Curious about curiosity. Passionate about science communication and community building.

Portrait of a young woman with shoulder-length dark blonde hair, wearing a dark blue blouse

I’m a postdoc “at the intersection of science and practice” at the Baby & Child Research Center (BRC) in Nijmegen, Netherlands. The focus of this non-traditional postdoc position is on science communication and outreach: In close collaboration with the PIs of the BRC and our outreach manager, I work on increasing the BRC’s visibility, building networks, and establishing partnerships with various stakeholders.

In 2021, I obtained my PhD from the University of Göttingen, Germany, where I worked at the WortSchatzInsel lab under the supervision of Nivi Mani. In my PhD project, I looked at how the interaction of individual interests and semantic knowledge can explain the considerable individual differences we find in early vocabularies. In other words, I examined why some children can name all the animals at the zoo while others know their backhoes from their bulldozers.

My interest in language acquisition was kindled during my undergraduate studies in German and French at the Universities of Paris-Sorbonne and Bonn where I took a Research Methods in Linguistics class that first introduced me to the topic. I went on to get a Master’s degree in linguistics at the University of Marburg, focussing on German dialectology. In 2014, I secured a 10-week internship at the Hunter College Language Acquistion Center (LARC) which reinforced my decision to get a PhD in the field.

As a proponent of open science, I’m part of the organizing team of the Open Science Community Nijmegen (OSCN) and a co-organizer of ReproducibiliTea Nijmegen. Furthermore, I’m passionate about science communication and making my research accessible for a broader audience. This is why I do Skype a Scientist sessions with classrooms, participated in the Letters to a Pre-Scientist program, and used to run the WortSchatzInsel facebook page. Watch me talk about what I do at the DPZ Science Slam here (in German).

As of January 2022, I also serve as the media coordinator for the International Association for the Study of Child Language (IASCL). In spring 2022, I’m teaching Early Language Production and Perception at Radboud University Nijmegen.

Most of my free time is dedicated to playing, coaching and growing the sport of lacrosse. As a goalkeeper, I compete in the highest division of Dutch women’s lacrosse with Nijmegen Lacrosse. I’m also the team manager for the Women’s Dutch National Team and a coach for the Nijmegen B-team.

My first name is pronounced /ˈleːna/ in German, but if you find /eː/ difficult to pronounce, /ˈliːna/, /ˈle͜ɪna/ and /ˈlɛna/ are also fine. My last name, Ackermann, is spelled with two n’s. My pronouns are she/her (sie/ihr, elle, zij/haar, i.e. female pronouns in all languages that have gendered third-person singular pronouns).

Click here for my CV (last updated February 2020 – will be updated soon)