Our original summer research program fund, endowed by a generous donor and named for the acclaimed Penn researcher Lila R. Gleitman, this fund supports 8-10 Penn students in the MindCORE Summer Fellowship Program each year.
Students awarded Gleitman Fellowships receive a stipend of $5000 for ten weeks of full-time research in a MindCORE faculty lab. Students do not need to apply separately for the Gleitman Fellowship; they will be selected from among the applicants chosen to participate in the MindCORE Summer Fellowship Program.
Lila R. Gleitman (1929-2021), professor emerita of psychology and linguistics in Penn’s School of Arts and Sciences. Lila was born in Brooklyn and after earning a bachelor’s degree in literature from Antioch College, she entered graduate school in linguistics at Penn’s School of Arts and Sciences, also working as a research assistant in Penn’s department of linguistics. She studied under Zellig Harris and earned her master’s degree in 1965 and her PhD in 1967. She began her academic career as an assistant professor at Swarthmore College, teaching there from 1968 to 1971. In 1972, she became the William T. Carter Professor of Education at Penn. She subsequently served as professor of linguistics and as the Steven and Marcia Roth Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania from 1973 until she retired in 2001.
In 1991, Dr. Gleitman and Aravind Joshi of Penn Engineering founded the Institute for Research in Cognitive Science (IRCS) at Penn, the basis for MindCORE. Under Dr. Gleitman’s leadership, IRCS became a model for promoting interactions between psychology, linguistics, computer science, philosophy, neuroscience and other branches of inquiry that contribute to the computational study of the mind (a role inherited by Penn’s MindCORE today).
Dr. Gleitman’s contributions to the study of language and cognition are renowned. In a career that spanned six decades, she explored questions pertaining to language in children and adults, such as how children acquire language, how language and thought are related, the nature of concepts, and the role of syntax in shaping the direction of word learning. She has earned particular acclaim for her work showing that children’s keen sensitivity to syntactic structure plays a crucial role in their language acquisition. Dr. Gleitman and her collaborators’ theory of syntactic bootstrapping enabled them to address many longstanding mysteries in the field, such as how blind children effortlessly acquire spoken language (including such words as “look” and “see,” and color terms), and how deaf isolates invent sign language without exposure to any language at all.
Dr. Gleitman was a legendary mentor who trained a long and distinguished list of psycholinguists, many of whom went on to become central figures in the field. As former colleagues John Trueswell, professor of psychology, and Anna Papafragou, professor of linguistics, note, “Lila was a tremendous colleague and teacher. Her secret weapon was to combine serious discourse with joy, laughter and, crucially, respect for all present. She was deeply interested in mentoring students throughout her entire career, with much of her best work coming from collaborations with students.”