Decorated UTSA graduate, continuing research on bilingualism and math at NYU | UTSA today | UTSA


Originally from Mexico, Paola moved to San Antonio in 2013 during her freshman year of high school. Fluent in English and Spanish, and still interested in math, Paola’s interest in psychology and education evolved and she wanted to develop a deeper understanding of how bilingual speakers treat math.

“There’s been a lot of research on how bilinguals are generally better in one language than the other, and we’re trying to find the brain basis for that,” Paola said.

His research team used electroencephalography (EEG) to measure memory recall of how bilinguals think through arithmetic – especially multiplication. Participants heard two numbers, one at a time, and then saw a solution. They had to press a button to indicate if it was correct or incorrect. In this task, the team found that the brain’s response was just as fast and precise in all languages. This finding is significant because previous research indicated that bilinguals might be better with one language more than the other.

“This idea dominated the educational space, with people seeing bilingualism as a weakness,” Paola explained. “Our results suggest that bilingualism does not interfere with performance in a second language. Instead, this finding reveals that bilingual students need to be supported by educators and education systems to master their languages ​​in order to be assessed accurately and fairly in their second language.

Paola’s research results have earned her prestigious recognition from her peers. She was invited to present her findings at the Society for Advancement of Chicanos / Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) annual conference in 2019, where she won a presentation award. Paola is sharing her findings in a research paper she is writing in collaboration with Nicole wicha, professor in the biology department of UTSA, with his graduate mentor Vanessa Cerda.

Paola thanks UTSA and Honors College for the support and the multiple opportunities to pursue her research aspirations.

“I think that’s one of the strengths of UTSA because of the opportunities it offers to students,” Paola said. “I finished my honors thesis thanks to them, and it was really thanks to their financial support that I was able to concentrate on the courses and the research.”

In addition, she is a Research Initiative for Scientific Improvement (RISE) Fellow and is part of the Pathways program of the Institute of Educational Sciences, which includes faculty and students from all disciplines leading studies. educational science research.

Paola says UTSA teachers instilled a sense of confidence and inspiration in her. In particular, she credits Wicha with her role as a valuable mentor.

“Dr. Wicha is a dedicated and caring teacher who has truly guided and encouraged me to grow as a researcher and scholar, ”said Paola. “Another of her strengths is creating a sense of community in her lab. It is very visible that everyone wants to help each other to be successful. “

UTSA’s commitment to academic excellence and as a thriving Hispanic university connects with Paola’s entire family. Her younger sister Marcela will be entering first grade this fall, while her older sister Daniela is pursuing his master’s degree in curriculum and teaching at UTSA. his father Sergio is also registered as a doctoral student in electrical engineering. Paola says he was inspired to pursue his doctorate. after attending one of his first research presentations.

“After my father had the chance to see my presentation, he was impressed with what UTSA had to offer and decided he wanted to be a part of this academic research environment.

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