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Engineering and speech pathology Dr. Jeff Berry, assistant professor of speech pathology and audiology, and Dr. Michael Johnson, P.E., professor of electrical and computer engineering, have worked together before. Berry was featured in the 2012 issue of Discover for his research in motor speech disorder rehabilitation, which also drew on Johnson’s expertise. Now the two have received more than $600,000 in grants, including a recent $450,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, to create a pioneering database of the articulatory differences and physical techniques of accented speech. “By focusing on the articulatory methods of speech, we can show the subject the actual movements associated with the sounds they’re trying to make,” Berry says. Building on his rehabilitation research, Berry uses many of the same methods to create the database, which could have implications for automated medical transcription, the military, technical industries and more. The duo is first focusing on MandarinChinese-accented English speakers. “The application of this database for systems like speech-recognition software and other intelligibility applications is tremendous,” Johnson says. “This partnership opens a wide variety of opportunities to expand the field.” JESSE LEE
Here is what faculty have been up to since being featured in previous issues of Discover.
Since he was last profiled in Discover 2013, Dr. Murray Blackmore has had his research bolstered by seed grants and gifts, leading to a recent $1.6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health. The grant will fund Blackmore’s continued research into gene therapy reagents and the treatment of brain cells damaged in spinal cord injury, with the ultimate goal of regained motor control in injured patients.
Dr. L. Thomas Johnson retired from the School of Dentistry in late 2013, but his bite-mark research — which asserts that under the right circumstances and if the scientific method is applied — may be able to provide valid evidence in criminal cases for years to come.
In early 2013, Blackmore, assistant professor of biomedical sciences, hosted the Bryon Reisch Paralysis Foundation, Spinal Cord Injury Sucks, and Unite 2 Fight Paralysis to provide updates on his research. The groups, two of which are founded by people with severe spinal cord injuries, presented Blackmore with $130,000 to purchase necessary equipment upgrades. Blackmore cites this seed money as a major catalyst toward securing his larger NIH grant. “You often need some startup funds to advance your research to the point where you can pursue larger grants,” he says. “The gifts and donations we receive from these groups are invaluable.” Blackmore used the seed funding to purchase a personal image cytometer — an automated microscope that uses computer algorithms to rapidly analyze complex images and collect detailed data from millions of cells in a process called High Content Screening. The accelerated discovery process helped Blackmore in his grant application, ultimately leading to funding. JESSE LEE
First profiled in Discover 2007, the renowned forensic odontologist and adjunct professor received three research awards to work to establish a basis for applied science that can be used in the clinic and courtroom. Johnson; Dr. Tom Radmer, adjunct assistant professor; Tom Wirtz, dental informatics director; Dr. Dean Jeutter, P.E., biomedical engineering professor; and Dr. Joseph Thulin, director of the Biomedical Resource Center at the Medical College of Wisconsin; had their scientific paper published in January by the National Institute of Justice. The paper provides a template for image specialists to evaluate and rank dentition patterns against a benchmark to determine their evidentiary value and computer applications that will enable an accurate, reliable and repeatable way to evaluate bite-mark patterns. With bite-mark analysis, “We can’t say for certain, ‘That’s Charlie,’” Johnson, Dent ’61, says. “But if he has some very unusual teeth that few people in the population are likely to have, then the attorneys can take this into account along with the proximity, the opportunity, the motive, to argue their case.” BECKY DUBIN JENKINS