Principle Investigator

Vicky T. Lai is an assistant professor in psychology and cognitive science. The overarching theme of her research is the processing of meaning and language in context. Specific topics include non-literal language, emotion and language, and language and thought. In her free time, Vicky likes to swim, hike, cook and eat gourmet foods with friends and colleagues, and watch sci-fi movies and dark comedies.






Postdoctoral Researcher

Nyssa Bulkes recently received her PhD in Linguistics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She joined the lab in summer 2017. Her research interests include psycholinguistics, neurolinguistics, and second language acquisition, specifically as they relate to figurative language and sentence processing using EEG and eyetracking methods. In her free time, Nyssa enjoys cooking, exercising, reading, and discovering new kinds of chocolate.






Graduate Students 


Li-Chuan "Matt" Ku is a PhD student in the cognition and neural systems (CNS) program in the department of psychology. He is interested in emotion and non-literal language processing (e.g. jokes). He is particularly fascinated by how emotion concepts are encoded in our mental lexicon and how individual differences in cognitive abilities can affect the processing of implied emotions in language. He uses EEG, fMRI, and MEG. In his free time, Matt likes cycling, reading thrillers, and traveling.






Valeria Pfeifer is a PhD student in the cognition and neural systems (CNS) program in the department of psychology. She uses EEG to study emotion regulation through language, specifically irony and emoji processing. She is also interested in the connection between language and thought, specifically the perception and representations of objects and events. In her free time, Valeria enjoys reading fiction, exercising, and cooking.






Stanley Donahoo is a PhD student in the linguistics department with a minor in cognitive science (advisor Thomas G. Bever). He is interested in experimental pragmatics and sentence processing in context.  He is also interested in using neuroscience approaches towards a better understanding of both literal and non-literal language.  His current work in this lab examines the processing and effects of swear words (e.g., damn, shit). In his free time, Stanley likes cycling around Tucson and trying out new coffee roasteries. 






Rachel Brown is a PhD student in the linguistics department with a minor in cognitive science (advisor Thomas G. Bever).  She is interested in ambiguity resolution, the interaction between semantics and syntax, and sentence processing. Her work in this lab examines the processing of multiword expressions (e.g. tall wheat farmer, automatic copy machine) in sentences. In her spare time, Rachel enjoys reading fiction, hiking, baking cookies, and dancing. 






Anna Katikhinais a Ph.D. student in the Second Language Acquisition and Teaching (SLAT) program. She is interested in how first and second languages shape human cognition. Anna’s research focuses on event representations in speakers of languages that encode verbal aspect and those that without. In her free time, Anna enjoys traveling around the world.






Undergraduate students: We are recruiting undergraduate students who are interested in gaining language research experiences in the forms of (1) independent study, (2) volunteer, and (3) honors thesis. You will receive training on EEG methodology and data analysis, which would be valuable for you in terms of future grad school application. Please contact Dr. Lai for more info or/and to set up a meeting for discussion.


Emma Armstrong is a senior majoring in neuroscience with minors in linguistics and biochemistry. She is interested in neuroscience of language and psychiatry. Emma is currently working on her honors thesis, looking at the effects of emojis on the processing of emotionally ambiguous language. When she has free time, she enjoys reading, binge-watching shows, and working on her various art projects.






Aniha Kumar is an undergraduate in Psychology with a minor in Molecular and Cellular Biology. She is interested in cognitive psychology as well as the influence that genetics has on psychological functions. Aniha is assisting EEG data collection and data analyses. In her free time she practices jiu jitsu and enjoys cooking.






Hannah Hart is an undergraduate studying Neuroscience and Cognitive Science. She is interested in cognitive psychology and the interplay between neurobiology and behavior. Hannah helps with EEG data collection and data analysis in the lab. In her free time, she enjoys exercising, reading, drinking coffee, and exploring the city around her.






Elizabeth Heidler is an undergraduate student majoring in Psychology with a minor in Care, Health, and Society. She is interested in the psychology field, particularly in neuropsychology. Elizabeth is currently a research assistant helping collect EEG data and analyze data. When she has spare time, Elizabeth loves to practice yoga, hike, drink tea, and spend time with friends.