Alumni Spotlights

Defne Abur, PhD received a B.S. in Engineering Science from Smith College with a concentration in Biomathematics and acoustics completed her doctoral training in the STEPP Lab for Sensorimotor Rehabilitation Engineering. Her doctoral work focused on auditory factors in speech production, and the use of auditory perturbation paradigms to study speech motor control. Her dissertation work, funded by an NIH/NIDCD F31 grant, studied longitudinal changes to speech acoustics within individuals with Parkinson’s disease to improve understanding of the relationship between Parkinson’s disease progression and speech symptoms. She is currently an assistant professor at The University of Groningen, where she directs the Speech Biosignal Processing Lab.


Emily Braun is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication Sciences & Disorders at the University of Cincinnati. Emily completed a bachelor’s degree in linguistics and a master’s degree in speech-language pathology from Northwestern University. Prior to beginning her doctoral studies, she worked as a speech-language pathologist in both acute rehabilitation and research settings and is licensed to practice in Illinois and Massachusetts. Emily completed her doctoral work in the Aphasia Research Laboratory / Center for Brain Recovery at Boston University under the direction of Swathi Kiran. Her dissertation work focused on evaluating the neural correlates of discourse production using functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS). Ultimately, Emily’s research is aimed at characterization of post-stroke aphasia and improved treatments to maximize communication and life participation for individuals with aphasia.


Christopher Conroy completed his doctoral training in the Psychoacoustics Laboratory under the mentorship of Professor Gerald Kidd Jr. During his time at BU, Christopher conducted research on a number of topics related to human auditory perception, with a particular focus on the relationship between uncertainty and attention in the processing and perception of both basic auditory cues and complex sound mixtures. Currently, he is a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the McPeek Laboratory at the State University of New York College of Optometry where, under the mentorship of Professor Robert M. McPeek, he is studying the neural mechanisms of visual attention and visually guided action.


Will Evans, PhD, CCC-SLP (’15) received his BA in psychology and linguistics from UMass Amherst and came to Boston University as a full-time research assistant in BU’s Language Science Lab in 2006. While working with Professors Gloria Waters and David Caplan, he earned his MS in speech-language pathology and PhD in speech, language & hearing sciences while also completing a part-time clinical fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital. Will combined this clinical experience with his research interests in aphasia for his NIH-funded doctoral dissertation, looking at executive attention abilities and speed-accuracy trade-offs in aphasia. He moved to Pittsburgh to complete
a clinical postdoc at the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System, and is currently an associate professor of communication sciences and disorders with tenure at the University of Pittsburgh, where he directs the the Language Rehab and Cognition Lab and serves as a co-PI of the Pittsburgh Translational Aphasia Research Initiative (PTARI).
 His current NIH-funded clinical research is focused on counseling and adaptive computer-based interventions for stroke survivors with aphasia.


Saul Frankford, PhD (’21) received a BA in music and human communication sciences from Northwestern University. As a NIH/NIDCD T32 training grant fellow, he completed his PhD under the mentorship of Professor Frank Guenther in the Speech Neuroscience Lab. In his doctoral research, Saul examined the individual reliability of neural speech activation measured by fMRI, as well as the neural and behavioral underpinnings of intrinsic and extrinsic speech timing in adults who stutter. He recently completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Mass Eye and Ear Infirmary / Harvard Medical School focused on neural and behavioral processing in laryngeal dystonia, and is continuing his postdoctoral training in the STEPP Lab for Sensorimotor Rehabilitation Engineering. His long-term goal is to establish a research program that integrates behavioral and neuroimaging techniques to investigate sensorimotor timing control in speech and voice disorders.


Natalie Gilmore, PhD, CCC-SLP (’21) is a postdoctoral research fellow in the Laboratory for NeuroImaging of Coma and Consciousness (NICC) at Massachusetts General Hospital led by Dr. Brian Edlow. She is currently responsible for the cognitive-behavioral assessment in a study investigating neurocognitive, neurobehavioral and physical, neuroimaging, and blood biomarkers of repetitive low-level blast exposure in active-duty Special Forces members. Natalie is also spearheading a TBI Model Systems (TBIMS) database study investigating the relationship between changes in cognition, participation and quality of life outcomes in individuals with moderate to severe traumatic brain injury. Finally, she is leading a multi-site analysis examining network-based structural connectivity and cortical volumetric markers of cognitive outcomes in individuals with chronic traumatic brain injury. Her long-term research goals are to develop and test cognitive rehabilitation approaches for individuals with acquired brain injury and in parallel, to use neuroimaging to study neural mechanisms that may be underlying rehabilitation-induced cognitive recovery. During her doctoral studies in the BU Aphasia Lab (PI: Kiran), she was involved in several projects investigating treatment outcomes in individuals with aphasia, including a systematic review with meta-analysis of three of the most commonly-used assessments in the field. Natalie’s NIH/NIDCD F31 funded doctoral research examined the behavioral and neural effects of her PhD mentor Swathi Kiran’s Intensive Cognitive and Communication Rehabilitation program in young adults with acquired brain injury. In terms of her background, Natalie has her MS in medical speech-language pathology from the University of Washington and her BA in communication sciences & disorders from the University of Pittsburgh. Before starting her doctoral program at BU in 2015, Natalie worked as a speech-language pathologist at MossRehab in Philadelphia, PA, and she is currently licensed to practice in Massachusetts.


