, and creating a pedagogical resource from those interviews. We’re now interested in the contact between Spanish and English in Texas, and the way that manifests itself at a semantic and syntactic level. And now that we have this corpus of Spanish as it is spoken in Texas, we’re applying some computational methods to identify those areas of contact and influence between the two languages.

With a background in computer engineering, I know how to code. That’s the main capacity in which I’m working, helping to write some programs that can process a large amount of data and hopefully identify some trends.

How did you get involved with your current research project?

EUREKA. It was very serendipitous. I had searched some keywords and had found other interesting projects, but theirs was pinned as a recent post. I think the Spanish is what intrigued me, because I had studied Spanish in high school and really liked it, but as I moved into computer science and STEM it was hard to reconcile that interest with computer science. So I read the description and thought, “I need to get involved in this.”

What’s been the greatest reward of doing research?

In some sense, it’s getting a sense of confidence in my abilities, because it’s a very different environment than a classroom that has well defined structure and clear expectations. To move into an area that doesn’t have the same framework and structure, it’s more “make your own decisions and see what happens.”

What advice would you give to a student who was thinking about research?

Do some reading to get acquainted with whatever material you don’t have a background in. It might help you get going if you can express a well articulated interest in that field. Also, don’t be afraid. One of the most rewarding parts of education is that interdisciplinary aspect, and I think that’s something professors understand and appreciate. They’re really willing to reach out to students who are interested but don’t come from the same background.

What are benefits of doing research on a project that’s not in your own field?

For me, interdisciplinarity is one of the more rewarding parts. It’s very refreshing to get out of your own discipline, especially in upper-division classes where you really specialize and can get tunnel vision. It broadens your perspective and rounds out your education. You get to draw on skills that don’t get exercised in your discipline.

Research Week showcases the exciting work of undergraduates across campus and highlights opportunities for students interested in getting involved. Co-sponsored by the Senate of College Councils and the School of Undergraduate Studies, Research Week takes place in the middle of April each year. Take a look at the online schedule of events to find out more about Research Week events.