Virginia Valian, Ph.D.

Office: 510 and 514 Thomas Hunter Hall
Phone: 772-5557

General Area of Research
First and second language acquisition; sex differences in math; gender and advancement in science
Description of Current Research

Current research in my laboratory investigates two-year-olds' knowledge and use of language, second language learners' performance on similar tasks, native speakers' performance on similar sentences with different tasks, the role of input in syntax acquisition, gender differences in mathematics problem-solving.  We are also investigating what interventions work best in improving gender equity in different types of organizations.

First and second language acquisition.  In our work with two-year-olds we tape and transcribe their spontaneous speech, ask them to imitate sentences, test their memory of sentences, and ask them to understand sentences.  In our work with non-native adult speakers we perform similar studies; we also measure their ability to read sentences presented very quickly on a computer screen (RSVP).  In our work with native adult speakers we perform RSVP experiments, various pencil-and-paper experiments, and various problem-solving experiments.

Gender differences in math.  We ask high school and college students to solve math problems of various types, mental rotation problems, and inference problems.  All materials are computer-based.

Gender equity.  We have various projects.  One is to create web-based tutorials using voice-over narration with slides.  Another is to create "report cards" rating science and humanities organizations according to their representation of women.  A third is to create manuals analyzing interventions to improve the status of women in science.

Student Opportunities
Essential and Desirable Background Knowledge and Skills
Required skills vary depending on the project. Overall, however, what is listed below is good general background. 

Essential:  Reliability, ability to work with diverse groups of children and adults, perfectionism in routine tasks

Desirable:  Statistics, experimental, cognitive, basic or advanced computer skills

Expected Responsibilities
First and second language acquisition and Gender differences in math. 
Recruit and schedule participants, observe and test participants, transcribe participant speech, create or refine stimuli, analyze data.  Expected time commitment is 12-15 hours per week. 

Gender equity. 
Track down organizational memberships, age of member when elected, percent PhDs in member's field, and other relevant data; perform library research; help create web-based materials.  Expected time commitment is 12-15 hours per week.

Expected Benefits
First and second language acquisition and Gender differences in math. 
Learn how to perform all aspects of research, discuss theoretical background and implications of research with faculty member, understand ethical and practical issues in conducting research. 

Gender equity. 
Learn how to determine whether there is a gender equity problem within an organization or field; learn what can be done to improve gender equity.

Hunter College of the City University of New York
695 Park Avenue • New York,  NY  10021
Psychology Department

Last Revised: 12.17.2001