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Professor Elizabeth Armstrong

Foundation Chair in Speech Pathology
School of Psychology & Social Science

Finding out more about aphasia

After graduating from Cumberland College of Health Sciences in Sydney as a speech pathologist, I worked clinically for many years, primarily in hospitals.

Though I had no research aspirations when I graduated, after working for 2-3 years, I did develop a particular interest in a language disorder known as aphasia, that occurs after a neurological insult such as a stroke or head injury damages the language centres of the brain. I knew I wanted to find out more about aphasia, particularly from a linguistic perspective. In the 1980s, I embarked on my first postgraduate degree. I began a coursework Masters in Linguistics and then transferred to a Research Masters (Honours). I found the Masters not only gave me a structured opportunity for exploring the research literature, but also gave me the tools to put some of my own ideas to the test.

I combined study with my clinical work. My research experience gave me the grounding to begin sharing my knowledge with other clinicians, and seeking out interested research colleagues both within and beyond Australia. I presented my MA(Hons) findings at my first international conference, an excellent starting point for establishing the wide network of colleagues, that I now have.

After completing my PhD in Linguistics at Macquarie University, I took up my first academic position at the University of Sydney, where I was a Lecturer in Speech Pathology. In 2001, I started the Master of Speech Language Pathology program at Macquarie University. In 2009, I moved to Perth to take up the position of Foundation Chair in Speech Pathology at ECU. While my current research still relates to aphasia, I am becoming increasingly interested in its cross-cultural manifestations, including the experiences of Indigenous Australians.

One off-shoot of my research has been engagement in editing journals. Again, this activity was not planned, but it has nevertheless emerged as an area of interest for me, and one from which I have learned a great deal. While my clinical background gave me the impetus to begin research and still drives the applied nature of my research, the research itself has opened up many other areas for me and continues to do so.

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