Allison Conrad always knew she would be attending UCF. Her mother is an alumna and Conrad grew up in Orlando. But what she would study was still up in the air until she watched an episode of the television reality show The Bachelor.

The episode included a contestant that was majoring in communication sciences and disorders. This field studies language science, hearing science, and speech and voice. Many graduates become speech-language pathologists or audiologists and work with a wide variation of communication disorders such as speech, language, and voice, and also work with patients with swallowing disorders.

“After learning a bit more about communication sciences, I started to take courses and fell in love with the field,” Conrad says. “I am passionate about my major because I love being able to help others.”

Research is important because it helps make for better speech-language pathologists, she says.

“Research matters greatly to me because I want to be able to help those who need it by having the capabilities to provide the best and most effective treatments possible,” she says. “Research is also important to the world at large because studies can provide data about different disorders and specific types of treatment that could help patients more effectively.”

Through her professors, Conrad got involved in research, which led her to the project she’s presenting at Student Research Week (March 29-April1), which is free, open to the public and ongoing in the Student Union.  We sat down with the Orlando native to chat about the research project and how that’s impacting his future career path.

Research Topic: How Aphasia Impacts Friendship: People with Aphasia’s Perspectives on Friendship Maintenance and Development After Stroke

How did you develop the idea for this research project?

This research project is a collaborative and multi-university project between UCF, FSU and Duquesne. Dr. (Lauren) Bislick from UCF, Dr. (Sarah) Wallace from Duquesne and Dr. (Elizabeth) Madden from FSU are the faculty members in charge of this project with help from research assistants at each university. They were interested in the impact of aphasia on friendships and social interactions and all hope that the results of the study can help implement new strategies that SLP’s can use to help improve and maintain friendships as well as quality of life.

What does your research examine and  how does it impact the community?

My research aims to understand the effects of aphasia on the friendships of individuals with aphasia. Aphasia is an acquired language disorder that can affect speech, comprehension, reading and writing, though it has no impact on a person’s intelligence. This study is especially important for individuals with aphasia as they struggle more in day-to-day life and lack of friendship can significantly reduce one’s quality of life. Due to the impact that aphasia has on friendship, we hope to find a way to improve quality of life through the results of this study while also reducing the stigma surrounding this disorder.

What should people know about your research?

The results of this study will contribute to a holistic understanding of the real-world impact of aphasia on friendships. Our collective goal is to aid in the creation of interventions the SLPs can use to help their patients with aphasia develop and maintain friendships, which will ultimately improve quality of life and social participation for these individuals.

What is your career goal?

My career goal is to become a speech-language pathologist and I would love to pursue becoming a traveling SLP in the future.