CSD Research/Labs Overview

Students can choose a research focus in normal and/or disordered aspects of speech, language, and hearing. Our research laboratories, developed and supervised by department faculty, offer students cutting-edge training opportunities in basic, applied, and translational research topics in communication sciences and disorders.

Most of our laboratories are supported by competitive grants awarded by extramural funding agencies, especially the National Institutes of Health.

Clinical Faculty

Michelle Quinn, M.A., CCC-SLP

Professor Quinn’s research investigates why listening in noisy situations makes spoken language processing difficult for older people with age-related hearing loss. Her research explores how young children use visual context when processing and learning to understand spoken words. Eye-tracking studies may shed light on early language acquisition processes of children with communication difficulties.


Research Faculty

Ciucci Lab | Michelle Ciucci, Ph.D., CCC-SLP

Dr. Ciucci’s research focuses on the neurobiological and behavioral underpinnings of motor control for voice and swallowing. Using clinical and basic science models, she explores how degenerative neurologic diseases, such as Parkinson Disease, affect these functions. This work may lead to new interventions to relieve the symptoms of PD, and potentially modify the progression of the disease.

Connor Lab | Nadine Connor, Ph.D., CCC-SLP

Dr. Connor’s research focuses on the role of aging, and on treatments such as exercise, in reversing or preventing age-related changes in cranial muscles. Real-world benefit comes from better knowledge of how currently used treatments may affect swallowing and voice disorder outcomes.

Language Processes Lab | Susan Ellis-Weismer, Ph.D., CCC-SLP

Dr. Ellis-Weismer’s research investigates the developmental course and nature of language processing in atypical language learners compared to those with typical language development. Her work focuses on late talkers, children with specific language impairment (SLI), and young children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD).

Little Listeners | Susan Ellis-Weismer, Ph.D., CCC-SLP

With principal investigators Susan Ellis-Weismer, Jan Edwards, and Jenny Saffran, learning language is one of the most fascinating things children do during their early years. From day one, children are Little Listeners who use the words they hear from family and friends to help them accomplish the amazing task of learning language. Even though most children pick up language with relative ease, some kids, including those with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), struggle to understand and develop language. The goal of the Little Listeners Project is to better understand why some children with ASD have such a difficult time learning language, and what we might be able to do to help.

Cynthia Fowler, Ph.D., CCC-A

Dr. Fowler’s research addresses the causes and mechanisms of hearing loss in aging and age-related diseases, including dementia and diabetes. In diabetes, Professor Fowler’s data suggest that accompanying hearing loss actually begins in the pre-diabetic stages, indicating that earlier treatment should be a focus.

Speech Intelligibility Lab | Katie Hustad, Ph.D., CCC-SLP

Dr. Hustad’s research studies the changes in speech language, cognition, and functional communication abilities among children with cerebral palsy (CP). By better understanding the different profiles of communication development among children with CP—and the stability of these profiles over time—Dr. Hustad will then work to develop interventions to improve communication outcomes, quality of life, and social participation for children with CP.

Language Acquisition & Bilingualism Lab | Margarita Kaushanskaya, Ph.D.

Dr. Kaushanskaya’s research aims to improve diagnostic practices for children who speak English as a second language, and who therefore cannot be tested using tools developed for monolingual English-speaking children. Because early diagnosis of a language difficulty is key to successful intervention and to the child’s ultimate quality of life, identifying ways to accurately index bilingual children’s development can make a significant contribution to public health.

Binaural Hearing & Speech Lab | Ruth Litovsky, Ph.D.

Dr. Litovsky’s research studies binaural hearing in persons who have normal hearing and in persons who are deaf and use cochlear implants (CIs). Her team is interested in whether CI users can benefit from having two (bilateral) CIs and whether, for children, having bilateral CIs at a young age offers unique advantages.

Research in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities Lab | Audra Sterling, Ph.D.

Dr. Sterling's research focuses on the development of language and cognitive skills in children and adults with neurodevelopmental disabilities. Through her work she hope to inform both clinical work and theory on issues surrounding assessment and treatment of language, the impact of additional diagnoses on language and behavior, and overlap between syndromes. She works with families who have children with fragile X syndrome, autism spectrum disorders, and Down syndrome.

Gary Weismer, Ph.D.

Dr. Weismer’s research studies motor speech disorders within the framework of theories of normal speech production, and aims to understand the limits and potential of those theories to explain aspects of speech production in dysarthria and apraxia of speech. Current work studies articulatory movement, the speech acoustic signal, and speech intelligibility in individuals with dysarthria.