My name is Lauren. I am a fourth-year brain and cognitive sciences major here at UR. I have also been a research assistant and independent researcher for Professor T. Florian Professor Jaeger for almost three years now. I cannot speak to Professor Jaeger’s behavior prior to my time working in his lab. I cannot speak to Professor Jaeger’s behavior specifically toward graduate students and other faculty. I cannot speak to Professor Jaeger’s behavior toward all people.
Many of these allegations occurred long before my time here, and I can only speak to what I have directly witnessed since joining Professor Jaeger’s lab. I truly have no intentions of diminishing or calling into question the experiences of those who bravely came forward with their own experiences through the recently publicized allegations. However, I would like to share some stories from my overall positive experiences of working with Professor Jaeger as a female undergraduate.
I first reached out to Professor Jaeger in the spring of my freshman year. My email was clearly copied and pasted from a text editor, signed, “Sincerely yours.” The attached résumé was titled “Resume – Psycholinguistics (Reformatted).” Despite my obvious lack of experience and clumsiness in presenting myself, Professor Jaeger responded only half-an-hour later, suggesting we schedule a meeting.
By the end of our meeting, he had welcomed me into his lab and already introduced me to a new potential collaborator in a professor from the University of Pittsburgh. Over the course of my years as one of Professor Jaeger’s undergraduate research assistants, I got to know him as this absolutely brilliant scientist, renowned throughout the field for his computational and statistical expertise. But beyond this, I learned that he is also a silly guy with toe shoes, a fantastic Twitter profile picture, and a lax demeanor.
Last year, I worked more closely with Professor Jaeger, meeting with him on a weekly basis, along with a post-doc and two other undergraduates in his lab. He witnessed first-hand as our experiment failed to replicate a previous study — again and again and again, seven times in all. We were all so frustrated, ready to tear our hair out, but he kept us from being discouraged. He insisted that this research was relevant and worthy of being presented. He provided us with endless amounts of feedback for our abstracts and papers, comments that covered the entire span of the right column of the page.
When it came time to applying for internships, he provided detailed comments for my statement of purpose, and submitted a whopping 17 letters of recommendation. When I reached out to Professor Jaeger in a panic over a difficult academic decision late at night, he provided prompt, thoughtful, and straightforward advice. Furthermore, he would often help connect me with excellent scientists in the field. I strikingly recall having one such discussion with Professor Jaeger where he insisted I consider applying to study under a number of strong female (and male) scientists in the field who had a history of producing strong female students.
There are a number of us undergraduates who have genuinely liked Professor Jaeger. He is caring but stern, honest, and fair. His lab environment was the most enjoyable I have ever experienced. Graduate students in his lab purchased a toaster that prints his face on toast. We undergraduates wanted to purchase a Chia Pet modeled on his head, until we learned that it would cost us $1,500 — unfortunately, well beyond the standard undergraduate student budget for a small thank-you gift. When I left for the summer, I proudly declared myself as one of Professor Jaeger’s undergraduate mentees, endorsing his lab community everywhere I went.
A few days after this semester began, one of my fellow undergraduate researchers and I left for the largest European conference in sentence processing to present our work under Professor Jaeger. We were additionally excited because Professor Jaeger would be meeting us there and presenting a keynote speech that he had known about for over a year. His keynote was scheduled for directly after my poster presentation on the last day of the conference. Something seemed a little off that day. He did not come to see me present my poster, which was highly unusual of him, as he would always go out of his way to show support for his students. I attributed his absence to his tireless preparation of his keynote speech, which he took very seriously. A couple minutes after his speech was supposed to start, the conference organizers announced that in light of recent news, Professor Jaeger offered to withdraw his speech, and the organizers had accepted his request. It wasn’t until moments later that I learned about the federal complaint and the Mother Jones article released the night before, and that brings my story up to the present.
Once again, I must reiterate that I do not intend to call into question previous statements made with regard to this allegation. My hope in writing this open letter is not to persuade you in any particular direction. Rather it is my hope that this letter acts as a catalyst for conversation. I know many people who have worked with Professor Jaeger and would like to speak up about their own experience. But there is a great deal of uncertainty about how such statements would be received. Nonetheless, I believe that experiences from people who have worked with Professor Jaeger should be brought to public attention. I must confess that this has been an extremely difficult letter to compose, knowing that there are many people who have strong feelings about this situation, many of whom I consider to be close friends. I do not know what the outcome will be. But these are my honest experiences from working closely with Professor Jaeger as a female undergraduate student, and I hope you take away from my story whatever you desire.