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Student Profile: Kristi Ward

What were your previous program(s) of study or experiences?

I was an undergraduate studying hearing and speech sciences at University of Wisconsin-Madison. Through my participation in the Honors Program, I gained early research experience investigating binaural hearing in children with cochlear implants. In addition to providing me with a strong scientific foundation, this experience ignited my passion for working with clinical populations, specifically children and adults with hearing loss, in a research setting.

What are your research interests?

The objective of my research is to better understand how listeners perceive and process degraded auditory input. Specifically, I am interested in understanding the role of cognitive processes, such as attention, in listeners’ ability to recognize speech when the auditory input is degraded, such as by hearing loss, background noise, and/or reverberation.

What is a project that are you working on now?

My dissertation project explores how hearing loss during childhood affects auditory selective attention – a cognitive process thought to contribute to children’s ability to understand speech in complex acoustic environments, such as a classroom. Ultimately, the findings from this project will inform intervention strategies to bolster these skills and facilitate better social and academic outcomes in children with hearing loss.

What made you choose Northwestern’s CSD department?

A primary reason I chose Northwestern’s CSD department is that the research interests of the faculty span the continuum from basic to translational, which provides a breadth of research opportunities for Ph.D. students. Additionally, because many of our research faculty, including my advisor, Dr. Tina Grieco-Calub, are clinically trained in audiology or speech-language pathology, I was confident that the training and mentorship I would receive would enable me to conduct research that is directly applicable to clinical populations. This is also one of the few places where I could pursue research and clinical training through the AuD-PhD program.

What resources or characteristics of Northwestern enable your research?

The interdisciplinary research opportunities at Northwestern have allowed me to work closely with researchers from different areas of expertise to strengthen and refine my own research questions and methodological approaches. In conjunction with the highly collaborative nature of researchers at Northwestern, these experiences have made it possible for me to diversify my scientific skill sets and broaden the impact of my own research.

What are your professional goals?

My career goal is to be a professor at a research institution running a productive laboratory. I will continue to use my clinical knowledge and interests to inform my research throughout my career, with the ultimate goal of improving outcomes for children and adults with hearing loss.