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Vice Chair for Research, Communication Science and Disorders Department-University of Pittsburgh

Contact name: Christopher Brown

Contact email:

Position Title: Vice Chair for Research, Communication Science and Disorders Department

Institution: University of Pittsburgh

Location: Department of Communication Science and Disorders, 5012 Forbes Tower, University of Pittsburgh Pittsburgh, PA 15260

Job Description:

The University of Pittsburgh School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences (SHRS) invites nominations and applications for the Vice Chair for Research position of the Communication Science and Disorders (CSD) Department. The program is seeking a dynamic individual with outstanding communication and collaborative skills to serve as a member of the CSD senior leadership team in its ongoing pursuit of excellence in research.

The Vice Chair for Research will demonstrate evidence of and/or strong potential for success in academic leadership, and will have an established research program and experiences in auditory or speech sciences. This individual will have a doctoral degree in hearing science, speech science, speech language pathology, audiology, communication science and disorders, or a related discipline. This is a 9-month tenure track position at the Associate/Full Professor Level. The Vice Chair for Research will report directly to the Chair of CSD.

The Role of the Vice Chair for Research

In collaboration with the CSD Chair and faculty, the Vice Chair for Research will be responsible for setting research and program priorities and allocating resources to meet those priorities; overseeing mentoring programs for research faculty; creating opportunities for team science including successful pursuit of center and training grants, representing the Department on School and University committees; developing research partnerships and synergies across the University, Medical Center, joint Carnegie Mellon/University of Pittsburgh Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition (CNBC) as well as nationally/internationally. Support personnel specific to the research enterprise of CSD will report directly to the Vice Chair of Research. The Vice-Chair of research will work collaboratively and strategically with the SHRS centralized pre- and post-award team.

Research Program: The Vice Chair for Research will be responsible for development of a systematic research program in their area of expertise. We welcome candidates from any area of expertise that would traditionally be housed in a CSD department. Ideally, the successful candidate will complement one of our existing research clusters, which include:

    – The Brain and Auditory Sciences Research Initiative (BASRI), which currently includes seven principal investigators

    – The Pediatric Auditory, Speech, and Language Initiative (PALS), including four principal  investigators

    – The Research Enterprise in Voice and Swallowing (REVS), which currently includes six principal investigators

    – The Pittsburgh Translational Aphasia Research Initiative (PTARI), which currently includes five principal investigators

Qualifications and Experience

The successful candidate must have a record that would earn tenure at the rank of Associate/Full Professor at the University of Pittsburgh. While no candidate will embody every quality, the successful candidate will demonstrate many of the following professional and personal qualifications:

Evidence of collaborative engagement and successful partnerships in research and education

    – A strong record of success in extramural funding

    – Evidence of sustained productivity in research and scholarship

    – Experience and/or interest in leading P50 center grants

    – Experience with pre-doctoral and post-doctoral training and interest in leading a T32 training grant in CSD

    – Ability to mentor staff and faculty to achieve personal, departmental, School, and University goals

    – Familiarity and experience with varied types of funding sources, including federal and non-federal sources, private foundations, industry, training grants, and private/public partnerships

    – Experience with innovative program development (i.e., in research, teaching)

    – A demonstrated commitment to fostering an inclusive, equitable work environment, and diversity in the field of CSD

The Department of Communication Science and Disorders

CSD is one of seven departments in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences (SHRS). CSD offers BA, MA, MS, AuD, and PhD degrees. We are a vibrant department with innovative research, teaching, and clinical education opportunities for faculty and students. We have experienced significant growth over the past four years, including hiring a new department chair, four new program directors, nine new faculty, and multiple staff positions. The department now employs 26 full-time faculty and 18 full-time staff. Four collaborative research initiatives, the Brain and Auditory Sciences Research Initiative (BASRI), the Pediatric Auditory, Language adn Speech Initiative, the Research Enterprise in Voice and Swallowing (REVS), and the Pittsburgh Translational Aphasia Research Initiative (PTARI) house sixteen research labs with over $15M in external research awards (NIH, NSF, PCORI, NIDILRR, DARPA, and non-federal agencies). The department mission centers on promoting equity, justice, and inclusion in the department, in clinical activities, research endeavors, and across the field. This mission is expected to be woven throughout all departmental practices and policies. Additional information on CSD can be found at

The US News and World Report ranks the SLP-MA program 3rd and the AuD program 7th, nationally. Faculty are engaged in local, state, national, and international collaborations and have a strong reputation in their areas of expertise to which they contribute through research, teaching and professional service.

