Theodor Cucu, 20, is a student at the prestigious MIT in Boston. He spent his summer internship at Labex EFL, in the laboratory LLF, located in Paris Diderot (University of Paris), as part of an exchange program of the American University called Misti. We went to meet him to carry out a review of his experience in our premises.  

Hello Theo, could you introduce yourself ?

I’m Theo, 20 years old, and I’m a student at MIT, in linguistics and computational cognition.

Why did you come to Paris Diderot this summer?

I participated in a program at MIT called Misti. Basically, they find internship all around the world for their students. France is actually one of the most popular destinations. MIT helps us to find the university, pays for our flight and accommodation, and makes sure that the internship matches our research topics.

What did you do during your internship at the Labex EFL?

I worked with Barbara Hemforth and Doriane Gras . They wanted to work on an EEG (Electroencephalography) experiment since they just got a new machine. I never worked with EEG before and we searched together the simplest way to use it. So we settled a simple experiment, about tense violation in French.

One of the engineers with EEG machine

In total, we were four engineers working on this. We created a pre-study, we trained, and then we ran the actual experiment. We set up all the materials for that.

How did this work help you in your own studies?

At MIT, we have the opportunity to make research during our studies. But I never had a chance to actually run an experiment that I helped to write. Also, looking at the results was very fun. I learned to analyse the data, and now we have graphs and stats to show our results. So this internship was really a full experience, from writing the script to preparing the materials.

And what did you learn from your experiment?

The goal was to know if French people see the difference between infinitive and past principal – which sound the same but doesn’t write the same – in writing. So we had a lot of sentences where the writing of the verb was wrong, but sounded the same. We wanted to see if they found it acceptable or not.

What do you think about Paris Diderot and University of Paris?

I really enjoyed my stay. I think the atmosphere here is more friendly, more welcoming. They did a great job to make me feel welcome in Paris Diderot. In France, there’s a better balance between work and private life. You’re not expected to work on the weekends for example, but when you work, you really work. It’s a bit more relaxed than in the U.S. and you are less in a rush, and I think it’s a good way to work.

What’s next for you?

Of course, I want to graduate, get my PhD. And after, I want to become a researcher in linguistics, focus on semantics and pragmatics, but I’m also very interested in computational psycholinguistics, which is good, because that’s what I worked on this summer.

Anything you want to add?

Thank you to Barbara and Doriane. They really helped me and made me feel like I was home. I’m ready to come back to the US with new memories and lots of new tools to help me on my daily work and my future as a researcher in linguistics.