Alumni Stories 1

(From left to right): Jennifer Harte (graduate of class of 2010), Elaine Kearney (graduate of class of 2011), Clodagh Moloney (Quercus Sports’ Scholar 2014-2018; graduate of class of 2018) and Alice Lee (lecturer).


My colleague (Jennifer Harte) and I (Alice Lee/AL) presented at the ASHA (American Speech-Language-Hearing Association) Convention held in Boston on 15-17 November 2018. We met up with Clodagh Moloney (CM) for a poster session and I bumped into Elaine Kearney (EK) at an oral session on the future of speech and language science research. Both Clodagh and Elaine are graduates of the Speech and Language Therapy programme at University College Cork (UCC) and had worked with me for their final year projects. We were so glad to see them again at an academic conference! Below is a short interview that I did with each of them that I would like to share with graduates, current students and staff members of the SLT programme in UCC on what they have been doing since they graduated.

AL: Hello Dr. Kearney! It is so good to see you again at ASHA! I know that you’re now working as a postdoc at Boston University. So, tell me what kind of research are you doing at the moment?

EK: My current research investigates the sensorimotor control of speech in acquired motor speech disorders, particularly in those diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease (PD). Using both behavioural and functional brain imaging techniques, we can get a better understanding of how the disease results in changes to functional speech outcomes, such as speech intelligibility. In the future, the results of this investigation may better guide targets for speech therapy in this population.

AL: You did your PhD study in the Department of Speech-Language Pathology in University of Toronto. What was your project about?

EK: During my PhD, I also worked with individuals with PD. First, I characterised the speech movement disorder by analysing movements of the tongue and jaw during speech, as compared to age-matched controls. Then, I developed and tested a novel speech therapy program using augmented visual feedback, where the participants were able to see how their tongue moved while talking.

AL: Was the university life or learning experience in U of T very different from that in UCC?

EK: University life was very different in Toronto. I think the main reason was that it felt more like a job than doing an undergraduate program. Most of my time was spent in the lab, working with participants, meeting collaborators, and teaching classes.

AL: Do you have any advice or tips for current SLT students who plan to pursue a postgraduate research degree?

EK: There are lots of ways to get involved and most researchers are delighted to have interested students contact them, so don’t be afraid to reach out! It’s great to get some experience to help you decide what topic area you would like to pursue and if the research path is right for you.

AL: What is your plan for your career?

EK: The next step for me will be to apply for lecturer/faculty positions. I would love to be based at a university/research institute where there is an opportunity to continue my research program and also to mentor the next generation of SLTs and speech scientists.

AL: I wish you all the best in your future endeavours!

EK: Thanks a million, Alice!

AL: Hi Clodagh! So, you’re now doing a Master degree in SLP in the University of Massachusetts Amherst. How are things?

CM: Things here in the US are great. I have settled in to life over here very well, although I am certainly not looking forward to the Winter!

AL: Why did you apply to do a Master degree in the US?

CM: There were two reason why I applied for a Master’s degree in the US. Firstly, I had gone on two J1 visas to the US while I was in UCC, to both Chicago and New York and caught the travel bug. I loved life in the US and I was exposed to so many different opportunities in that time. This gave me a glimpse of the wide variety of opportunities which would be available to me professionally in North America, compared to at home, largely due to the size of the country! As well as this, I was offered an opportunity to go to the US on a hockey scholarship which is a once in a life time opportunity which I could not pass up. So, coupling my desire to travel and work in North America along with the opportunity to play Division 1 hockey in the US was the reason I applied for a Master’s degree in the US.

AL: Was the university life or learning experience in U of Massachusetts very different from that in UCC?

CM: University life is much different over in the US indeed, although it is not exactly the same as you see in the movies! The days in college in the US are much longer, however there is much less self-directed learning.

AL: As an educator, I’m curious about your own experience on how well the undergraduate programme has prepared you for this? I mean, what was useful and what would have been useful?

CM: My undergraduate degree prepared me extremely well for this degree. Many of the topics which I have covered so far were covered thoroughly in my time in UCC. The programme in UCC places a heavy emphasis on self-directed learning, which has helped me hugely in the Masters so far. There is a huge emphasis placed on is cultural diversity and cultural competence due to the nature of diversity in the US which is something I had not covered at length in UCC. As well as this the course is much more clinical based rather than academic or research based which UCC would have put a huge emphasis on.

AL: Are you planning to practise as an SLP in the US for a bit?

CM: I am certainly planning to do my Clinical Fellowship Year in the US after I complete the Master’s. This is like an intern year which you must do to obtain your certificate to practise on your own. I think after this I would definitely like to work in North America at some stage, which this Master’s enables me to do. Whether working is in the US or Canada time will tell. The people over here find my accent a little funny so I will have to work on that before I start practising.

AL: Best of luck for your study and hockey, Clodagh!

CM: Thank you Alice, I hope it won’t be too long before I see you and the other staff of UCC again.

Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences

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