Student Research Week: Inspired by the “Bachelor”, a University of California in France student studying aphasia

Alison Conrad always knew she would be attending the UCF. Her mother is a graduate and Conrad was raised in Orlando. But what she was going to study was still up in the air until she watched an episode of the reality TV show BSC.

The episode included a contestant who was specialized in communication sciences and disorders. This field studies language sciences, audiology, speech and sound sciences. Many graduates become speech-language pathologists or audiologists and work with a variety of communication disorders such as speech, language, and voice, and also work with patients with swallowing disorders.

“After I learned more about communication sciences, I started taking courses and fell in love with the field,” Konrad says. “I am excited about my major because I love being able to help others.”

She says the research is important because it helps improve speech-language pathologists.

“Research is very important to me because I want to be able to help those who need it by having the capabilities to deliver the best and most effective treatments possible,” she says. “Research is also important to the world at large because studies can provide data about different disorders and specific types of treatment that can help patients most effectively.”

Through her professors, Konrad became involved in research, which led her to the project she presents at Student Research Week (March 29 – April 1), which is free, open to the public, and ongoing at the Student Union. We sat down with the Orlando native to chat about the research project and how it affects his future career path.

Research topic: How aphasia affects friendship: perspectives of people with aphasia on maintaining and developing friendships after stroke

How did you develop the idea for this research project?

This research project is a multi-university collaborative project between UCF, FSU and Duquesne. Dr. (Lauren) Bislick from UCF, Dr. (Sarah) Wallace from Duquesne, and Dr. (Elizabeth) Madden from FSU are the faculty responsible for this project with assistance from research assistants at each university. They were interested in the impact of aphasia on friendships and social interactions, and all hope the study results will help implement new strategies that a speech-language pathologist can use to help improve and maintain friendships as well as quality of life.

What does your research study and how does it affect society?

My research aims to understand the effects of aphasia on the friendships of individuals with aphasia. Aphasia is an acquired language disorder that can affect speech, comprehension, reading and writing, although it does not affect a person’s intelligence. This study is particularly important for individuals with aphasia because they suffer more in everyday life, and a lack of friendship can significantly reduce an individual’s quality of life. Given the impact of aphasia on friendship, we hope to find a way to improve quality of life through the results of this study while reducing the stigma surrounding this disorder.

What should people know about your research?

The results of this study will contribute to a comprehensive understanding of the impact of real-world aphasia on friendships. Our collective goal is to help create interventions that a speech-language pathologist can use to help their aphasic patients develop and maintain friendships, which will ultimately improve quality of life and social engagement for these individuals.

What is your career goal?

My career goal is to become a Speech-Language Pathologist and I would like to pursue in the future a Mobile Speech-Language Specialist (SLP).

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