A Clarified Career Path
Undergraduate Communication Sciences and Disorders students learn from graduate-level research, mentors
By Laura Byerley
After earning a bachelor's degree in studio art, Jasmine Beitz decided to pursue a different career path – speech-language pathology.
Enrolling in the undergraduate program at the College of Communication's Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD), Beitz knew she wanted to earn a master’s degree in speech-language pathology. However, she did not know whether to pursue a career as a speech-language pathologist or to become a researcher.
Jasmine Beitz, senior CSD student
Now, after working with a professor/mentor through the University of Texas at Austin's Pre-Graduate School Internship (one of the initiatives of the Intellectual Entrepreneurship Consortium), Beitz plans to pursue master's and Ph.D. degrees in speech-language pathology to become a researcher and professor.
"I found through IE that I am definitely a researcher at heart and that I do have the ability to put in the effort I will need to complete a Ph.D. degree," said Beitz, who worked in Assistant Professor Bharath Chandrasekaran’s SoundBrain Lab. "IE helped me to have a graduate school-type experience that I may not have been able to explore otherwise."
In addition to learning more about graduate school, Beitz – and the following undergraduate CSD students – recently received awards for research conducted through the IE program:
- Beitz received a $300 prize for "Tone Category Learning and Production." The project measured how auditory training sessions affect peoples’ ability to understand and produce foreign speech sounds. The research focused on Mandarin, a tone language that uses four tone categories to contrast words. For example, "ma" pronounced with a high-pitched tone means "mother," while "ma" pronounced with a falling tone means "to scold."
Beitz found that training sessions improved word learning in adults and children. She is completing analysis on research surrounding peoples' ability to produce foreign speech sounds.
- Katherine Morrow, junior CSD student, won a $100 prize for "Compare Two Methods to Measure Consonant Perception in Noise." Morrow's research examined consonant perception by method of limit and method of constant stimuli. Preliminary results showed that the method of limit was more time-efficient, while both methods provided reliable data.
- Leah Arnell, senior CSD student, and Kaitlyn Lago, junior CSD student, won a $50 prize for "Grammar Development in Mandarin-English Bilingual Children." The project measured how English-speaking children who had been exposed to Mandarin since birth followed grammatical rules. Arnell and Lago found that factors, such as age and vocabulary knowledge corresponded with children's use of grammar.
Leah Arnell, senior CSD student and Kaitlyn Lago, junior CSD student
Their work is a part of a larger study being conducted by Assistant Professor Li Sheng and doctoral student Ying Lu. Continuing research includes analyzing the Mandarin grammar development of the participants and the quantitative data for cross-linguistically influenced grammatical errors.
"We couldn't have asked for a better mentor," Arnell said. "Ying Lu has challenged us with assignments in interviewing a child to elicit language samples, coding and transcribing speech, creating testing stimuli and academic poster creation and presentation."
- Eileen Alvarez, junior CSD student, won a $25 prize for "Improvement of Consonant Perception in Noise." Alvarez's research focused on improving speech communication in noisy environments. The project examined whether the acoustic enhancement of speech can improve the perception of stop consonants, which are produced by holding and then releasing air.
Eileen Alvarez, junior CSD student
Alvarez's preliminary results suggest that acoustic enhancement improved the identification of some stop consonants. The benefit from the enhancement may be dependent on the consonant category and the noise type.
Craig Champlin, chair of the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, said he was impressed with undergraduate CSD students' level of research.
"The research questions asked were important and timely," Champlin said. "The methods used to answer the questions were cutting-edge. The answers themselves were insightful. In addition to the research per se, the students displayed their work in accessible and comprehensible ways."
Richard Cherwitz, communication studies professor and director of Intellectual Entrepreneurship, echoed Champlin's thoughts.
"Students demonstrated a professional understanding of research methodology, the presentations were well-presented, the visuals were exciting and students were very articulate," Cherwitz said.
Each year, IE helps about 300 students from nearly every academic discipline on campus to find educational and career direction, said Sarah Kettles, director of IE Citizen Scholars, which organized the research poster contest.
"IE is a hands-on experience that is grounded in student-driven motivation to learn," Kettles said. "Because of this, students are better able to take control of their education and work with mentors in a way that facilitates learning according to student's terms. I think it's an excellent program that really provides interns with the opportunity to get a real-world perspective on the fields they are most passionate about."
In addition to participating in the IE program, students can choose from a variety of research opportunities in CSD.
At almost any time of the year, undergraduate CSD students can volunteer to work in a lab. Students also can register for a one or three-credit course called, "Studies in CSD" (CSD 178K and CSD 378K). In "Studies in CSD," each student works closely with a faculty member on a hearing, speech or language research project. In addition to "Studies in CSD," students can complete a two-semester honors project, which concludes with a research paper.
To see all of the 2012 IE Citizen Scholars posters, visit http://on.fb.me/IWq0WN.
Laura Byerley, (512) 471-2182