On the Other Side of the Research at Purdue

As an undergraduate student, I have very much enjoyed my experience doing research with professors in the Speech Language and Hearing Sciences Program. It has allowed me to grow as a student giving me hands on experience and learning more about my future field.

In my research experience with Dr. Sivasankar, we are studying how hydration affects vocal quality. The graduate students in the lab were about to start a new study and they needed a participant to practice on before collecting results. I was lucky enough to be the guinea pig for this study.

This was my first time being on the other side of the research. Instead of collecting and analyzing the data, I was the data. It was a very unique experience. For this study, it tested how vocal fatigue affects the phonation threshold pressure. The phonation threshold pressure (PTP) is the soft vocal sound, just above a whisper. It is measured by holding a mask that covers the mouth and the nose. For the weeks prior to the experiment, I was analyzing the PTP from previous studies. I had not realized how difficult it was to make the noise at the same volume and pitch 50 times. After the initial measure was made, it was time for the “challenge.” This challenge was to read out loud for one hour in infant directed speech. Infant directed speech is essentially “baby talk.” I needed to speak dramatically changing my pitch and volume while reading a story. It was exhausting.

After the challenge, the graduate assistance retested my phonation threshold pressure and overall vocal quality. I was very tired and happy that the hour reading was done.

Being the subject for research gave me a new perspective on research. In order to get results, participants need to be willing to volunteer their time for the experiments. It made me very grateful to the generous volunteers who come in the lab just to further research in our field.

After this experience, it made me excited to start running my own studies and experiments one day. Research has given me many opportunities and I am looking forward for the opportunities to come.

— Sara Loerch, Junior, Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences

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