Students win grants to research voice aging and mental health


Freshman kinesiology major Vivian Smith and sophomore communication disorders majors Rebecca Gomes and Emily Stark will use the grants to help conduct studies on campus at BJU

Sophomore communication disorders majors Rebecca Gomes and Emily Stark received a $5,139 grant from the South Carolina Independent Colleges & Universities (SCICU) to conduct research alongside communication disorders faculty member Dr. Hannah Benge. Freshman kinesiology major Vivian Smith won a $3,270 grant from the SCICU to research how physical exercise and sleep relate to mental health among college students as part of a study directed by Dr. Stephen Chen. 

The SCICU, whose goal is to provide research opportunities to its affiliated institutions, selected the students based on their application forms.

In the form, freshman and sophomore students included their qualifications: their experience in the field, the communication disorders courses they had taken and GPA. Gomes and Stark also included their research proposal titled “Strengthening the Aging Voice (STAG) Study: Evaluation of

Respiratory Muscle Strength Training Plus Vocal Function Exercise” and their expectations for their research, which are to learn more about their topic and gain confidence in the professional research setting, Stark said.

Both Gomes and Stark will research for approximately 10 hours a week starting in the fall semester. As they look forward to developing their research, they are thankful for their academic training at BJU. “I’ve learned so much at Bob Jones. You can tell that the faculty, they’re really passionate about what they do, and their passion kind of floods into their students,” Gomes said.

Smith’s hands-on work has already begun as part of a study conducted by Dr. Stephen Chen that evaluates students using the Mack Building’s Human Performance Center. The study collects data on students’ demographic background, anthropomorphic details, sleep quality, physical activity and depression and anxiety.

Gomes and Stark appreciate their practical learning experience, which has prepared them for present and future opportunities. “It’s not just sitting in a class; you actually apply what you do,” Stark said. Gomes also highlighted the curriculum’s applicational aspect: “Bob Jones is very good at having hands-on learning. Just in general, they want to have that experience,” she said.

As grant winners, Gomes and Stark said they feel nervous and excited about the opportunity to submit their findings’ abstract on Jan. 26, 2024, and present it at the Research Symposium on Feb. 22, 2024.