Communication Sciences and Disorders Pre-Grad Intern Natalie Rooker

Natalie RookerMy IE internship has been varied, but much of the experience has been based in research. I worked on this research with my faculty advisor and with six other students. All of the students were also working with my advisor, either through the IE program or through a research program. Throughout the course of the semester, we worked on three projects, approximately one per month. Two to three students were assigned to each project, but all seven of us acted as participants in each project and also learned the background information of each project. The first project we did dealt with consonant perception in noise. Eileen, who is another IE intern, and I were the two students assigned to this project. The research dealt specifically with how people perceive stop consonants in noise, and whether or not spectral enhancement aided perception of those consonants in two types of noise, four talker babble noise and cafeteria noise. The test itself and the procedure were already set up, so we started by acting as participants, along with the other five students. We spent time wearing earphones and sitting at computers, listening to vowel-consonant-vowel speech segments (such as aba, aka, ada, etc.) in the two types of noise, and determining which segment we had heard.

After we finished the testing portion, Eileen and I started data collection. We saved the data in a specific format from a program called SykoFyzix, and then transferred it over to Excel. From there, we organized the data into tables and organized it into bar graphs to create a visual representation of the results for analysis. Finally, we used another program to create psychometric functions representing the information. Although there were only seven participants, the process of collecting and analyzing data was actually lengthy and took a decent amount of time. Finally, we were able to make a conclusion from our results. Eileen and I presented this project at the Longhorn Research Bazaar in April.

The project was a valuable experience. I really enjoyed the fact that we were able to see both sides of research-we were able to serve as participants, which I had never done before, and we were able to complete the actual data collection and analysis portion of the project, and draw conclusions. I learned how to use different computer programs that I had never used before, and I learned new Excel tricks and shortcuts that I will be able to use in the future. Presenting a poster to a judge was also a valuable experience. Eileen and I had to learn how to describe the entire project in easily understandable terms in a short, concise fashion. Figuring out how to explain the project in more general terms helped us to understand it even better ourselves. We also had to learn how to present to a judge, and we had to be ready to answer questions that she may have had. The presentation and the whole project was a worthwhile learning experience, because in graduate school I will be required to conduct and present my own research in a certain area. For most of my undergraduate career, research has seemed intimidating. In fact, the idea that I will have to do some research in graduate school has been one my biggest fears for graduate education. This semester, the IE program showed me that research does not have to be intimidating. Research is something that I am capable of doing, and there will be individuals around me who will be able to support me and help me along the way.

Besides research, I also had the opportunity to attend a graduate school class and to observe in the speech and hearing clinic. These two experiences were also invaluable. Attending the class showed me, again, that graduate school is manageable. Clearly the coursework will be hard; I could immediately see that through observing a class on cochlear implants and realizing the high level at which the class was taught. However, observing reminded me that graduate students are people, too. They had questions, they sometimes needed clarification, and most importantly, they obviously knew each other well and could provide support for one another for of all the hard work that goes into graduate school. The class also showed me that graduate professors are not necessarily intimidating. At least for this particular professor in the CSD department, it was obvious that she cared about her students and desired to help them learn what they needed to learn so that they could become well-informed, successful audiologists. Observing in the clinic was also beneficial. I will be starting clinicals next year, so it was helpful to see how graduate students go about working with their patients. It was nice to see some of the ideas I have been studying in a practical, real-world setting. The experience also helped me to feel more comfortable around the clinic.

My favorite aspect of the IE internship was that it provided me with connections throughout the CSD department. I had taken a class with my faculty advisor before, but I did not know him well until this semester. The program allowed me to get to know him better, and he was able to answer questions and share advice about graduate school. He also made himself available for any questions about research or graduate school. I had also had my graduate mentor as a TA for one course before, but, again, this internship allowed me to get to know her much better. She was a great support to have throughout the semester, and she made me feel much more comfortable during the process of selecting and deciding between graduate programs. The interview we did together was also extremely helpful. I learned about different websites and programs that I could use during graduate school to help me stay organized, and she talked about how she manages stress. She was able to explain to me how the first year of graduate school was, and how she was able to transition from undergraduate coursework into graduate coursework. She, too, made herself available for any questions. Even beyond my faculty advisor and my mentor, I was also able to meet and get to know various other professors throughout the semester, just by being in the lab and the clinic, and by working on research and observing in the clinic and in the class. One of the strongest reasons that I chose UT for graduate school was because of all of the people I met this semester. I realized that their personalities and their perspectives toward the field fit my own, and I was able to see how supportive they are of their students.

The IE program has been an extremely valuable experience for me. I was introduced to research, and the process showed me how to use several programs. Even more importantly, it helped me to realize that I am capable of performing research and that I will be able to do so in graduate school. In addition, the people I met over the course of the semester helped me to feel much more comfortable about graduate school, and I feel more prepared now that I did before. I feel that I have some idea of what to expect. This program also helped me to decide where I will attend graduate school, which is one of the biggest decisions I have ever made. I am very satisfied with my IE experience, and I am thankful that I was given the opportunity to participate in the program this semester.