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Senior in Speech Pathology and Audiology
CEHS student Jake Cahn’s interest in studying speech pathology and audiology began in second grade when he started working with his school speech pathologist. Cahn, who struggled with a speech impediment, was able to completely eliminate the problem in two years.
When Cahn reached high school and began to consider his career options, the memory of this early experience stayed with him.
“I knew I wanted to go into healthcare, but in something more relevant to what I had gone through,” Cahn said. “That was automatically something that I thought of. It has such a profound impact - I saw a speech pathologist for a year or two, and it completely treated my problem.”
As a senior in CEHS’ Speech Pathology and Audiology Program, Cahn has benefited from the expertise of the program’s faculty by engaging them outside of the classroom.
“I’m somebody who has become more and more interested in research because of interactions I’ve had with my professors,” Cahn said. “Every course in the department has been taught by experts in their fields, whether it be phonetics, hearing science or speech science. It helps to see [my professors] outside of class and really be exposed to what they’re passionate about. ”
In order to further pursue his interest in research, Cahn participated in the WVU Student Undergraduate Research Experience, known as SURE, in the summer of 2018. SURE is designed for WVU students in all disciplines who have the desire to conduct research and ultimately attend graduate school. On top of this, the SURE Program gives students like Cahn the opportunity to attend weekly symposiums to learn more about what a career in research truly entails.
Through the SURE program, Cahn was able to work full-time for eight weeks in Kimberly Meigh's Speech Motor Control Laboratory, where researchers work to gain insights about how people learn to articulate words. In doing so, the researchers hope to be able to better understand how to help those who have difficulties with speaking.
“What I like so much about the research is that it’s geared toward clinical application and the goal of it is to benefit the patient,” Cahn said.
Cahn also enjoys seeing the ways in which speech pathology and audiology interact within a research setting.
“I enjoy the collaboration of [speech-language pathology and audiology] together, that’s one of the reasons I enjoy research,” Cahn said. “You can’t isolate either of them.”
In the lab, subjects are hooked up to an electromagnetic articulography machine. The machine’s sensors are attached to the subject’s mouth and tongue, and the subject is then asked to repeat a series of nonsense words. As the subject speaks, the censors send data about the subject’s speech articulation to the computer. Part of Cahn’s role in the lab is to analyze this data.
The summer was not the end to Cahn’s research in the Speech Motor Control Laboratory, as he has been a part of many extended experiments and continues to work with Meigh.
For Cahn, whose ultimate goal is to pursue a career in research, the chance to work in Meigh’s lab for the summer and throughout the school year was simply unmatched.
“It’s a privilege, really an opportunity of a lifetime to get this,” Cahn said.