Director Leah B. Helou
Dr. Leah B. Helou (she/her/hers) aims to ask questions and solve problems related to the pathways underpinning healthy and disordered voice and speech production. She maintains several distinct yet intertwined lines of research. Using gold standard experimental neuroanatomy techniques, Helou identifies the neural substrates underlying cortical control of vocalization in non-human primates. Engaging a variety of psychophysiological techniques, she probes the relationship between human stress responses, communication behaviors and various facets of personality and identity. Finally, drawing on her experience as a clinically certified voice pathologist, she seeks to improve the diagnosis and treatment of specific patient populations. Specifically, she has a particular interest in advancing the care of people with so-called “functional” voice and laryngeal breathing disorders and individuals along the gender spectrum. Broadly, all of Helou's research pertains to “mind-voice pathways."
Brett Welch (he/him/his) is a third-year PhD student at the University of Pittsburgh. His research focuses on understanding how one's personality and identity influence in their voice and communication behaviors. Welch also seeks to understand how these relationships and communication disorders affect a person's mental health. Welch earned a BA in linguistics and a BS in communication sciences and disorders focusing on speech-language pathology from the University of Texas at Austin. He then earned his MS in communication sciences and disorders from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, where he wrote his thesis on voice and identity as it relates to the gender spectrum. Welch currently holds his Certificate of Clinical Competency for Speech-Language Pathology (CCC-SLP) through the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) and continues to further his clinical knowledge as a voice clinician.
Jenny Michlich (she/her/hers/they/them/their) is a research assistant in the Helou Laboratory where they are working on an experimental neuroanatomy project related to control of the muscles of voice and breathing. They are interested in auditory-vocal-motors systems in birds and primates, neuroethology, as well as the application of neuroethology to fossil Hominins and extinct primates. Jenny is in a post-baccalaureate year at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Washington taking coursework in java programming, animal behavior and linguistics. They are currently translating an early German text on the anatomy of primate facial muscles for the Helou Laboratory reference library along with training undergraduate students on techniques in histology, microscopy and brain reconstructions.
Justina Fasano (she/her/hers) is a junior at the University of Pittsburgh studying Communication Science with a minor in Italian Studies. Following graduation, Justina plans to attend graduate school for either speech-language pathology or audiology. Justina is interested in better understanding how speech production and neurological function are related and the neurological pathways that are required for voice. She hopes to apply the knowledge she gains from the Helou Lab later on in her graduate studies and future clinical career. In her free time, Justina enjoys spending time with friends, hiking, traveling and exploring Pittsburgh.
Gabrielle Cavagnet (she/her/hers) is a junior at the University of Pittsburgh studying Communication Science and Disorders with dual minors in Linguistics and Administration of Justice. After graduating from Pitt, Gabrielle plans to attend graduate school and complete a master's degree in Speech-Language Pathology. She hopes to work with pediatric speech and voice disorders or with gender-affirming services for the transgender community. She aims to use the skills and knowledge gained during her time with the Helou Lab to refine her research skills and expand her clinical perspective as she progresses further into the field of speech-language pathology.
Sarah Hoch (she/her/hers) is a first-year graduate student of speech-language pathology at the University of Pittsburgh and a participant in the first official cohort of the university’s Clinical Concentration in Voice. An active member of Actors Equity and trained in Jo Estill technique, Sarah is pursuing a career working with professional voice users, especially singers and actors. After graduating from Drake University in 2011 with a BFA in Musical Theatre, Sarah spent ten years performing professionally at theatres around the country. Sarah’s work in the Helou Lab focuses on the laryngoresponders project, which aims to determine the percentage of the population that reports symptoms of stress and heightened emotion in the larynx and voice.
Sam Huynh (she/her/hers) is a junior at the University of Pittsburgh studying Communication Science and Disorders with a minor in Linguistics and Children’s Literature Certificate. After graduation, she plans to attend a graduate program for either speech-language pathology or audiology. Her interest involves voice perception and neurological pathways and functions for hearing. Sam hopes to work with children and marginalized communities. In her free time, she enjoys playing tennis, cooking and crocheting.
Erin Schmura (she/her/hers) is a post-baccalaureate student at the University of Pittsburgh studying Communication Science and Disorders in preparation for graduate studies in Speech-Language Pathology. Schmura holds a Bachelor of Music from the Eastman School of Music and a Master of Music from Carnegie Mellon University. Coming from a career that involves an intimate relationship with the voice, Erin is excited to explore the relationships between voice and identity, voice-mind pathways, and voice and trauma through her experiences with Helou Lab. Schmura maintains a private voice studio and enjoys exploring culture through cuisine.
Colette Bezanis (she/her/hers) is a junior at the University of Pittsburgh studying Communication Science and Disorders with minors in Linguistics and Social Work. Following graduation from Pitt, Colette plans to attend graduate school and complete her master's degree in Speech-Language Pathology. After completing graduate school she hopes to work with speech and voice disorders, specifically in pediatrics, and is excited to apply the knowledge gained from her time at the Helou lab in graduate school and beyond. Colette is involved in NSSLHA and Autism Speaks U and in her free time enjoys traveling, art, and spending time with friends.
Isabella Stofko (she/her/hers) is a junior at the University of Pittsburgh studying Communication Science and Disorders with a minor in Italian and a certificate in Conceptual Foundations of Medicine. Following graduation from Pitt, she plans to attend graduate school and pursue a master's degree in Speech-Language Pathology. Isabella hopes to one day work with those in pediatrics and early intervention or with voice disorders. Her interests also include language development and voice perception. In her free time, Isabella enjoys baking, reading, hiking, and spending time with her friends and family.
Rachel Bittner (she/her/hers) is a sophomore at the University of Pittsburgh studying Neuroscience and English Literature with minors in Chemistry and Creative Writing. After graduation, she plans to pursue an MD-PhD in the Social Sciences or Humanities, particularly in the Medical Humanities. Rachel is excited to join the Helou lab. She has a persistent stutter, and because of her experiences living with it, she is eager to explore the functional and neuroanatomical bases of disordered voice and speech production and how self and social perception of the voice intertwine with and affect one’s identity and behavior. In her free time, Rachel enjoys reading, writing, needle felting, and caring for her substantially-sized plant family
Julia Pan (she/her/hers) is a first-year graduate student at the University of Pittsburgh studying Speech-Language Pathology. Julia received a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Science and Disorders and a certificate in American Sign Language from the University of Pittsburgh. Her interests involve the adolescent population and cortical pathways underlying muscle control for speech production. She hopes to expand her research skills in her future career as a clinician and scientist. Outside of the lab, Julia enjoys cooking, puzzles, and hiking in her free time.
Elisa Monti (she/her/hers) is a voice-specialized experimental psychologist. She received her doctorate from The New School for Social Research. Her concentration is the relationship between psychological trauma and acoustic (and physiological) measures of voice. Monti is a collaborator of the Helou Lab at the University of Pittsburgh and is affiliated with New York Speech Pathology. She worked as a Teaching Fellow and as a Vocal Psychotherapist (trained by Dr. Diane Austin) at The New School. Monti is now completing Level III Montello Method for Performance Wellness Certification.
Charles "Chip" Dugan (he/him/his) is a voice and language development consultant at Pittsburgh Voice & Speech Partners and an officer of the National Association of Teachers of Singing, Tri-States Chapter. He has presented his research on professional voice issues at conferences and medical settings across the United States. He earned a Doctor of Musical Arts in Vocal Pedagogy and Performance at the University of Miami and is an alumnus of University of South Florida, Florida State University, and Ohio Northern University.
Diana Rose Becker