Audiology Junior Ashley Woodall
Intellectual Entrepreneurship Program
Before entering the Intellectual Entrepreneurship program, I was already confident that I would pursue graduate work after my undergraduate studies. As a student of Audiology in Communication Sciences and Disorders, one must secure a doctoral degree (AuD) to be employed in clinical practice. Last Spring my advisor suggested that I take part in the IE program in order to gain insight into what grad school would really be like, and if that was something I wanted to do with my life. I am so delighted that I did.
Dr. Liu allowed me to work with him on his research project, where I met my mentor, Kathleen O'Brien. Kathleen has been such an enormous help to me this semester. She is from New York, so it was interesting to see how the clinic here at the UT Austin operated through the eyes of someone who did their undergraduate studies some place else. Before this pre-grad internship, I was uncertain about many aspects of graduate work. Kathleen was helpful and willing to answer any questions that I had. Also, she is a second year AuD student, so she was able to fill me in on all of her experiences that I wouldn't have received from someone who just entered grad school.
My pre-grad internship centered on Dr. Liu's research project which observed vowel detection and identification. Dr. Liu told me on our first meeting that he wanted me to learn how research projects were conceived, executed, and analyzed from start to finish. So, during our initial preparation Dr. Liu, Kathleen, and I brain-stormed on our experimental design and formed an abstract. Then, we sought out IRB approval and Kathleen and I participated in "ethics training" since we would be testing human subjects. This process required us to revise our design and resubmit the abstract.
After we were approved and ran the experiment on ourselves to make sure it was exactly the way we wanted it, we began testing subjects in the Psychoacoustic Laboratory in the Speech and Hearing Clinic. Dr. Liu, Kathleen, and I rotated our schedules so that we all took turns running the experiment and taking care of the participants. I'm sure this task would have been extremely boring to some people, but during my time in the lab I became certain that this was something that I wanted to do professionally. While we were running the experiment, I was able to talk with Dr. Liu about his experiences in grad school and what led him to become primarily involved with research at a university. He also explained the importance for students to continue to be interested in and pursue PhD degrees and continue research into the future. It was a wonderful learning experience to be able to sit and discuss all of the questions about grad school and even life outside of grad school with Dr. Liu and Kathleen in the time that was afforded by the lengthy experiment. That alone made this pre-graduate program valuable to me.
We haven't concluded our research project yet, but when we are finished we will analyze our data and submit our findings to the Acoustical Society of America. Earlier in the semester I was awarded a scholarship to attend a conference that was applicable to my field of study, so in May I will travel with Kathleen to Portland, Oregon and we will present our findings to the ASA. I am extremely excited! When I signed up for the Intellectual Entrepreneurship program, I never imagined that I would be conducting research and then presenting it to some of the leading Audiologists and Hearing Scientists in the country! I feel so lucky to be able to be apart of this program; I know most undergraduates never get to experience these kind of opportunities during their studies.
Before the internship I had only considered clinical work. Now, I am seriously considering a more research-oriented path of study, and possibly the pursuit of a PhD or double AuD/PhD in grad school. Working with Dr. Liu and Kathleen allowed me to see and become aware of all of the exciting things that are happening in the world of Audiology right now. As the baby boomers age, they will need assistive devices to improve their quality of hearing. From hearing aids to cochlear implants, all future technology comes from the research that is being done right now in labs like the one here at the University of Texas, and that is so inspiring to me. I feel a sense of accomplishment assisting on Dr. Liu's research this semester; I can only imagine doing that all the time, professionally.
Overall, the Intellectual Entrepreneurship program has been incredibly rewarding and has allowed me to grow as a student and a person. I had never assisted in any kind of research before this internship, and now that I have had this opportunity I am tremendously motivated to be involved with Independent Research next semester to carry on what I've done this semester in hearing and speech perception.
I can't thank the University of Texas, Dr. Cherwitz, and all those that are involved enough for allowing the Intellectual Entrepreneurship to continue to be such a wonderful opportunity for undergraduate students. The skills and concepts I gained are invaluable to me and I will be able to utilize them when I enter a graduate program. I am excited about attending the Acoustical Society of America conference in May, and I am certain that will be an incredible experience as well. Also, the chance to work with a graduate student mentor is comforting during this time when finals and applications are overwhelming. Kathleen, and my time in the IE internship program, really helped me understand what I need to do to fully accomplish my goals.