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Doctoral Student from Bangladesh Conducts Outstanding Research in Language Processing and Learning

Tanzida Zaman, doctoral student in the College of Graduate Health Sciences and Audiology and Speech Pathology’s Speech and Hearing Science program, joined UTHSC from Bangladesh to further her education and research in language processing and learning.

Tanzida Zaman’s research and drive for studying language processing and learning inspired her to move from her home country, Bangladesh, to the United States, in pursuit of a doctoral degree in Speech and Hearing Science at UTHSC.

Zaman earned her bachelor’s degree in Speech and Language Pathology from the University of Dhaka, Bangladesh. After graduating, she served as a Clinical Speech Language Pathologist at Chattogram Maa-O-Shishu Hospital in Chittagong, Bangladesh.

While serving at Chattagram Maa-O-Shishu Hospital, she conducted research to address the needs of underserved populations, including children with Cerebral Palsy and Neurodevelopmental Disorders.

“I had a remarkably high caseload, and I implemented several group therapies and conducted quasi-experimental research to assess their effectiveness while I was collaborating with a multidisciplinary team,” she said. “The results found that low-tech approaches, such as posture adjustments and modifications in utensils and food textures, can enhance the feeding experience of children with Cerebral Palsy, and help improve their health and quality of life.”

Additionally, her research also indicated that early intervention programs for younger children with autism spectrum disorder led to improvement in their preverbal skills. Her research and service motivated her to continue her education in language learning, expand her knowledge of the English language, and study in the UTHSC College of Graduate Health Sciences and the Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology in Knoxville.

“My diverse experiences of conducting research while working as a clinician inspired me and fueled my curiosity to gain a deeper understanding of the ‘why’ and ‘how’ behind my work,” she said.

Now, in her fourth year of studying in the Speech and Hearing Science program, she is a member of the Cognitive Linguistics Lab, led by Devin Casenhiser, PhD, associate professor and program director in Speech Pathology, which studies what factors improve or hinder language learning in developing and developmentally delayed populations.

“I chose UTHSC primarily because of my interest in the Cognitive Linguistics Lab. I initially intended to pursue research that is centered around treatment outcomes, however upon joining this lab, I became so fascinated by the intricate neurological aspects of language processing and acquisition,” she said. “This fascination aligns well with my aspirations to develop foundational language models and therapeutic approaches for children and adults in the area of communication and language.”

For her excellent work and accomplishments within the past year, Zaman has been recognized with the Outstanding Student in Speech and Hearing Science award at the 2023 College of Graduate Health Sciences Awards ceremony.

While studying in the program, she conducts research for her doctoral projects on the neurophysiological investigation of language processing in native English speakers, with plans to expand the research across diverse cultures and languages, to obtain insight into the diversity of language processing. Her study examines multi-sensory input and how brain activity changes when individuals receive information through vision or hearing.

“I find interpreting the outcomes of my research projects to be very cognitively engaging, as it allows me to compare the results from different perspectives, of both non-native and native English viewpoints,” she said.

For her achievements and outstanding research, she recently received the Outstanding Student in Speech and Hearing Science award at the 2023 Graduate Health Sciences Awards ceremony.

“It is truly an honor and recognition of my hard work and dedication toward my academic journey. It is a very humbling experience to be acknowledged for my achievements in these fields,” she said. “It serves as validation of my passion and commitment to advancing my knowledge and making a positive impact in the realm of speech and hearing science.”

After earning her doctoral degree in 2025, she plans to construct a neuroimaging research lab, conduct research, increase collaboration between clinicians and researchers, and mentor students. In addition, she hopes to visit other countries, especially in the sub-Saharan region, and support health care professionals in those areas.

“I am very fortunate to have a group of amazing individuals, whom I consider my American families, consisting of the faculty, staff, and students,” she said regarding her experience in the Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology. “All of the PhD students engage in activities together, but most importantly, we support and care for one another through the ups and downs of our lives.”