Callier Forum Showcases Student Research Projects

Studies to determine whether smoking harms hearing and whether  childhood language problems can be predicted were among the projects presented at a UT Dallas Callier Center for Communication Disorders forum for undergrad and graduate researchers.

It was the second annual Promotion of Academic and Clinical Excellence (PACE) student research forum, held April 9 at the center’s Richardson location on the UT Dallas campus.

The students, enrolled in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, made 24 presentations on such topics as auditory processing disorders, speech production, cochlear implants, tinnitus and childhood apraxia of speech.

PACE, which was developed by Callier Center researchers, provides an avenue for students to gain research experience and showcase their completed projects, works in progress and future projects.

“Our goal is to provide a fun atmosphere where students and faculty can interact and discuss new, ongoing and completed research projects,” said Dr. Jeffrey Martin, assistant professor in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences. “PACE  provides an opportunity for Callier Center faculty to honor the valued efforts of our undergraduate and graduate students.”

Gabriel Abeyta, a second-year doctor of audiology student, presented his research proposal titled “The Effects of Smoking on Hearing Sensitivity: A Systematic Review.” His research will consist of conducting a meta-analysis of previous studies to determine whether there is a positive correlation between smoking cigarettes and hearing loss.

“There is conflicting data at this time. Some authors claim an association, while others refute it,” said Abeyta. “I expect my research will show a relationship between smoking and hearing loss, but additional data should be collected in order to clear up any conflicting arguments.”

Abeyta will begin working on his research this summer and plans to complete it by the end of the fall semester. He will receive guidance from his research mentors, Dr. Christine Dollaghan and Dr. Jackie Clark, throughout the entire process.

Melissa Sherman, a doctoral student in the communication sciences and disorders program, presented a proposal titled, “Machine Learning Approach for Expressive Language Prediction, Age Three to Six.”

“I chose this topic because I want to see if a statistical measure can predict later language ability based on previous language ability,” Sherman said. “Current expressive language measures have proven to be poor predictors of future impairment, so I hope the measure I use – called perplexity – will prove to be beneficial.”

Sherman will use machine learning techniques to create a statistical language model for the children at age 3 in order to see how it will predict their language at age 6. She will use computers to analyze 15-minute conversational language samples obtained from 681 children when they were 3 years old and again at 6 years old. The computer will be able to detect differences in vocabulary, word transitions and number of words per utterance.

Sherman’s research mentor is Dr. Christine Dollaghan.

“UT Dallas and the Callier Center provide a wonderfully unique environment for our students, both from a research and clinical perspective,” said Martin. “The PACE student research forum has proven to be tremendously successful for everyone involved, and we look forward to hosting the event again next year.”

Gabe Abeyta, a second-year doctor of audiology student, expects his research to show a relationship between smoking and hearing loss.



Doctoral student Melissa Sherman hopes to find a way to predict language proficiency based on previous ability.

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