34: Peter Torres



Program and year of study

PhD, 2nd year

Previous degrees and colleges

BA Linguistics and Anthropology, UCLA

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Manila, Philippines. I moved to the United States when I was about to turn 18 so that's around eight years ago. I think I just revealed my age...

Where do you live now?

My primary address is in Los Angeles. I currently live near Pole Line, by Nugget, although I won't go into specifics because I owe some people money.

What's your favorite spot in Davis?

The ARC. Lifting and cardio are my escape from studying.

How do you relax?

I catch up on my TV shows.

What was the last book you read for pleasure?

If "closure" can be considered as "pleasure," I would say What Happened by Hillary Clinton.

What TV show are you currently binge-watching?

I have gone through 35 seasons of Survivor to feed my fascination with game theory as well as mental and physical aspects of strategizing. I also just finished the latest season of Orange is the New Black, the show is just too real and I am all about that life.

Research interests

I’m interested in socio- and applied linguistics. I want to study the use of language in specific discourse settings such as teacher-student interaction inside and outside the classroom as well as doctor-patient interactions in the medical environment. I would study any conversation anywhere—I just enjoy listening to people. Also, I would like to conduct a desire-based (not damage-centered) ethnography that focuses on the language use of immigrants.

Dissertation title or topic

I am still hibernating after just recently finishing my preliminary paper. While I am still figuring out my dissertation topic, it would be within the realm of socio- and applied linguistics. (My email is open to suggestions, too.) 

Please share a surprising or noteworthy fact or finding from your research

Regardless of dependency symptoms, patients tend to employ a creaky voice and lower their pitch when describing pain, narrating symptoms, and requesting opiates. The use of the same vocal features within distinct discourse conditions further problematizes whether the language of pain is discernable from the language of addiction and/or dependency.

Which professor or class inspired you to pursue graduate studies?

Professor Marjorie Goodwin is a linguistic anthropologist from UCLA. She was also my undergraduate research mentor who taught me a great deal about conversational analysis, linguistic anthropology, and applied linguistics. When I graduated, I knew I had to start working full-time so I could help with the bills even if I really wanted to pursue graduate school. Professor Goodwin not only encouraged me to continue, she took time out of her busy schedule to send me information about different programs and resources, which was very helpful because no one in my family could guide me through the process.

Which scholarly text do you wish you had written? Why?

Dr. Marjorie Orellana's Translating Childhoods: Immigrant Youth, Language, and Culture. She talks about "language brokering," the practice in which adult immigrants seek their children's assistance in translating a wide range of speeches and texts. Orellana puts into the spotlight the often-unrecognized work of language brokers. As a language broker myself, I relate to the stories of the immigrant youth in the book. I have been in situations in which there is only a split-second to think before creatively reinterpreting my teachers' negative comments or finding ways to mitigate bad news when reading medical test results.

Which other researchers at UC Davis are doing work that particularly interests you?

My advisor, Dr. Vai Ramanthan, works on the issues of language and health as well as language policies and language and literacy. Dr. Robert Bayley works on language socialization and language variation. Dr. Georgia Zellou focuses on phonetics and speech perception, which I am starting to get into as well.

Dr. Danny Martinez from the School of Education has done ethnographic work on learning and language. I learned a lot from his Youth Ethnographies class. If you’re interested in language, literacy, and race, Danny's class would be great for you!

What’s the best thing about being a grad student?

I enjoy teaching! I like interacting with students and sharing the little that I know, which makes academia the perfect environment for me. 

What's the worst?

1. Getting contradicting opinions for an abstract or manuscript submitted and then you spend five hours staring at your coffee.

2. I can't bring my sarcasm with me everywhere.

3. When colleagues start acting like Dr. Phil, telling you to act like a gradbot on that one day of the year you failed to refocus rejections and turn them into rainbows and unicorns. And then next week, they are having a moment, doing the exact same thing you did... 

If you weren't a grad student, what would you be doing?

Well, I would not have a stipend anymore, so your boy would have to do some hustling and find a job to survive. That, or I would be trying out for Survivor, since I really want to be a villain on that show. 

Finally, please ask yourself a question

What are you afraid of?

Davis turkeys! I've seen Davis turkeys fly over at least two houses and chase after USPS couriers. I've been stranded in freezing weather because turkeys surrounded my car. People thought I was hopeless, and they weren't wrong. My turkeyphobia was the reason I didn't have turkey for Thanksgiving. It's weird to eat turkey while some of them are just congregating outside your window!


—January 2018


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