Jennifer Zuk, an assistant professor in the Sargent College Department of Speech, Language & Hearing Sciences, has been named the inaugural recipient of the Albert M. Galaburda Research Award from The Dyslexia Foundation (TDF).
The award provides $50,000 in research funding over two years to early or mid-career researchers who investigate novel research questions. In particular, the award provides seed funding for pilot or experimental studies, which allow recipients to test new ideas and apply for NIH funding based on the success of that work.
With this award, Zuk and her research team will investigate the parental factors associated with early risk for dyslexia among preschool-aged children. Their long-term goal is to identify modifiable risk factors in children’s home environments that can be targeted in novel intervention approaches.
“My engagement with The Dyslexia Foundation over the past several years has inspired and guided my research priorities,” said Zuk. “To receive this award in Dr. Galaburda’s name is especially meaningful as his scientific breakthroughs in uncovering the neurobiology of dyslexia has had a tremendous impact on my research trajectory over the past decade.”
Director of the Communication and Neurodevelopment Lab, Zuk studies factors in early childhood that shape the trajectory of speech, language, and reading acquisition. Her research focus closely aligns with The Foundation’s mission to promote interdisciplinary scientific advances that enable positive outcomes for children with dyslexia. Her research uses both behavioral and neuroimaging tools to study associations between the brain and speech, language, and reading abilities, as well as environmental experience such as music. As a researcher and speech-language pathologist, Zuk translates research to practice by promoting effective identification, access, and inclusion for those who experience communication difficulties.
“Professor Zuk’s background in clinical speech-language pathology, developmental cognitive neuroscience, music cognition, and education bridges multiple disciplines, providing a unique perspective and innovative approach to formulating novel research questions,” said Ben Powers, executive vice president of The Dyslexia Foundation. “As with Dr. Galaburda’s work, her proposal has the potential to trigger associated research in communication sciences and reading research.”
A cognitive and behavioral neurologist who studies the neural basis of language and learning disabilities, Dr. Albert Galaburda (CAS ’71, MED ’71) has made significant contributions to increasing the understanding of dyslexia and improving the lives of those with dyslexia. Galaburda’s pioneering research helped lead to the current understanding of the biological basis of developmental dyslexia and the relationship between anatomical asymmetries in the brain and learning disabilities. His discoveries more than 30 years ago set the foundation for a new era of studying dyslexia from a neurological perspective – suggesting a neurobiological basis for dyslexia and ultimately, revolutionizing the field’s perspective on the cause of dyslexia.
Zuk’s award was announced in June at The Dyslexia Foundation’s 2022 Extraordinary Brain Series Symposium.
Zuk received a PhD in speech and hearing bioscience and technology and an EdM in mind, brain, and education from Harvard University. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Boston Children’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School and was a clinical fellow in speech-language pathology at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital. Previously, she was honored by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association with the 2021 Early Career Contributions in Research Award.