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Doctoral student earns scholarship for work merging kinesiology, speech-language pathology

Mariah Morton

School of Kinesiology doctoral candidate Mariah Morton was awarded a New Century Scholars Doctoral Scholarship from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation. Morton, who is a licensed speech-language pathologist, will be honored at this year's National Convention in New Orleans on Nov. 18.

Morton is working to earn her doctorate in kinesiology while working with mentors in both the School of Kinesiology in the College of Education and the Department of Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences in the College of Liberal Arts.

“My research merges the disciplines of exercise science and voice science for a focus on voice and upper airway physiology,” she said. “A secondary area I research is health care disparities for racially, ethnically and linguistically diverse people as well as rural-living individuals in need of speech-language pathology specific voice and upper airway care.”

As a speech-language pathologist specializing in the assessment and treatment in voice and upper airway disorders who also has an interest in metabolism and muscle physiology of the intrinsic laryngeal skeletal muscles during speech, Morton said her research interests are intrinsically interdisciplinary.

“I am gaining content knowledge in Kinesiology and applying such exercise principles to laryngeal physiology,” she said. “I hope my interdisciplinary work will lead to innovative and transformative research in communication sciences and disorders to deepen our collective understanding of an area still largely understudied, the metabolic pathways that drive intrinsic laryngeal skeletal muscle. And although my work related to health care disparities seems distinct, I argue that both lines of research are inherently interconnected. My ultimate goal is to be a teacher-investigator in communication sciences and disorders conducting research that impacts our discipline and leads to practical change for those in need of our services the most.”

Morton received $10,000 from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation as part of a program designed to support strong doctoral candidates who will pursue a teacher-investigator career in an academic environment at the university or college level in the United States.

“The scholarships will assist me financially by allowing me to dedicate more time to data collection as well as obtaining specialized equipment needed to enhance the methodological rigor of my research,” she said.

Morton hopes that her research will lead to positive change for her field and for those who need speech, language and hearing services.

“The results from my interdisciplinary work will hopefully lead to transformative research in speech, language and hearing sciences that deepens our collective understanding of the underlying mechanisms that support vocal function, so clinicians can provide more effective care to those with voice and upper airway disorders,” she said. “Also, the result of my health care disparity work helps characterize access to medical speech-language pathology care in Alabama as well as the United States. This provides vital evidence that is needed for possible policy changes at health care facilities and the passage of legislation at the state level to expand insurance coverage and health care facility reach to mitigate barriers to care for the most vulnerable members of our society.”

Morton was also awarded the Vanderbilt Hearing and Speech Sciences Rising Star Award and won second place in the poster category—University-Wide Graduate Student Winners in Human Sciences, Social Sciences, Creative Arts, Nursing and Humanities—during the 2022 Auburn Research: Student Symposium.

Tags: Speech Language and Hearing Sciences Students

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