5Q - Shohini Bhattasali, Assistant Professor, Language Studies

Professor Shohini Bhattasali standing in hallway

What does your research focus on?   

My research is situated at the intersection of computational linguistics and neurolinguistics. I use contemporary computational models to gain further insight into language comprehension in the brain. My research program is interdisciplinary and uses a range of experiments to test hypothesis about how we use language at the word and sentence level.

How (or why) did you become interested in that line of research?   

I’ve always been fascinated by how we humans understand language. In graduate school, I was exploring different ways we can leverage computational models to investigate linguistic processes. Incorporating cognitive neuroscience of language into this interdisciplinary research program really helped me put the different puzzle pieces together and ask questions such as when and where in our brain certain cognitive operations are taking place.   

What’s the most interesting (or underappreciated) aspect of your research that most people won’t know about?  

I enjoy designing new experiments and collecting new datasets, but since we are working with human participants, data collection can take months or years. For example, the dataset that I based my dissertation on took almost 1.5 years to collect and after that I was able to run analyses. That is the part of research that people don’t see — they typically just see the finished product like a conference presentation or a journal article.  

Why did you choose UTSC? 

I am very excited to join the Department of Language Studies and start a computational linguistics program here down the road. I also enjoy mentoring undergraduate students in research projects. UTSC’s focus on experiential learning and undergraduate training outside the classroom also aligns well with my goals.

In addition, the department has excellent programs in theoretical linguistics and psycholinguistics, and I look forward to engaging and collaborating with my colleagues and broadening my research horizons.  

What are you reading/watching right now?  

I recently finished Gabrielle Zevin’s Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow, which I really enjoyed. The next book I’m about to start is Upgrade by Blake Crouch. I really enjoyed his previous book Recursion