Science Student Spotlight: Bernadette Ojukwu

January 11, 2021

Bernadette Ojukwu student

Bernadette Ojukwu is currently a sixth-year, second level doctoral candidate in CUNY Graduate Center’s Speech-Language-Hearing Sciences program. She is a graduate from the University of Massachusetts, where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology. Before becoming a doctoral student, Ms. Ojukwu had been involved in research in biochemical and molecular sciences and molecular neuroscience. She has always been fascinated in how biological processes support life, but she was particularly curious about how biological processes in neuroscience support cognitive processes. She spent a year in a speech perception lab at her home university, where she gained a lot of knowledge and her passion in studying cognitive sciences grew.  Her experience in the speech perception lab inspired her to pursue a research degree here at the CUNY Graduate Center.

At the Graduate Center, Ms. Ojukwu is a member of Dr. Schwartz’s laboratory, focusing on child language development. Through the mentorship of  Dr. Richard Schwartz, Ms. Ojukwu has gained experience conducting research on children with developmental language delay. She also works with Dr. Klara Marton to understand the role that cognition plays in language comprehension and language development. She is also passionate about speaking with and gaining insight from practicing speech-language pathologists in her lab and bridging the gap between research and clinical practice.

Ms. Ojukwu is a recipient of the 2020 – 2021 Dean K. Harrison Fellowship award. She intends to use this opportunity to study sentence processing in typically developing children as she continues to work toward her dissertation. Currently, she is designing an online study that will examine how six- and seven-year-old children who are developing language typically process ambiguous sentences. In this project, children and adults will hear ambiguous sentences and will have to select which picture matches the sentences using a two-alternative forced choice paradigm. She is excited to collect data in the Spring of 2021 and hopes to extend this work to children who are developing language atypically, such as children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

In the future, Ms. Ojukwu intends to continue her current studies in how children process complex sentences and will expand her focus to include children with specific language impairments. She would like to grow her skillsets so she can have multiple tools she can use to explore other research questions in the syntax-semantic realm. She also hopes to continue to explore her interests in cognitive processes such as working memory and executive functions. Ms. Ojukwu loves the university setting and would like to become an independent researcher working in a research institution where she can interact with and guide students ranging from undergraduates to doctoral students who wish to pursue a research career of their own.