Jennifer Riley: A Very Young Researcher Research ideas emerge from attending conferences, reading journals, and observing behavior. Researchers are taught to examine current research to determine future research directions, combine ideas from contrasting studies to form unique research, and then design and execute a study. Jennifer Lassie Riley, age 10, has attended more than 40 voice/speech ... Features
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Features  |   December 01, 2009
Jennifer Riley: A Very Young Researcher
Author Notes
  • Linda Carroll, PhD, CCC-SLP, is internationally recognized for her expertise in acoustic and aerodynamic assessment of the vocal tract, and rehabilitation of voice disorders. She has been active with clinical care of voice patients for over 25 years, and has over 180 invited presentations/publications related to voice management. She maintains a private practice in speech pathology in New York City, and is Senior Voice Scientist at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Contact her at lmcarrollphd@aol.com.
    Linda Carroll, PhD, CCC-SLP, is internationally recognized for her expertise in acoustic and aerodynamic assessment of the vocal tract, and rehabilitation of voice disorders. She has been active with clinical care of voice patients for over 25 years, and has over 180 invited presentations/publications related to voice management. She maintains a private practice in speech pathology in New York City, and is Senior Voice Scientist at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Contact her at lmcarrollphd@aol.com.×
Article Information
Research Issues, Methods & Evidence-Based Practice / Features
Features   |   December 01, 2009
Jennifer Riley: A Very Young Researcher
The ASHA Leader, December 2009, Vol. 14, online only. doi:10.1044/leader.FTR3.14162009.np
The ASHA Leader, December 2009, Vol. 14, online only. doi:10.1044/leader.FTR3.14162009.np
Research ideas emerge from attending conferences, reading journals, and observing behavior. Researchers are taught to examine current research to determine future research directions, combine ideas from contrasting studies to form unique research, and then design and execute a study.
Jennifer Lassie Riley, age 10, has attended more than 40 voice/speech conferences, typically sitting on her mom or dad’s lap. At these conferences, she has listened to cutting edge research as well as tutorial lectures and workshops. The daughter of two acoustics experts, speech-language pathologist Linda Carroll and voice trainer William Riley, Jennifer has observed laryngeal images and vocal sounds and is an avid reader, who is passionate about animals. At one conference, researchers had examined effects of scarring on rabbit vocal folds but didn’t know the F0 (voice fundamental frequency) of the representative sound samples from their study. Another paper at the same conference looked at grouping of vocal emotional states by listeners. Jennifer immediately said “Hey, Mom, we could look at animal F0 across different emotions!”
Jennifer knew the rabbit F0 would be high-pitched and would require easy access to the necessary equipment to reliably capture and analyze F0. She determined that she had easy access to dogs and cats (those at home and at friends’ homes), pigs and sheep (at her cousin Kaysia’s farm in Maine). Jennifer could elicit animal vocalizations across three or four emotional states (happy greeting, hunger, distress/pain, and play).
She found animal volunteers for the study, created sampling events, and tried to control additional noise events during the recording. She helped analyze signals with her mom, computing F0 from the acoustic waveforms and she assisted with data entry.
Her research found new ranges for the cat purr vocalization, as well as possible register shifts in young lambs. There also were vocal attention behaviors in the lambs that seemed to parallel strategies used by actors on stage to gain audience attention. Jennifer and her parents helped organize the data into a poster format and at age 10, she became the youngest presenter at the 2009 ASHA Convention. Her poster, “Frequency characteristics in animal species typically used in laryngeal research,” captured the interest of many attendees and sparked further research into the cat purr.
Jennifer and her parents now plan to expand research on cat vocalization behavior, but Jennifer is still a typical 10 year old. She enjoys playing with “Littlest Pet Shop” toys, petting her cat, and playing with her dog. Jennifer is a 6th grade student at Salk School of Science, in New York City.
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December 2009
Volume 14, Issue 16