Matthew Lowder, Ph.D. is a graduate of our Cognitive Psychology program in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience. He is now an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Richmond.
As an Assistant Professor of Psychology, Matthew teaches undergraduate students, dedicates himself to service at the departmental and university levels, and conducts research within his laboratory. His research draws on the principles of psychology and linguistic theory to understand how the mind processes and comprehends language. Some of the overarching questions that Matthew seeks to answer include: What is the nature of the memory processes that support language comprehension? How do we represent sentence structure and sentence meaning in the mind, and how do these representations interact? What cognitive constructs best account for individual variability in reading behavior? To what extent does the language comprehension system anticipate and predict upcoming linguistic input? To address these questions, his research relies primarily on eye-tracking methodology, but also incorporates approaches from cognitive neuroscience and computational linguistics.
Matthew graduated with his Ph.D. in 2014 from the Cognitive Psychology Program and his graduate training at Carolina successfully prepared him for career in academia. His mentor was Peter Gordon, and Matthew says, “The training I received in Peter’s lab was crucial to getting me to where I am today. I acquired expertise in psycholinguistics, technical skills related to eye-tracking methodology, and statistical knowledge that I’ve carried with me into my current position. Now that I’m establishing my own research lab and mentoring students, I find that I’ve adopted many of Peter’s practices, from the way he runs lab meetings to the file structure he uses for organizing experiments. Being immersed in an active research lab during my time at UNC helped show me firsthand how to effectively run my own lab.”
Before joining the doctoral program at UNC, Matthew worked as a research assistant at Duke University. There, he developed a strong interest in language processing and knew he wanted to pursue a Ph.D. in a program that had faculty who specialized in psycholinguistics. Matthew shares, “When I met with Peter, I was fascinated by the research questions he was addressing and the methodological approaches he was using to address these questions.” After choosing Carolina, Matthew found the community a great fit. He says, “We had a really tight knit group of graduate students in the Cognitive program. We supported each other professionally and enjoyed hanging out together. I still keep in touch with many of my former classmates today.”
As an Assistant Professor, Matthew investigates the cognitive mechanisms that contribute to language comprehension. He says, “Our ability to process language feels like it comes easily to us, and so we don’t usually think about what an incredibly complex process it is. The work I do in my lab is focused on figuring out what’s going on ‘behind the scenes’ of this cognitive ability that we routinely take for granted. One of the best parts of my job is that I get to work with motivated students to design and conduct experiments that get us closer to understanding how language comprehension works.” In addition to working with students in the laboratory, he teaches his students in courses like Statistics, Research Methods, Psycholinguistics, and Cognitive Science. Matthew shares, “One of my favorite things about teaching is that I get to convey my enthusiasm for this material to the students. I routinely ‘nerd out’ in front of my class when I’m describing research that I find particularly fascinating. Even if the students don’t quite get up to my level of excitement about what I’m teaching, I find that if I can convey my own enthusiasm and make it clear why I find these topics so interesting, students will be more engaged and develop a deeper understanding of the material.”
Our Meet an Alum series spotlights alumni from our six doctoral programs in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, including Behavioral & Integrative Neuroscience, Clinical Psychology, Cognitive Psychology, Developmental Psychology, Quantitative Psychology, and Social Psychology.
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