L NI\'r, P.S * F LOl'R(l Featured Scholar
LUndergraduate Stephanie Hrgyros
Contact Et Staff
2006 - 2007 University Scholar
University Scholars Program Mentor: Lori Altmann
Undergraduate Research College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Resource Her desire to help make a difference in others' lives, mixed with her fascination of the
Search: human mind, brought Stephanie Argyros into the world of speech-language pathology.
The 22-year-old graduate student at the University of Florida was attracted to the field
Enter Search Terms for many reasons.
"Speech-language pathology is a helping and rewarding profession, where I am given the
incredible ability to make a change in someone's life, no matter how small or profound,"
she said. "The field is dynamic, challenging, and the variability of settings you are able to
work in is very appealing."
Argyros was drawn to the research of Dr. Lori Altmann, one of her undergraduate
professors at UF, through her interest in adult language and neurogenic disorders. After
taking a phonetics class with Dr. Altmann, the professor asked Argyros to be a research
assistant in her Language Over the Lifespan Lab and later became Argyros' mentor for a
scientific study she conducted for the University Scholars Program.
During herjunior year, Argyros began her investigation into the effects of Alzhelmer's
disease on memory. Her study included a group of 30 young adults, four healthy older
adults, and two individuals affected with Alzhelmer's.
Argyros explored whether the use and recollection of specific words put more strain on
memory than general words in spontaneous speech, as well as the comparison between
how well individuals with healthy minds could recall and manipulate information
compared to individuals with Alzhelmer's.
"Research has shown that individuals with Alzhelmer's use many general words in
spontaneous speech and have serious difficulties with sentence production when they
must include specific words in their sentences," she said. "We predicted that words with
richer semantic representations would be more difficult to recall. Our second prediction
was the effect would be exaggerated if the individual had to recall and manipulate words."
The general word "fruit" puts less of a burden on memory, than for instance, the specific
To record this idea scientifically, Argyros set up a series of tests to assess memory and
the semantic system. In a recall test, she asked the participants to repeat an increasingly
longer list of general words, such as "weapon" and "sport" as they could remember. She
then repeated the experiment using specific words like "sword" and "golf."
Her results add to our knowledge about the relationship between memory and the
semantic system. The verbal working memory tasks proved useful in suggesting that
individuals ultimately find it easier to remember items that hold a sparser semantic
representation (digits and general words) than retrieval of specific words (more taxing
due to their many semantic features).
Argyros felt a strong connection with her mentor, Dr. Altmann.
"She not only taught me a great deal about Alzhelmer's disease and the research field,
she made me realize my full potential as a clinician and a researcher," she said. "Dr.
Altmann was truly a contributor to my undergraduate success."
This study on memory for general and specific words relating to Alzhelmer's disease was
only the beginning for Argyros.
"I ultimately want to work in a medical setting with individuals who have acquired
neurological disorders," Argyros said. "Specifically, I want to work with people who've
suffered stroke or traumatic brain injury, and who have neurodegenerative disease."
Argyros also said she is interested in other aspects of the field such as working with
children with Down syndrome and the deaf population.
"The brain intrigues me," she said. "Our job as speech-language pathologists is to
ultimately help people communicate again. In order for us to determine what therapy or
treatment is needed for a certain disorder or deficit, we must know what is happening in
the brain and where. It is like putting a puzzle together."
Argyros graduated from UF with highest honors in May 2007 with a bachelor's degree in
Communication Sciences and Disorders and a minor in gerontology. She is now pursuing
a master's degree in UF's Speech-Language Pathology program. She received a graduate
teaching assistantship to serve as the graduate assistant in Dr. Michael Tuccelll's
American Sign Language classes, having learned ASL by taking all three of Tuccelll's sign
language courses while an undergraduate.
"We sometimes take our ability to speak and communicate our feelings every day for
granted, and for those who lose this, I ultimately hope to fill the void," Argyros said.
-By Jared Griffin with Buffy Lockette
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