Scientific research interests
I am primarily interested in the neurocognition of multilingualism: how the brain of a multilingual person represents and processes his/her different languages, and how these languages interact and influence one another. I am interested in the changes that occur in the brain when we learn a new language, and how proficiency (at different stages of learning or “forgetting” languages) impacts how a language is processed in the brain.
My PhD research focused on the brain basis of a phenomenon called “first-language attrition” — a non-pathological decline of one’s first language, due to special circumstances (such as immigration) that lead the individual to experience reduced exposure to their native language, while becoming highly proficient in the second language they learned in adulthood and now use on a daily basis. This is an exciting line of brain research that explores the “younger is better” question from a new perspective: if there is a critical period for the brain to process a language like a native-speaker, we would expect to find that one’s first language is robust and impermeable to loss, and that the language learned in adulthood cannot take over, even if it becomes the daily language. Interestingly, our studies show that this is not entirely the case!
In addition to this main line of research, I am also interested in individual differences in language learning, language acquisition in children, as well as literacy (and dyslexia) in bilinguals. I would also love to explore the phenomenon of attrition in second-language learners — for example, what happens when you no longer practice a foreign language you knew very well? In further research, I would like to explore the possible parallels between language acquisition and attrition, as well as the different factors that influence how the brain processes language.
To find out more about my research expertise, see the Publications page.
Leadership and Entrepreneurship
During my MSc and PhD years, I became heavily involved in offering coaching to my peers on key skills such as academic writing, preparing successful fellowship applications, improving productivity, organization and time-management skills, maintaining a work-life balance, preparing talks, and more. I was an official McGill blogger for the GradLife Blog for over 5 years, sharing resources and personal experiences with the student body and faculty. I worked as a consultant for the McGill Writing Centre (Graphos) and Teaching and Learning Services (Skillsets) both during and after my PhD. I also volunteered to help with event organization (e.g., scientific conferences) on a local and international scale.
Aside from my fascination with brain research and multilingualism, I have always been passionate about writing, travel, photography and, more recently, entrepreneurship. In 2015, I launched my own travel photography shop (Veni Etiam Photography, also on Etsy). My mission is to help clients create a decor that resonates with them and inspires them daily.
In running my own shop, I started to enjoy learning about business and marketing strategies, and became actively involved with the maker community in Montreal. After initially volunteering to help organize art shows, I became one of the leaders of the Collectif Créatif Etsy Montréal, a regional team of entrepreneurs affiliated with the Etsy online marketplace. The Collectif Créatif organizes several highly popular art markets a year, partnering up with different neighborhoods and organizations to contribute to a thriving local community. My main roles on the leadership team involve content writing, social media marketing, curating our selection of exhibitors, translation (English and French), cultivating relationships with sponsors and community members, event organization and event photography.
After years of entrepreneurship and leadership, my diverse experiences led me to launch my second business: Momentum Emporium. Momentum is a consulting firm (or, if you prefer, your go-to virtual assistant) offering copywriting, editing, translation and coaching services on a range of topics for academics, scientists, entrepreneurs and community members, in both English and French. Momentum helps me keep one foot in science and one foot in entrepreneurship while doing what I’ve always loved to do: motivate others overcome their obstacles and help them find clarity to achieve their goals.
Outside of science, business and art, life has made it such that I now also find myself in the role of health advocate – a role I never envisioned. As a result of my own personal circumstances, I work hard to raise awareness and research funding for endometriosis and female cancers. In 2018, I wrote and self-published the first edition of a short book describing my personal journey with these health challenges, particularly a severe form of widespread endometriosis. I am now revising this first edition for a major Canadian publisher. Inspired by the women entrepreneurs I was blessed to meet in my artistic community, I created an initiative called Alba – A New Dawn , which aims to shine light on endometriosis, cancer and infertility through art, portraits, stories and resources. In this context, I have been working with several Canadian organizations to develop a workshop educating high school students on pelvic pain from a multidisciplinary perspective.
When I am not working on one of these 5 jobs (ha!), I enjoy travel writing, cooking, wine, more wine, gardening, home decorating, art history, architecture, and all things Italy. I love learning languages and interacting with different cultures. I also have synesthesia, which colors the way I see things in this world (forgive the pun!)