Liz Heller Murray, PhD, CCC-SLP (’19) received a BA in psychology and linguistics from Emory University in 2009 and a master of science in speech-language pathology, with a concentration in voice disorders, from the MGH Institute of Health Professions in 2013. Liz completed her PhD under the mentorship of Professor Cara Stepp in the STEPP Lab for Sensorimotor Rehabilitation Engineering. In Liz’s doctoral research she focused on voice, velopharyngeal, and respiratory control, employing acoustic methods, respiratory inductance plethysmography, and auditory-motor perturbations. Her dissertation, funded by an NIH/NIDCD F31, focused on vocal motor control in school-age children with and without vocal fold nodules and was completed in collaboration with speech-language pathologists and otolaryngologists at Boston Children’s Hospital. Liz completed postdoctoral training in the Speech Neuroscience Lab at Boston University, funded by a NIH/NIDCD T32 training grant. Liz is currently a tenure-track assistant professor at Temple University, where she investigates the development of typical and disordered voice and speech production in her lab, the Vocal Development Lab.


Sabrina Horvath, PhD, CCC-SLP (’19) received her BA in history and linguistics from the College of William and Mary and her MS in speech-language pathology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Prior to her PhD program, Sabrina worked as a speech-language pathologist for the Children’s Hospital of Richmond. At Boston University, she studied under the mentorship of Associate Professor Sudha Arunachalam. Sabrina’s doctoral research focused on toddlers’ verb vocabularies. In one line of research, she explored whether children with or at risk for language disorder (e.g., children with autism spectrum disorder, late talkers) use the same cues for learning new verbs as typically developing children. In another, she tackled methodological issues surrounding assessment and measurement of children’s receptive verb vocabularies. Following graduation, Sabrina completed a T32 postdoctoral fellowship at Purdue University under the joint mentorship of Drs. Arielle Borovsky and Laurence Leonard. She is currently a tenure-track assistant professor at the Medical University of South Carolina. She is also the PI for the MACAW Lab (Methods of Acquiring Concepts and Words), focusing on earlier identification of and more efficacious interventions for children with language disorders.


Jeffrey Johnson, PhD, CCC-SLP (’18) received a BA in English and mass communication from Miami University in 2005 and an MS in speech-language pathology from Vanderbilt University in 2012. After completing a Clinical Fellowship Year at VA Tennessee Valley Healthcare System in 2013, he enrolled in the doctoral program in Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences at Boston University, where he studied under the mentorship of Professor Swathi Kiran. In his doctoral research, Jeff investigated the neural underpinnings of language recovery in aphasia and developed and tested interventions for acquired reading and writing deficits. In fall 2018, Jeff began a postdoctoral fellowship in the Geriatric Research, Education, and Clinical Center at VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System (VAPHS), and in 2020, he received a VA Career Development Award to support his research on neuroimaging-based predictors of aphasia therapy outcomes. Jeff’s long-term career goal is to develop a comprehensive research program focused on improving service delivery and maximizing rehabilitation outcomes for individuals with aphasia.


Ran Li (’22) received a BA in linguistics and hearing & speech sciences, and a MA in speech-language pathology from the University of Maryland. At Boston University, Ran worked with Professor Swathi Kiran in the Aphasia Research Laboratory. Her dissertation investigated patterns of lexical impairment and treatment-induced language recovery between nouns and verbs in Mandarin-English bilingual adults with aphasia. She is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Hong Kong under the mentorship of Professor Shelley Tong. Her current research aims to understand both behavioral and neural mechanisms in individuals with reading difficulty. Ran’s long-term career goal is to obtain a research faculty position to conduct her research on both neurological and neurodevelopmental language disorders.


Tory McKenna, PhD, CCC-SLP (’18) completed her doctoral training with Professor Cara Stepp in the Stepp Lab for Sensorimotor Rehabilitation Engineering and her post-doctoral training as an NIH T32 postdoctoral awardee at Purdue University. She is now an assistant professor in CSD at the University of Cincinnati with dual appointments in Biomedical Engineering and Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery. Tory leads the multidisciplinary Voice & Swallow Mechanics Lab which is currently working on multiple projects partially funded by ASH Foundation, ASHA, NIH and UC internal grants. Her translational research aims to quantify sensorimotor impairment to improve the efficiency of diagnosis and treatment in those with voice and swallowing disorders. Visit VSMechLab.com from more information on her projects and research team.


Erin Meier, PhD, CCC-SLP (’18) received a BA in communication sciences and disorders from Augustana College and an MS in speech, language, and hearing sciences from Purdue University. Prior to starting her doctoral degree, she worked as a clinical speech-language pathologist at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (currently known as the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab). At Boston University, Erin worked with Professor Swathi Kiran in the Aphasia Research Laboratory. Her dissertation addressed the relationship between task-based effective connectivity, structural integrity, and lexical-semantic and naming abilities in individuals with chronic stroke-induced aphasia. From 2018 – 2020, she completed a post-doctoral research fellowship in Vascular Neurology in the Stroke Cognitive Outcomes & Recovery (S.C.O.R.E.) Lab at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine (PI: Dr. Argye Hillis). She is currently an assistant professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at Northeastern University. As the PI of The Aphasia Network (TAN) Lab at Northeastern, she and her team investigate the neural and behavioral bases of recovery of everyday communication skills in people with aphasia (PWA) with the ultimate goal of creating functional therapies that positively affect real-world outcomes for PWA.


Yeonggwang “Paul” Park received a BA in Music (voice) from Gordon College, and completed his doctoral training under the mentorship of Cara Stepp. His doctoral research explored the translational potential of relative fundamental frequency, an acoustic measure that has been proposed for assessing vocal hyperfunction. He completed his postdoctoral training in the Auditory and Speech Sciences Laboratory at the University of South Florida. He is currently a research assistant professor at the University of Central Florida, where his research focuses on advancing auditory-perceptual and acoustic evaluations of voice quality and developing new clinical measures for assessing voice quality in both adult and pediatric populations.