Psycholinguist, Cognitive Scientist, Northwestern University professor
Viorica Marian, Ph.D. is a psycholinguist and cognitive scientist who studies bilingualism and language and the mind. She is the Ralph and Jean Sundin Endowed Chair and Professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders and of Psychology at Northwestern University.
Professor Marian studies how language works and the consequences of knowing two or more languages for cognition, development, and the brain. Her experiments have uncovered that bilinguals do not turn off their inactive language during spoken comprehension, but that both languages are activated and processed in parallel. In addition, she has shown that bilinguals’ memories, communicative styles, and identities are accessed and expressed differently across their two languages. Her research has demonstrated that bilingualism sculpts the brain and has profound consequences for language processing, memory, perception, development, and learning.
Professor Marian teaches about and advocates for the importance of distinguishing difference from disorder and the value of learning other languages. She was trained at Cornell University (Ph.D.) and Emory University (M.A.) under the mentorship of Ulric Neisser, widely regarded as the father of cognitive psychology.
Outside work, she is raising three daughters, together with her partner of over twenty years, Dutch computer scientist Aswin van den Berg. Viorica Marian immigrated to the United States as a teenager from the Republic of Moldova and speaks Romanian, Russian, English, as well as some French, Spanish, and minimal Dutch.
Find moments of joy.
This quote by Albert Camus: “In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.”
Read something, write something – whether for work or fun.
Bring out the best in my students’ thinking.
Be kind. To others *and* to yourself.
A Day in My Life:
What do you love most about Your City?
I live in Evanston, near Northwestern University, where I have been a professor for two decades. I love living in an academic town among students and faculty, while at the same time being close to the vibrant city of Chicago and its rich culture. I like being able to walk everywhere — to work, to restaurants, to shops, to Lake Michigan. When the weather is nice I like being on the water — paddle boarding, sailing, kayaking, or just walking or biking along the lake.
Favorite breakfast meal & restaurant?
I try to eat low carb whenever I can, so for breakfast it’s usually eggs in some form or plain Greek yogurt with berries and for restaurants I tend to choose places that offer low-carb options like sashimi or steak. I have a sweet tooth though, so I indulge from time to time, I especially love fruit.
What are you doing at:
6:00 AM – Sleeping. I am a night owl and tend to work late, often into the morning hours, so I am very rarely up at 6, only if I had to schedule an unavoidable early meeting.
10:00 AM – Either in meetings or responding to emails.
12:00 PM – Favorite Lunch spot/meal? Occasionally I may eat with a colleague or a student on or near campus, but usually I bring lunch with me from home, to save time so I can get more done.
7:00 PM – Having dinner with my family. I have three daughters so dinners are a very dynamic time, with lots of conversation and interaction. Everyone is relatively extroverted and high energy, so there is always a lot going on.
11:00 PM – This is usually my time for uninterrupted work. Everyone is asleep, it’s quiet, so this is when I write, read, think, review, do anything that requires sustained attention.
What drink do you need to get through the day and at the end (and how many)?
I have coffee in the morning, either full-caff or half-caff or decaff, depending on what caffeine dose I need that day. I drink decaffeinated green or herbal tea throughout the day, but it’s very diluted, mostly water with just a splash of flavor.
Most used App/Favorite Instagram Account?
Other than email and social media, it’s music apps like Spotify and Pandora. I don’t have a favorite Instagram account but ever since one of my tweets went viral in 2018 I follow accounts that post funny things and memes that make me smile.
What should everyone try at least once?
Traveling to a new place. Learning another language. It is amazing how the simple act of learning another language can open our minds to new perspectives, cultures, and ways of thinking and can change how we see others and the world. It can also open the door to new relationships and adventures. I think if politicians knew another language and were exposed to other cultures the world would be better.
Where do you enjoy getting lost?
In a museum. In music. In love.
My Pic of the Day: (any additional pic that expresses something special)
With my three daughters.