Purdue professor Jessica Huber is trying to find new ways for individuals with speech problems and other degenerative diseases to communicate with others and live a normal life.
Huber is an associate professor of speech, language, and hearing sciences. In addition, she serves as a Faculty Fellow for Entrepreneurship at the Burton Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship.
A graduate of the University at Buffalo, Huber became a part of the Purdue community in 2001. She was initially trained as a speech-language pathologist and then later as a speech scientist. For the past 20 years, her primary focus has been alterations to speech due to Parkinson’s disease.
Parkinson’s disease is a disorder that affects the central nervous system. It begins slowly, often with the only side effect being a slight tremor in the hand. However, as it progresses it can result in slurred or soft speech, which is something Huber hopes to help with.
Though there is no cure currently, the symptoms can be lessened with medication and other treatments.
Huber’s recent research regarding this topic has involved the effect of speech treatments, as well as various dopaminergic drugs, as a way of helping speech problems.
”I am very passionate about finding ways to improve quality of life in people with speech impairments and degenerative diseases,” Huber said.
One way she has done this is by creating SpeechVive. This device enables patients with speech impairments to speak louder and with more clarity.
”I want to ensure they can communicate and participate in their everyday life to the fullest extent,” Huber said.
Jeff Haddad, a collaborator in the Health and Kinesiology department who works with Huber, commented on how Huber’s work will help many.
”Speech problems are one of the most devastating outcomes of Parkinson’s disease. Many patients, therefore, get depressed and frustrated when they have difficulties talking with friends or loved ones. Dr. Huber has essentially given these patients back their voice, and her work is directly responsible for improving the quality of life in many patients with PD,” he said.
He went on to talk about what has kept Huber motivated to continue her research.
”Helping individuals with Parkinson’s disease has been and remains Dr. Huber’s passion and is the prime motivation for the countless hours she and her team have spent in the development of the SpeechVive,” Haddad said.
Huber is the 2014 recipient of the Outstanding Commercialization Award for Purdue University Faculty.