BenU Faculty since 2012
Ph.D. - Hominid Paleobiology, The George Washington University (2004)
M.Phil. - Hominid Paleobiology, The George Washington University (2000)
B.A. - Anthropology Rutgers University (1996)
Human Anatomy, Human Anatomy Lab, Human Evolution and Gross Dissection Anatomy
Evolution of human speech and language; growth and development of the primate and hominin skull, geometric morphometrics; comparative methods and primate life history.
Current Research Project
- “The Role of the Vocal Tract in Speech Production”
The supralaryngeal vocal tract (the pharynx and oral cavity above the vocal cords) determines, to some extent, the acoustic properties of speech sounds. Radiographic studies have shown that the shape of the tongue, vocal tract, and lips is instrumental in producing the unique sounds of human speech. However, recent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies image patients in a supine position, which changes the position of the tongue and larynx in the neck. These images have been used to inform clinical diagnoses and to reconstruct the size and shape of the vocal tract in Neanderthals and other extinct human species. In this project, students will be assisting in the collection of MRI data using a new technology, upright MRI, which has the capability of imaging a patient in multiple views, including while sitting or standing. Students will then: (1) compare MR images of subjects in sitting and supine position; (2) record audio for subjects reading lists of words and short passages; (3) process and analyze acoustic data; and (4) statistically assess the relationship between vocal tract morphology and acoustic data. This project will teach students to collect and interpret MR images, to process acoustic data, and to use statistical techniques to study the relationship between vocal tract morphology and the sounds of human speech.