Research

Want to get involved in SLHS research?

So you’re interested in research? That’s awesome! WMU is currently one of only 50 universities that is classified by Carnegie both for its high research activity and community engagement, so you are in the right place.  

What's first? Do your homework. Read the below research summaries of active research in the department. Go to Google Scholar or another scholarly search engine and google the faculty names. Most research articles will be available through the WMU Library system. Seeing their work will help you figure out which lab you are most interested in and also shows the faculty member that you took initiative to learn about what they are researching prior to contacting them. Research collaboration works best when you have common interests. 

What next? Contact a faculty member or two whose work interests you and ask if they have any openings in their lab, along with other questions you may have. Positions may be volunteer, require independent study enrollment, or be a paid position. Regardless, they usually require at least three hours/week.

Enjoy! Mentored research opportunities can be one of the most positive experiences in your academic career when the fit is right.

  • Audiology Research
  • student feedinb tadpolesin the lab
  • student adding chemicals under the fume hood

 
The following provides a brief overview of our areas of research:

Dr. D'Jaris Coles-White
Dr. Coles-White’s research area of interest is in studying the effects of cultural identity on social communication development and practices in neurodevelopmental divergent populations.  She is specifically focused on the social and learning needs of autistic children and teens with overlapping and multiple neurodivergent conditions such as language impairment, intellectual disabilitylearning disability, and central auditory processingdisorders that impact education and treatment outcomes.

Balance Laboratory - Dr. Robin Criter
We study balance and fall risk in older adults, the effects of concussion and traumatic brain injury on the vestibular and balance systems, and the effects of anxiety on postural control.

Communication and Neurodiversity Lab - Dr. Laura DeThorne
Dr. DeThorne’s research examines the multiple factors that shape children’s communicative competence in everyday contexts, with a particular interest in the social communication practices related to autism, childhood apraxia of speech, and use of augmentative and alternative communication. She is also interested models of disability and the application of the Neurodiversity paradigm to the field of communication sciences and disorders.

Neurogenic Communication Intervention Lab - Dr. Suma Devanga
We aim to bridge the clinical-functional gap in managing acquired neurogenic communication disorders by studying intervention approaches that better help individuals with aphasia and other neurogenic communication disorders to communicate in everyday life. Our research typically involves discourse analyses of conversation samples from target participants and their communication partners in different settings.

Lab of Aerodigestive Research - Dr. Matthew Dumican
Dr. Dumican's research focuses on how the airway and upper digestive tract work in swallowing, both in neurogenic causes of swallow dysfunction and healthy individuals. Current work in the lab is examining how swallowing disorders present in people with Parkinson's disease, as well as how neuromuscular treatments improve swallow function post-stroke. The long-term goal of this research is to improve upper airway protection, swallow function, and quality of life, for people experiencing dysphagia.

Stuttering and Psychosocial Outcomes Research Lab - Dr. Hope Gerlach
Dr. Gerlach’s research focuses on identifying and reducing disparities in quality of life between people who stutter and typically fluent speakers. Currently, she is studying the ways in which people who stutter respond to stigma and how these responses (e.g., concealing stuttering) relate to quality of life. This work, in part, involves investigating how people who stutter situate stuttering into their sense of identity.

Neurogenic Communication Disorders - Dr. Linda Shuster
We study brain mechanisms underlying speech production and perception, as well as acquired neurogenic communication disorders, such as apraxia of speech.  Methodologies we employ include functional neuroimaging, acoustic analysis, and perceptual analysis.  Our ultimate goal is to identify ways to help people recover their communication skills to the greatest extent possible after a brain injury and ways to maintain their communication skills as long as possible in the presence of neurodegenerative disease.