Six were honored by the Friends of the Life Span Institute

Six recipients were honored at this year’s Friends of the Life Span Institute dinner celebration: two graduate research assistants, and for the first time three investigators and one LSI staff member. Announced in the fall of 2017, the awardees were officially recognized in Friday, April 27, 2018.

The Friends of Life Span Institute Investigator Awards honor outstanding scientists who are principal investigators on externally funded LSI research projects. Three awards were given this year: two for a mid-career scientist and one for an investigator in the first years of his or her career. Recipients are selected based on the nature and quality of their research record and the potential impact, or realized impact, of their work in generating new knowledge or contributing to translational science in keeping with the mission of LSI. Recipients each receive $7500.

Dale Walker, a senior research faculty member at the Juniper Gardens Children's Project, was awarded one of two 2017 mid-career award by the Friends of the Life Span Institute. She is a national/international expert in early childhood development theory and research pertaining to learning language. This research has focused on identifying the effects of early experience on language development and school readiness, designing and validating interventions for promoting children’s early communication, and developing assessments and observations that can be used by practitioners for informing intervention with infants and young children.

storkel.jpegHolly Storkel, chair and faculty member of the Speech, Language, Hearing department, was chosen for one of two Friends of the Life Span institute mid-career awards in 2017. Her research focuses on understanding why some children learn the words of their native language so easily while others struggle, and discovering what can be done to help the children who struggle. Her current research focuses on children with Specific Language Impairment (SLI), who are slower to learn new words than their peers, placing them at risk for academic failure. Her long-term goal is to develop an effective word learning treatment for kindergarten children with SLI, thereby improving their academic and vocational outcomes.

The early career award of 2017 went to Navin Viswanathan. His research strives to answer a perennial question: how listeners understand language despite the variability of acoustics related to a speaker's dialect, rate of speech and background noise, especially in comparison to speech recognition systems. His work has broad clinical implications for tests of hidden hearing loss, children and adults with cochlear implants and childhood apraxia.

Kristin Muller was selected for the 2017 advanced stage graduate student award. She is a Ph.D. candidate in speech-language pathology and graduate assistant under the direction of Professor Nancy Brady. Her primary research interests involve communication in individuals with autism who have minimal verbal skills.

Kevin Pitt was selected as the recipient of the 2017 early stage graduate award. Pitt is a doctoral student in speech-language- hearing with an emphasis on neurology and the application of brain-computer interfaces for augmentative and alternative communication. His long-term goal is to translate laboratory based BCI research into clinical applications.

A New Honor

Jessica Black-Magnussen was chosen to receive the first Paul Diedrich LSI staff award.

jess.jpgThe award was created when Friends of LSI member and former associate director for finance at Life Span Institute, Kristi Billinger contacted the director John Colombo to ask that her contribution to the friends of the LSI be used to create a new award. Also she asked that it be named in honor of former associate director of project development Paul Diedrich, who was for 36 years in charge of pre-award at the Life Span Institute. Diedrich worked for many years with Black-Magnussen, who assumed the position of associate director of project development upon his retirement.

When presenting the award to Black-Magnussen, Diedrich stated, “I learned more about departmental administration from Ed Zamarripa, but the person who I learned most whenever interacting with the University was from Kristi about research administration, and the person who was most helpful to me was Jess.”