Professor’s NSF grant proposal aims to secure EEG

By Guadalupe Pinedo

Eleonora Rossi, an assistant professor at Cal Poly Pomona’s Department of Psychology and Sociology, submitted a grant proposal to the National Science Foundation on Jan. 12 in hopes of acquiring an electroencephalography system for the College of Letters, Arts, and Social Sciences.

Rossi’s field of expertise is bilingual language processing, which is the study of how the brain of a bilingual individual processes two languages.

Before coming to CPP, Rossi taught at Pennsylvania State University, where she conducted similar research and was able to help set up a lab equipped with the type of machinery she is trying to secure for CPP students.

Congress founded the National Science Foundation in 1950. It is an independent federal agency, and its goal is to promote science through providing funding to colleges and universities around the country. It currently provides approximately 24 percent of funding for research conducted by college students across America.

The Major Research Instrumentation Program grant, if awarded, would allow Rossi to obtain an EEG. The EEG machine is a non-invasive technique that allows researchers to track brain activity relating to electricity waves.

“Thanks to these methodologies, we are able to look at that activity,” said Rossi. “So being able to acquire this machinery definitely will enable a whole set of activities here at Cal Poly [Pomona]. The fact that we will investigate, we will do research with something that is so real in the context of Cal Poly [Pomona].”

Rossi’s research would be conducted alongside students from the psychology and sociology department and student volunteers. The research that can be done using the EEG machine is extensive and spans a variety of disciplines. Understanding the physiology of the brain during the early stages of language development is one of the projects Rossi hopes to work on if she is awarded the grant.

Rossi started working on the proposal during the university’s winter break. She spent many days at the library writing the proposal. She believes CPP is the “niche of bilingualism” and that obtaining the EEG machine will enable students to conduct more in-depth research in this field.

“The EEG methodology is my specialty, so my research has been evolving around understanding bilingual processing using methodologies, such as behavior but also neuroimaging techniques,” said Rossi.

Rossi is collaborating with Robert Blumenfeld, who is also an assistant professor at CPP’s Department of Psychology and Sociology. Blumenfeld also has experience with the EEG, and alongside Rossi, he plans to work on projects that will look into brain function connectivity.

“The work that I would do with her is sort of looking at how different areas of the brain functionally connect or talk to each other in real time,” said Blumenfeld. “We’re looking at communication between different areas of the brain and how that differs across time.”

Obtaining the grant would give Rossi and the university the opportunity to establish a research network and work alongside researchers from other universities’ psychology departments. The purpose of these collaborations among institutions is to allow students to conduct research and expose them to working with various methodologies.

“The idea is that Cal Poly [Pomona], [UC Riverside] and [Pennsylvania State University] ” we’re one of many collaborators ” we will be a network were students can even go and travel for their projects and sort of get data from each other,” said Rossi.

Megan Zirnstein is a post-doctoral researcher at Pennsylvania State University. Her lab will be moving to UC Riverside in the future. Zirnstein has known Rossi since Rossi was a post-doctoral researcher at Pennsylvania State University. She believes Rossi will be able to get the EEG labs up and running and will effectively train students and help them complete their research.

“What I think became immediately clear was that without her, the EEG labs they had set up [at Pennsylvania State University] wouldn’t have been up and running nearly as quickly, and so she was really fundamental in getting those labs started and in making sure that students ” not just grad students but also undergraduate ” had lots of opportunities to get exposed to these types of methods,” said Zirnstein. “She has a lot of experience. I genuinely think she’s very interested in making sure undergraduate students see what it’s like.”

Rossi expects to receive notification of whether she is awarded the grant from the National Science Foundation in May. If Rossi receives the grant, she expects to have the EEG system set up at CPP as early as fall 2016.


Guadalupe Pinedo / The Poly Post

Professor’s grant proposal

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