CSD reaps many benefits as part of a research-intensive university, as a member of cohesive and well-organized departments and programs in SHRS, and as one of the Schools of the Health Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh. The department has strong connections across SHRS and the University. Additionally, CSD enjoys ongoing collaborations with the world-class University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), the Veterans Administration Pittsburgh Healthcare System, Carnegie Mellon University and other local universities, Pittsburgh public and private school systems, and local specialized schools and agencies.

The School of Health and Rehabilitative Sciences

Since its founding in 1969, the School has created the notion of Rehabilitation Science as a discipline, grown to over 20 degree programs, forged beneficial linkages across the Health Sciences and the University, and has found their graduate programs holding top spots in annual graduate school rankings. SHRS is well positioned for the future with unparalleled research activity, strong faculty and staff, clinical education programs with excellent student outcomes, and a major focus on active/engaged learning. Five SHRS graduate programs earned top spots in the most recent US News and World Report’s annual graduate school ranking of disciplines: Physical Therapy (#1), Occupational Therapy (#4), Audiology  (#7), Speech-Language Pathology (#3) and Rehabilitation Counseling (#18).

The University of Pittsburgh

Founded in 1787, the University of Pittsburgh is one of the oldest institutions of higher education in the United States. In 1787, The Pittsburgh Academy was on the edge of the American frontier. A private institution until 1966, the University is now a state-related research university as part of the Commonwealth System of Higher Education in Pennsylvania. Pitt has its main campus in the Oakland neighborhood of Pittsburgh and four regional undergraduate campuses. Current enrollment at main and regional campuses is 33,861 (24,603 undergraduates, 6,799 graduate students). In addition to numerous certificate and degree program options, Pitt offers 493 distinct degree programs, including 8 associate, 216 baccalaureate, 163 master’s, 82 doctorate-research/scholarship, and 24 doctorate-professional practice programs. A member of the Association of American Universities (AAU), Pitt consistently appears in the top echelon of national and global university rankings. It was ranked #59 among national research universities in the US in the 2022 rankings of the US News and World Report. With $1.1 billion in research and development expenditures, Pitt ranks 15th overall in the U.S. National Science Foundation’s rankings. The School of Medicine and its affiliates rank seventh among U.S. medical schools in NIH funding.

Rank, Title, and Salary Range:

Appointment at the rank of Associate Professor or Professor is anticipated. The academic rank and salary are competitive and will be commensurate with education, experience, and qualifications.

Tenure/tenure-stream/non-tenure stream; full/part-time:

This is a full-time 9-month appointment in the tenure stream.

Relevant Dates:

Priority will be given to applications received by October 31, 2023. Review of applications will begin October 31, 2023, and will continue until the position is filled. The proposed starting date is August 1, 2024.


The University of Pittsburgh is an Affirmative Action/ Equal Opportunity Employer and values equality of opportunity, human dignity, and diversity. EEO/AA/M/F/Vets/Disabled.

The University of Pittsburgh requires all Pitt constituents (employees and students) on all campuses to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or have an approved exemption. Visit to learn more about this requirement.

Application and Queries

The search committee chair, Dr. Christopher Brown, welcomes questions, confidential inquiries and nominations. A complete application will include (1) a curriculum vita, (2) a letter of interest describing your leadership skills, qualifications and experiences, and (3) three letters of recommendation.

To apply for this job email your details to

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Hearing loss can significantly disrupt the ability of children to become mainstreamed in educational environments that emphasize spoken language as a primary means of communication. Similarly, adults who lose their hearing after communicating using spoken language have numerous challenges understanding speech and integrating into social situations. These challenges are particularly significant in noisy situations, where multiple sound sources often arrive at the ears from various directions. Intervention with hearing aids and/or cochlear implants (CIs) has proven to be highly successful for restoring some aspects of communication, including speech understanding and language acquisition. However, there is also typically a notable gap in outcomes relative to normal-hearing listeners. Importantly, auditory abilities operate in the context of how hearing integrates with other senses. Notably, the visual system is tightly couples to the auditory system. Vision is known to impact auditory perception and neural mechanisms in vision and audition are tightly coupled, thus, in order to understand how we hear and how CIs affect auditory perception we must consider the integrative effects across these senses.

