CLIP Graduate Student Jackie Nelligan Awarded NSF Graduate Research Fellowship

Mon Apr 16, 2018

A graduate student in the Computational Linguistics and Information Processing (CLIP) Laboratory has been awarded a prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) fellowship that will be used to further her research in computational linguistics.

Jackie Nelligan, who is pursuing a doctorate in linguistics concurrently with a Master’s degree in computer science, has been named a recipient of an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship.

The award recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students involved in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based Master’s or doctoral degrees at U.S. institutions.

This year, NSF received more than 12,000 applications, and made 2,000 award offers.

Nelligan’s fellowship proposal, “Surprisal and dependency length in morphologically rich languages,” asks the fundamental question: why do languages look the way they do, with respect to word order? Her proposal extends a line of work that seeks answers to that question in functional terms, with evidence from prior work suggesting that the structure of language optimizes processing-related factors like predictability and memory load.

In a nomination letter for Nelligan, Philip Resnik, a professor of linguistics who co-advises Nelligan along with associate professor of linguistics Naomi Feldman, said that Nelligan is highly motivated and has already proven herself capable of accomplishing great work.

“Jackie is simply a powerhouse when it comes to energy, initiative, persistence, confidence and maturity, and she is the kind of person who is going to succeed at whatever she chooses to do,” wrote Resnik, who currently serves as director of the CLIP lab.

In addition to their tenured faculty appointments in linguistics, Resnik and Feldman both have appointments in UMIACS.