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Arnold School of Public Health

Communication sciences and disorders student wins national award to support dissertation research

April 2, 2019 | Erin Bluvas,

After studying music and psychology as an undergraduate in her home state of Kentucky, Rachel Miller considered pursuing a Ph.D. combining the two fields. However, she decided she wanted to make more of an impact in a clinical setting.

“I discovered communication sciences and disorders (COMD) and hearing science, and thought it was perfect because I could still study sound and the psychology of sound, but it can be more clinically relevant,” Miller says.  “COMD is such a multifaceted field, and there are so many ways to be involved in these programs—as a clinician, educator, researcher, or some combination of all three.”

UofSC’s location near her parents’ retirement home on Lake Hartwell and the university’s national reputation made it the perfect fit for Miller. In the COMD department, she found a mentor in associate professor Daniel Fogerty, whose research focuses on hearing science and speech perception. The overlap of clinical and sound research was perfect for Miller, who plans to pursue a tenure-track faculty position and establish a lab of her own.

“Dr. Fogerty has been involved in every aspect of my training as a researcher and scholar in COMD: from my first semester struggling with Ph.D.-level coursework, to experimental design, and writing publications,” she says. “He has constantly encouraged me to apply for opportunities that I would never dream of applying to without his help and guidance. Finally, he has inspired me to become a faculty member myself in the future and pass on this mentorship to future Ph.D students in COMD.”

The Norman J. Arnold Doctoral Fellow is well on her way to achieving these goals. Miller has already published papers in peer-reviewed journals and is the recipient of both the Elaine M. Frank Fellowship (Fall 2018) and the Sharon G. Webber Endowed Fellowship (Spring 2018). Most recently, she received the Council of Academic Programs in Communication Sciences and Disorders Ph.D. Scholarship—the third UofSC COMD student in a row to receive this award.

Miller will use the scholarship to fund her dissertation project, which focuses on amplification techniques, listening effort and cognitive factors associated with speech perception. “Research in speech and hearing science is of clinical significance as treatment for individuals with hearing impairments often fails to restore ‘normal’ auditory functioning, even with technology such as hearing aids, and in turn impacts quality of life,” she explains. “Through my research, I aim to address this impact on quality of life and how it may be improved.”


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