We start with Rebecca Alexander, a compelling public speaker who has been living with Usher’s Syndrome, a genetic disorder found in tens of thousands of people, causing both deafness and blindness in humans. Ms. Alexander will be introduced by Dr. Jeffrey Holt, who studies gene therapy strategies for hearing restoration. The symposium then highlights the work of scientists working across these areas. Here we integrate psychophysics, clinical research, and biological approaches, aiming to gain a coherent understanding of how we might ultimately improve outcomes in patients. Drs. Susana Martinez-Conde and Stephen Macknik are new to the ARO community, and will discuss neurobiology of the visual system as it relates to visual prostheses. Dr. Jennifer Groh’s work will then discuss multi-sensory processing and how it is that vision helps us hear. Having set the stage for thinking about the role of vision in a multisensory auditory world, we will hear from experts in the area of cochlear implants. Dr. René H Gifford will discuss recent work on electric-acoustic integration in children and adults, and Dr. Sharon Cushing will discuss her work as a clinician on 3-D auditory and vestibular effects. Dr. Matthew Winn will talk about cognitive load and listening effort using pupillometry, and we will end with Dr. Rob Shepherd’s discussion of current work and future possibilities involving biological treatments and neural prostheses. Together, these presentations are designed to provide a broad and interdisciplinary view of the impact of sensory restoration in hearing, vision and balance, and the potential for future approaches for improving the lives of patients.

Kirupa Suthakar, PhD - Dr Kirupa Suthakar is a postdoctoral fellow at NIH/NIDCD, having formerly trained as a postdoctoral fellow at Massachusetts Eye and Ear/Harvard Medical School and doctoral student at Garvan Institute of Medical Research/UNSW Australia.  Kirupa's interest in the mind and particular fascination by how we are able to perceive the world around us led her to pursue a research career in auditory neuroscience.  To date, Kirupa's research has broadly focused on neurons within the auditory efferent circuit, which allow the brain to modulate incoming sound signals at the ear.  Kirupa is active member of the spARO community, serving as the Chair Elect for 2021.



I began studying the vestibular system during my dissertation research at the Università di Pavia with Professors Ivo Prigioni and GianCarlo Russo. I had two postdoctoral fellowships, first at the University of Rochester with Professor Christopher Holt and then at the University of Illinois at Chicago with Professors Jonathan Art and Jay Goldberg.

My research focuses on characterizing the biophysics of synaptic transmission between hair cells and primary afferents in the vestibular system. For many years an outstanding question in vestibular physiology was how the transduction current in the type I hair cell was sufficient, in the face of large conductances on at rest, to depolarize it to potentials necessary for conventional synaptic transmission with its unique afferent calyx.

In collaboration with Dr. Art, I overcame the technical challenges of simultaneously recording from type I hair cells and their enveloping calyx afferent to investigate this question. I was able to show that with depolarization of either hair cell or afferent, potassium ions accumulating in the cleft depolarize the synaptic partner. Conclusions from these studies are that due to the extended apposition between type I hair cell and its afferent, there are three modes of communication across the synapse. The slowest mode of transmission reflects the dynamic changes in potassium ion concentration in the cleft which follow the integral of the ongoing hair cell transduction current. The intermediate mode of transmission is indirectly a result of this potassium elevation which serves as the mechanism by which the hair cell potential is depolarized to levels necessary for calcium influx and the vesicle fusion typical of glutamatergic quanta. This increase in potassium concentration also depolarizes the afferent to potentials that allow the quantal EPSPs to trigger action potentials. The third and most rapid mode of transmission like the slow mode of transmission is bidirectional, and a current flowing out of either hair cell or afferent into the synaptic cleft will divide between a fraction flowing out into the bath, and a fraction flowing across the cleft into its synaptic partner.

The technical achievement of the dual electrode approach has enabled us to identify new facets of vestibular end organ synaptic physiology that in turn raise new questions and challenges for our field. I look forward with great excitement to the next chapter in my scientific story.


Charles C. Della Santina, PhD MD is a Professor of Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery and Biomedical Engineering at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, where he directs the Johns Hopkins Cochlear Implant Center and the Johns Hopkins Vestibular NeuroEngineering Laboratory.

