Dept of Applied Linguistics and Communication | News | Catching up with PhD student Krystle Jalalian
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Catching up with PhD student Krystle Jalalian

Catching up with PhD student Krystle Jalalian

Written by PhD Student Krystle Jalalian

My research experience has been quite fascinating and interesting.  Being from the USA, I wanted a new experience by doing my PhD abroad and what better place than London, England. I have always been interesting in how children learn languages and how language is the major source of communication, which reflects behaviour, emotions and relationships. I knew I wanted to incorporate language and children into my studies, but when I started I still didn’t know what avenue I was going to take.  Growing up playing soccer (football), I was granted with an opportunity to coach young children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), which was probably the most amazing gift I could of received, because not only did I learn about myself and my aspirations in life, but how gifted the children I was working with truly are. They taught me life lessons in which I probably would of never learned if I hadn’t coached them.  Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication and behavioural challenges. After doing loads of research and numerous meetings with my supervisor, Marjorie Lorch, I found my niche and I knew ASD in young children was it, specifically looking at bilingual children. After finding out my topic, the next step was finding children with ASD in the London area that I could work with; this task wasn’t easy and actually impossible to say the least, but I wasn’t going to give up!

Being from the Seattle area in the USA and knowing the influx for ASD in the surrounding area, I knew I could possibly find a clinic and or hospital that would allow me to come in work with them. Luckily, after many emails and exchanges, I was accepted to work at Seattle Children’s Research Institute.  The study I started to work for was named the “SPARCS” Study (Physiology of Attention and Regulation in Children with ASD) under Dr. Sara Webb in the department of Child Health, Behaviour and Development.  The SPARCS study investigates how children ages 2 to 5 with autism learn language and social skills. The goal was
to identify key variables that influence successes or struggles in gaining language or social skills during a child’s prime developmental years.  I knew this would be the perfect fit. With my research content being in Seattle and my schooling in London, I knew it would be difficult but manageable. The only way I could research my passion and interest was to go back and forth to ensure I was completing all the requirements needed for my degree, and I did just that. It wasn’t easy being away from London and the research atmosphere, but I made sure to attend many talks and present my research to the clinic to ensure I was staying up to date, meeting new people and showing others my research for feedback. Overall, I feel my experience has been very beneficial for my career development and especially my research development. I was able to work hands on with children and families.

For new researches beginning their PhD, don’t give up on your interest because you don’t think you will find access or it might be too hard, it’s all about being persistent and networking. It is so important to get to know others in the field you’re interested in. It will allow you to share your interest and ideas and learn new techniques in the research field. Don’t give up on your dreams because I didn’t and I am so happy with my decisions and my overall research I have done. It is not easy and things will get in the way, that's life, but its how you react on your way back up!

I’ll end with an inspiring quote that has inspired me and embodies my vision,

“Sail beyond the horizon; fly higher than you ever thought possible; magnify your existence by helping others; be kind to people and animals of all shapes and sizes; be true to what you value most; shine your light on the world; and be the person you were born to be.” -Blake Beattie