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All talk and a lot of action

Alumni News

Emily Lowther wants to change the lives of people with speech impediments – and she’s about to have the chance to do it.

Emily Lowther wearing her graduation regalia
Emily Lowther at her graduation ceremony

In August the Master of Speech Pathology graduate will jet off to the United States to undertake world-leading research into stuttering, a disorder that affects millions of people around the world.

Ms Lowther was awarded a scholarship to spend three years working alongside geneticist and speech and language pathologist, Professor Shelly Jo Kraft, from Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. She will assist Professor Kraft with her revolutionary research, a collaborative project being undertaken with Professor Janet Beilby from Curtin’s School of Psychology and Speech Pathology, which is aiming to discover the genes contributing to the disorder of stuttering in families.

“I feel incredibly honoured to receive this scholarship,” says Ms Lowther, who will also work towards a doctorate at Wayne State University. “When Janet (Dr Beilby) initially told me about the offer from Dr Shelly Jo Kraft, I honestly couldn’t believe it. I even emailed Dr Kraft to make sure I hadn’t just experienced a very elaborate hallucination!”

The insights and experiences she gained during her master degree at Curtin will be valuable when undertaking research and completing her PhD. “Many rewarding experiences occurred while on clinical placement,” she says. “I suppose the most memorable experiences were witnessing the moment when my clients began to understand a particular concept. They’re so excited and proud of themselves for all the hard work they’ve done, and rightly so!”

Ms Lowther also established a strong support network of fellow alumni while completing her course.

“Understandably, the workload involved to complete this course full-time was considerable,” she explains. “Yet each time I came across a problem or a situation I was unsure of, one of the GEMs (Graduate Entry Masters) would immediately offer a solution, advice or simple support. The overwhelming sense that we were ‘all in it together’ was completely unexpected, and something that I will treasure for many years to come.”

As for the future, Ms Lowther doesn’t intend to make too many plans as she never knows what opportunities might be around the corner.

“Still, I’m keen to build a body of research that makes a significant contribution in my field of study and enable speech pathologists to provide more effective service to achieve better outcomes for their clients,” she says.

She knows that by completing a PhD, she’ll have opportunities to contribute to the field of speech pathology not just clinically, but academically as well.

“I’m looking forward to being able to do some teaching alongside research, as a way of ‘paying it forward’ through supporting future speech pathology students the same way I have been over recent years.”

And her advice for other students of speech pathology? “Make the most of every opportunity. Support each other. Double-check your referencing. Drink coffee.”