As a practicing neurotologic surgeon, Dr. Della Santina specializes in treatment of middle ear, inner ear and auditory/vestibular nerve disorders. His clinical interests include restoration of hearing via cochlear implantation and management of patients who suffer from vestibular disorders, with a particular focus on helping individuals disabled by chronic postural instability and unsteady vision after bilateral loss of vestibular sensation. His laboratory’s research centers on basic and applied research supporting development of vestibular implants, which are medical devices intended to partially restore inner ear sensation of head movement. In addition to that work, his >90 publications include studies characterizing inner ear physiology and anatomy; describing novel clinical tests of vestibular function; and clarifying the effects of cochlear implantation, vestibular implantation, superior canal dehiscence syndrome and intratympanic gentamicin therapy on the inner ear and central nervous system.  Dr. Della Santina is also the founder and CEO/Chief Scientific Officer of Labyrinth Devices LLC, a company dedicated to bringing novel vestibular testing and implant technology into routine clinical care.

Andrew Griffith received his MD and PhD in Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry from Yale University in 1992. He completed his general surgery internship and a residency in Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at the University of Michigan in 1998. He also completed a postdoctoral research fellowship in the Department of Human Genetics as part of his training at the University of Michigan. In 1998, he joined the Division of Intramural Research (DIR) in the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD). He served as a senior investigator, the chief of the Molecular Biology and Genetics Section, the chief of the Otolaryngology Branch, and the director of the DIR, as well as the deputy director for Intramural Clinical Research across the NIH Intramural Research Program. His research program identifies and characterizes molecular and cellular mechanisms of normal and disordered hearing and balance in humans and mouse models. Two primary interests of his program have been hearing loss associated with enlargement of the vestibular aqueduct, and the function of TMC genes and proteins. The latter work lead to the discovery that the deafness gene product TMC1 is a component of the hair cell sensory transduction channel. Since July of 2020, he has served as the Senior Associate Dean of Research and a Professor of Otolaryngology and Physiology in the College of Medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center.

Gwenaëlle S. G. Géléoc obtained a PhD in Sensory Neurobiology from the University of Sciences in Montpellier (France) in 1996. She performed part of her PhD training at the University of Sussex, UK where she characterized sensory transduction in vestibular hair cells and a performed a comparative study between vestibular and cochlear hair cells. Gwenaelle continued her training as an electrophysiologist at University College London studying outer hair cell motility and at Harvard Medical School studying modulation of mechanotransduction in vestibular hair cells. As an independent investigator at the University of Virginia, she expanded this work and characterized the developmental acquisition of sensory transduction in mouse vestibular hair cells, the developmental acquisition of voltage-sensitive conductances in vestibular hair cells and the tonotopic gradient in the acquisition of sensory transduction in the mouse cochlea. This work along with quantitative spatio-temporal studies performed on several hair cell mechanotransduction candidates lead her to TMC1 and 2 and long-term collaborations with Andrew Griffith and Jeff Holt. Dr. Géléoc is currently Assistant Professor of Otolaryngology, at Boston Children’s Hospital where she continues to study molecular players involved in the development and function of hair cells of the inner ear and develops new therapies for the treatment of deafness and balance, with a particular focus on Usher syndrome.

Jeff Holt earned a doctorate from the Department of Physiology at the University of Rochester in 1995 for his studies of inward rectifier potassium channels in saccular hair cells.  He went on to a post-doctoral position in the Neurobiology Department at Harvard Medical School and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, where he characterized sensory transduction and adaptation in hair cells and developed a viral vector system to transfect cultured hair cells.  Dr. Holt’s first faculty position was in the Neuroscience Department at the University of Virginia.  In 2011 the lab moved to Boston Children’s Hospital / Harvard Medical School.  Dr. Holt is currently a Professor in the Departments of Otolaryngology and Neurology in the F.M. Kirby Neurobiology Center.  Dr. Holt and his team have been studying sensory transduction in auditory and vestibular hair cells over the past 20 years, with particular focus on TMC1 and TMC2 over the past 12 years.  This work lead to the discovery that TMC1 forms the hair cell transduction channel.  His work also focuses on development gene therapy strategies for genetic hearing loss.