CURF Blog #2- Becoming a Researcher: Learning the Importance of Research in CSD

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I became interested in research through taking several CSD (communication science and disorders) courses within my major and understanding how research is an essential component of clinical practice (both in the CSD field and in a plethora of other disciplines). In the past, as a high school student, I had received the opportunity to conduct research at a laboratory under a research mentor, where I optimized a multi-color panel flow cytometry method to detect B-cell subsets in wild-type mice spleen. From this experience, though my understanding was still foreign to the impact of research and its significance to multidisciplinary fields, I was able to learn what research was, and what the process was like. As I mentioned in my first blog post, EBP is critical to practicing as a clinician in both audiology and speech-language pathology. It was through taking these CSD courses that the high school research experience and other experiences that I had previously, began to be more appreciated. I increasingly realized that research advances scientific knowledge and contributes to refining clinical treatment and practice.

In summer 2020, I reached out to Dr. Katie Belardi, the research administrator in the CSD department, expressing my interest in being involved in research, particularly in the field of pediatric audiology. After our meeting, Dr. Belardi connected me with my research mentor, Dr. Sheila Pratt, who runs the Pediatric Audiology and Auditory Rehabilitation lab. One thing that stood out to me regarding Dr. Pratt and her work was her focus on studying how hearing loss affects speech, language, and auditory skills in the pediatric population. I was also personally amazed by the number of clinical, research, and teaching experiences she had over the past several decades in audiology and speech-language pathology. Because of the pandemic, Dr. Pratt and I met through Zoom, where she introduced the project and assigned me to begin the literature review process, which would ease me into the project. While conducting a literature review, I was able to study a variety of publications that were within the scope of our project, while understanding what was currently known and not known in the field regarding our topics of interest.

One piece of advice that I would give to a student who’s interested in research but does not know where to start, is to first have him or her contact the research coordinator within the respective school or department. The research coordinator is a useful resource, who will help students begin the process of becoming involved in a research lab or receiving an opportunity to conduct research. Another piece of advice that I would give is to recommend that the student perform research on the different labs that the department has—looking up the research mentors, what the lab is called, and what they study would benefit the student before starting.

Reflecting back on professional goals, learning how to do research, or even just being aware of the research being done within the field will help tremendously in optimizing clinical practice and in providing treatment to a range of patients, backed by objective data and evidence. This may also cause clinicians to think more critically and carefully, as well as endeavor to study areas where patients may have not received proper treatment or help for not well-known health or medical conditions.

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