Eve Higby is interested in how neural systems supporting language change when acquiring new languages and how multilingual individuals manage their languages through cognitive control processes. She is currently a doctoral candidate in the Speech-Language-Hearing Sciences program. Her work combines two interests, the study of language processing in bilinguals, monolinguals, and older adults, including sentence comprehension and word retrieval processes, and the study of the neural underpinnings of these processes. She actively participates in two labs to support these research interests: The Neurolinguistics Laboratory and the Developmental Neurolinguistics Laboratory.
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Ms. Higby was the first in her family to go to college. She studied Foreign Languages at Grand Rapids Community College and then transferred to Florida International University, where she received a B.A. in Spanish with certificates in Linguistics and in Latin American and Caribbean Studies. She became interested in the field of second language acquisition while teaching English as a Second Language at a school for adult learners, where she observed the disparity in ease of acquisition and proficiency attainment existing across adult second language learners. She joined the Ph.D. program in Speech-Language-Hearing Sciences to investigate why language acquisition at a late age is often challenging, why considerable differences in ability are found across individuals and how differences between early and late language acquisition are instantiated at the neural level.
In her dissertation, Ms. Higby uses neural measures (specifically, event-related potentials) to determine how the languages of a bilingual, both the first and second, are represented in brain. She has turned the question about second language acquisition around and asked how processing in the native (first) language of a bilingual changes when a second language is acquired. Specifically, if one learns a new grammatical construction in a second language, does that construction “bleed over” into the native language and become available while processing the native language? In other words, to what extent does a second language influence the first? Furthermore, she will be able to determine whether influences on the native language are fundamental changes in the system, altering fairly early neural patterns, or are simply an apparent change at a more abstract, metalinguistic level.
Ms. Higby is a recipient of the Mario Capelloni Dissertation Fellowship through the CUNY Graduate Center, a Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant from the National Science Foundation for work on her dissertation project, and two Doctoral Student Research Grants from the CUNY Graduate Center. She was also awarded an Undergraduate Mentoring and Research Education grant from Queens College for mentoring undergraduate students in research.
In the future, Ms. Higby plans to continue doing research that will further our understanding of how the brain systems involved language adapt to new language experiences throughout the life span. She would also like to continue student mentorship and teaching and hopes to encourage more young women to enter the sciences. To learn more about Eve Higby’s research, visit her website at www.evehigby.com.