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Worshipful Company of Saddlers PhD Progress Awards

Gift from the Saddlers will enable Abi Roper and Becky Moss to develop and evaluate interventions for people who have aphasia

by George Wigmore (Senior Communications Officer)

Two PhD students from the School of Health Sciences at City have been awarded a prestigious ‘PhD Progress Award’ from the Worshipful Company of Saddlers.

Supporting PhD students whose research makes a difference to the lives of vulnerable people, the generous gift from the Saddlers will enable Abi Roper and Becky Moss, both of whom are part of the Division of Language and Communication Science, to develop and evaluate interventions for people who have aphasia. The awards were made at a ceremony at City in early July.

Aphasia is a condition that affects the brain and leads to problems using language correctly. Most commonly caused by a stroke - and often affecting older people - aphasia can result in difficulty remembering words to losing the ability to speak, read, or write. It is currently estimated that the impairment affects around one third of the 1.2 million stroke survivors in the UK.

Abi RoperTo help people with the condition, the two researchers are researching two different assistive technologies. The first, which was developed at City and is being explored by Abi Roper, is based around using a novel computer-delivered gesture therapy for adults with severe aphasia following stroke.

The award will support Abi to prepare a funding application for a post-doctoral fellowship and also be involved as a co-investigator in a future EPSRC grant proposed by the Centre for Human Computer Interaction Design at City which aims to extend language rehabilitation opportunities by developing a further novel therapy technology.

Speaking about the award, Abi said: “I want to express my sincere thanks to the Worshipful Company of Saddlers for this unique opportunity. I believe this award will offer a significant contribution to healthcare research in two important ways.  Firstly, this award offers me an invaluable opportunity to develop my skills as an individual researcher in the field of speech and language therapy and technology.   In addition, through the dissemination of this research, the Saddlers award also supports the development of this crucial field for a group of individuals with severe communication difficulties - whose ‘voice’ is otherwise rarely heard in healthcare research.”
Becky Moss
Continuing the theme of technological assistance, Becky Moss’s work has been investigating whether two mainstream assistive technology software packages, Dragon NaturallySpeaking™ and ClaroRead™, can compensate for writing deficits for people with aphasia. An experienced health and social care researcher, Becky is particularly interested in the impact of chronic illness and disability on social roles and self-identity. Over the next six months she also hopes to use the award to investigate further research questions and also expand the program by writing a training manual for speech and language therapists.

Speaking about the award, Becky said: “I am delighted to be the recipient of this prestigious award, and would like to express my sincere gratitude to the Worshipful Company of Saddlers for their generosity. As a result of this, I believe my research will benefit the fields of health and social care by showing that assistive technology is a practical solution for people with aphasia; developing a testing protocol to enable clinicians to assess candidacy and identify those most likely to benefit from software training; and improve people’s self-esteem by enabling people to return to work with the help of the technology.”

Professor Jill Francis, Associate Dean for Research in the School of Health Sciences said: “This fantastic award is a great example of the altruistic and generous approach of Saddlers, the relevance and impact of PhD research in the School of Health Sciences, and the way our local links at City can work to the benefit of vulnerable people as well as our students. Congratulations to both Abi and Becky on their excellent achievement.”

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