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Katya Hill

Katya Hill, Ph.D., CCC-SLP obtained a Ph.D. in Rehabilitation Science and Technology  at the University of Pittsburgh and directs the research in the AAC & BCI iNNOVATION Laboratory (iLAB) in the Department of Communication Science and Disorders, School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh. Her research has been funded by NIH, NIDILRR, the Veteran’s Administration and foundations. Dr. Hill’s research focuses on augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) and brain computer interface (BCI) performance measurement, development of language activity monitoring (LAM) tools, standardization of metrics to monitor the effectiveness of AAC technologies for various clinical populations and establishing AACBank, a repository of AAC and BCI language samples. Current funded research from NIH and NIDILRR involves testing the performance and usability of BCI access for technology for expressive communication. The iLab is conducting a clinical trial of an AAC-BCI prototype with participants with ALS and/or severe movement disorders.

Graduate Students

Michael O’Leary     

Michael O’Leary, M.S. CCC-SLP, is a graduate student in the Rehabilitation Science and Technology Doctoral Program. His research focus is on developing timed logged procedures to measure selection rate (bits per second) to compare the performance achieved by individuals using various access methods especially eye gaze and brain computer interface (BCI). He has presented at national and state conferences including the American Speech Language Hearing Association (ASHA) Convention, the Pennsylvania State Speech and Hearing Conference (PSHA), Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) conference and Closing the Gap. Mr. O’Leary won the …

Chelsea Woodworth

Chelsea Woodworth, BSN, RN, is a current student in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences pursuing her Master’s degree in Health Informatics. She has been a research assistant in the AAC-BCI PAT lab since 2018, specializing in database system management and data analytics. In this role she also coordinates and executes research activities ensuring security, accessibility, patient safety and compliance with regulatory agencies.

Research Assistant

The iLAB provides a variety of opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students from various SHRS departments and Linguistics to volunteer based on their interests. Funded studies by the National Institute of Health (NIH) and National Institute of Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) provided some hourly student research positions. 

Students may request to complete a thesis based on their research interests and roles and responsibilities of their lab involvement and efforts under the direction of Dr. Hill. 

Affiliated Researchers

Ming Chen

Dr. Chen was a post-doctorate fellow in the AAC Performance and Testing Lab, now iLAB, working with Dr. Hill on AAC interventions and technology for children in Taiwan and China who speak Mandarin. Dr. Chen chairs the Department of Special Education at the National Chiayi University in Taiwan. He has over 60 publications.

Jane Huggins

Dr. Huggins is an associate research scientist in Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation and the director of the University of Michigan Direct Brain Interface Laboratory. Her current focus is making EEG-based brain-computer interfaces practical for people who need them. Dr. Huggins is a co-PI with Dr. Hill on NIH and NIDILRR funded projects to improve the functionality and usability of AAC-BCI devices. Her work with Dr. Hill includes real-time testing of AAC-BCI technology and clinical services for individuals with ALS or other disabilities resulting in minimal movement.

Brian MacWhinney

Dr. MacWhinney is a Professor in the Department of Psychology at Carnegie Mellon University and well known and awarded for his research in child language acquisition. Dr. MacWhinney is noted for his contribution of the Child Language Data Exchange System (CHILDES) framework to support transcribing and analyzing language samples and language acquisition data. His research includes establishing several language sample repositories for support the study of linguistic development and competence including TalkBank and AphasiaBank. Dr. Hill’s AAC language sampling repository is modeled after Dr. MacWhinney’s framework and guidance.  

Eric Nyberg

Dr. Nyberg is a Professor in the Language Technologies Institute at Carnegie Mellon University and a recipient of the Allen Newell Award for Research Excellence for his work as an original developer on the Watson Project. He is noted for his contributions to the field of automatic text translation and has contributed to Dr. Hill’s work on automated data logging, corpus analysis and computational data analysis. Dr. Nyberg is a Co-Founder of the AAC Data Logging Consortium.         


Szu-Han Kay Chen

Dr. Chen completed the doctoral program in Rehabilitation Science and Technology (RST) and was a research assistant in the AAC Performance and Testing Lab. While a research assistant in the iLAB, she was involved in studies to validate Mandarin Chinese (MC) vocabulary frequency, MC AAC displays and AAC invention for MC speaking individuals. Dr. Chen’s dissertation was on innovative AAC treatment approach for people with aphasia. Dr. Chen is an assistant professor in the Department of Communication Disorders and Sciences at Fredonia State University of New York.

Tom Kovacs

Dr. Kovacs completed the doctoral program in Communication Science and Disorders (CSD) and was a research assistant in iLab focusing on language sampling and technology for expressive communication to support linguistic analysis of AAC speakers. Besides being on the research team analyzing language samples of individuals using brain computer interface (BCI) access for communication, Dr. Kovacs conducted research using language activity monitoring (LAM) and multimedia recordings to report various linguistic milestones in children using AAC. Dr. Kovacs is an assistant professor in the Department of Communication Science and Disorders at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.   

Nadwah Onwi

Ms. Onwi completed her Masters’ degree in the Department of Rehabilitation Science and Technology (RST) and was mentored by Dr. Hill to research an AAC corpus for Malay to support the vocabulary selection and organization for AAC displays taking into consideration the morphology of the Malaysian language. Her R&D efforts included validating a Malay manual communication. Ms. Onwi is the subject matter expert in rehabilitation for speech language therapy at Hospital Rehabilitasis Cheras, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Sangeun Shin

Dr. Shin completed the doctoral program in Communication Science and Disorders (CSD) and was a research assistant in iLAB. Her research efforts included conducting studies involving language sampling, Korean vocabulary frequency and the word retrieval process from a picture naming task for individuals with aphasia. Dr. Shin is in the Department of speech Language Pathology, Chungnam University, Daejon, South Korea.

Erh-Hsuan Wang

Dr. Wang completed the doctoral program in Health Information Management (HIM) and worked with Drs. Hill and Szu-Han Chen on the research and development of an AAC app to function as a virtual therapist and speech assistant for people with aphasia. The app provides automatic feedback to patients with aphasia after complete practice sessions to build communication skills.