New faculty join Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD) at Penn State has welcomed three new faculty members. 

Navin Viswanathan, who joins as associate professor, comes from the University of Kansas where he was associate professor in the Department of Speech-Language-Hearing Sciences and Disorders. 

“I am very excited to be joining the department and hope that my background in the cognitive and linguistic sciences will be a nice fit with the exciting initiatives that are already underway in the department,” Viswanathan said. “I look forward to making contributions to further increase our students' exposure to the foundational concepts in communication sciences in the classroom as well as improving their research experiences.”

Viswanathan’s research interests include understanding the process of speech perception and production within the general framework of perception, action and cognition.

“The fundamental focus of my research is to explain how human listeners are able to understand spoken language despite the numerous factors — different speakers, accents, noisy environments — that should make this process nearly impossible,” he said. “My plans in the near future is to study these questions under conditions that best capture what listeners typically encounter in everyday listening.”

Anne Olmstead, who joins as assistant professor, also comes from the University of Kansas where she was a research technician in the Department of Speech-Language-Hearing Sciences and Disorders. 

Olmstead’s research focuses on understanding the dynamics of communication when people are in conversation with each other. 

“Specifically, I focus on the behaviors and change in behaviors that support communication in these circumstances,” she said. 

Currently, Olmstead is developing methods that will allow her to examine people's behaviors during conversation more closely and precisely. 

“Moving forward, I hope to develop these methods and better understand the processes underlying communication and language change,” Olmstead said. “I'm looking forward to working at Penn State and the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders in particular because of how supportive and collaborative the community here is.”

Michael Robb, who joins as professor, comes from the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand, where he was professor and head of the school of health sciences. 

“I'm looking forward to working with the staff and faculty in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders,” Robb said. “The department has a global reputation for its clinical and research excellence and I view my appointment as an opportunity to engage with some of the leading researchers in the field of communication sciences and disorders.”

Robb’s research interests include speech acquisition, experimental phonetics, speech acoustics, speech motor control and stuttering. 

One focus, within the study of speech acoustics, is infant crying. 

“I have been involved in a series of projects evaluating the acoustic properties of crying in healthy and at-risk infants. The ultimate aim of this research is to use properties of crying as a marker for later communication development,” Robb said.

In another project that focuses on stuttering, Robb examines the environmental influences, language influences and neurophysiological behaviors that seem to characterize stuttering. The aim of this research is to further define the unique behaviors of stuttering that differentiates those who do from those who don't, he said. 

For more information on the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders visit hhd.psu.edu/csd

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Last Updated August 30, 2018