March 16, 2022 | Erin Bluvas, firstname.lastname@example.org
Communication sciences and disorders (COMD) associate professor Roozbeh Behroozmand and epidemiology professor Susan Steck have been selected to receive service awards from the Office of the Vice President for Research. Behroozmand is the recipient of the Distinguished Research Service Award, and Steck has received the Distinguished Undergraduate Research Mentor Award. These awards recognize faculty throughout the UofSC system for their efforts as outstanding research-community supporters.
With a background in biomedical engineering and neuroscience, Behroozmand has spent the past decade researching the neural mechanisms of speech production and motor control in the human brain. He joined the Arnold School’s COMD department in 2014 and established the Speech Neuroscience Lab, where he uses speech signal processing, human brain electrophysiology and neuroimaging, and computational modeling to improve speech communication and the quality of life for individuals with neurological conditions, such as post-stroke aphasia and Parkinson’s disease.
In addition to leading studies in his own lab, including a $3.6 million NIH project to enhance research on brain damage and speech impairment, Behroozmand works with other neurogenic disorder experts at UofSC to understand how brain damage may cause communication disability in stroke survivors with aphasia. These partners include researchers at the Center for the Study of Aphasia Recovery (C-STAR), Aphasia Lab, and Aging Brain Cohort.
Beyond these collaborations, Behroozmand dedicates numerous hours to the larger research community at UofSC. The Distinguished Research Service Award is a reflection of his exceptional commitment to this community. In addition to numerous service roles at the department and school level, Behroozmand has served as a reviewer for faculty and graduate student grant proposal programs and as a judge for the annual Discover UofSC event hosted by the VPR Office.
“From students to faculty and staff, the entire UofSC community benefits from the university’s comprehensive research infrastructure,” Behroozmand says. “That foundation needs to be supported as much as possible to maximize the impact of this research, and I’m proud to be a part of that collective effort.”
Since joining the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics in 2005, Steck has explored ways in which nutrition is related to chronic disease etiology, with a particular focus on cancer-related health disparities. She has used her continuous external funding from organizations such as the National Institutes of Health and National Cancer Institute, American Institute for Cancer Research, Department of Defense and Prevent Cancer Foundation to include students in this work as researchers and trainees (e.g., establishing an interdisciplinary doctoral training program in breast cancer disparities research with support from Susan G. Komen).
Working with Steck’s team is the first research experience for many undergraduate students, so she offers various options depending on their interests. Over the past five years alone, Steck has mentored 12 undergraduate students, many of whom received funding (e.g., Magellan Scholarship) and/or completed honors theses under her guidance.
In addition to meeting weekly with mentees, Steck matches them with doctoral students and hosts monthly lab meetings – expanding their opportunities for mentorship/networking and getting involved in additional projects. They also work on professional development, manuscript preparation and other aspects of scientific research, with Steck encouraging lab members to present their findings at Discover UofSC and other conferences.
“My overall goal when mentoring students is to teach them to become critical thinkers who are aware of the strengths and limitations of epidemiologic research and who can apply their critical thinking skills to evaluating the literature and designing their own studies,” Steck says. “I have benefitted throughout my career by having dedicated and generous mentors, and I strive to pay that forward with my mentoring activities.”