March 16, 2021 | Erin Bluvas, email@example.com
Ph.D. in Communication Sciences and Disorders candidate Sigfus Kristinsson has secured a $10,000 New Century Scholars Doctoral Scholarship from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation – bringing his total amount of dissertation funding to $35,000. Kristinsson, along with classmate Lynsey Keator, is one of just 16 doctoral students nationwide to receive the prestigious scholarship, which is designed to support doctoral students committed to a teacher-investigator career in the COMD field.
Like his mentor, aphasia expert and COMD professor Julius Fridriksson, Kristinsson is originally from Iceland. He studied linguistics and speech-language pathology before working as a clinician to support patients with neurogenic conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, stroke and traumatic brain injury. Always fascinated by the neurobiology of language, and increasingly interested in aphasia (i.e., a communication disorder resulting from stroke or injury to the brain that impacts patients’ ability to speak, listen, read and/or write), he moved to the U.S. to study with Fridriksson and other members of the Aphasia Lab.
Currently in his fourth year in the program, Kristinsson contributes to Aphasia Lab research on the connection between brain damage and sentence comprehension in individuals with aphasia, how a certain genotype impacts aphasia, and the predictability of prognosis for those with the condition. For his dissertation project, Kristinsson is working to systematically evaluate and compare the predictive value of certain biographical and neurobiological factors for therapeutic effects in aphasia.
Specifically, he is examining whether and to what extent lesion information enhances prediction. He is also comparing and contrasting the added value of different neuroimaging measures of functionality and integrity of the remaining intact brain tissue.
“It's a rather wide-reaching project, and I'm using data collected as part of our POLAR trial - which is by now the largest trial aiming to comprehensively predict treated recovery in aphasia ever conducted,” says Kristinsson, noting that his dissertation project will, therefore, be the first study to systematically evaluate predictors of short-term and long-term therapy response in aphasia in a large cohort of patients. “A dissertation study of this magnitude would not be possible to conduct without the resources I have access to in the Aphasia Lab, so I'm both humbled and extremely excited to get the opportunity to address these critical research questions.”
After his graduation later this year, Kristinsson will continue to work with the lab as a postdoctoral fellow. As an aspiring academic professor and principal investigator of his own aphasia laboratory, Kristinsson’s additional two years at UofSC will bring him one step closer to his long-term goal of curing aphasia.