Brenda M. Ryals, PhD, is the recipient of the 2012 Jerger Career Award for Research in Audiology. Her career exemplifies the intent of this prestigious award from the American Academy of Audiology. Dr. Ryals is a professor of communication sciences and disorders and director of the auditory research laboratory at James Madison University, as well as an adjunct professor of psychology and of speech and hearing at the University of Maryland. She completed her BS in speech pathology and audiology at East Carolina University, her MA in audiology at the University of Tennessee, and her PhD in audiology and hearing science from the University of Virginia.
Throughout her career, Dr Ryals’ research has informed both the science and practice of audiology, and has resulted in fundamental advancements in auditory neuroscience. Her research has focused on issues of auditory plasticity and the neural and functional consequences of hair cell regeneration during development and after injury. Understanding the impact of hair cell regeneration on central auditory connections and on hearing in birds has important implications for human hearing, in that better predictions can be made concerning the structural and functional consequences of deafness and auditory restoration in humans. During this noteworthy career, Dr. Ryals has managed to mentor a multitude of young scientists, demonstrating (as one supporter notes) “…the curiosity, grace under fire, and ethics to which we all might aspire.”
In addition to her own personal and prolific research career. Dr. Ryals’ service to the scientific and professional communities has also been exemplary. She has served on numerous scientific review panels for the NIH, has been a member of the Scientific Review Board of the Deafness Research Foundation, and served on the NIH/NIDCD National Research Advisory Council. She is a past president of the American Auditory Society, a former member of the executive board of the American Academy of Audiology and is currently the editor-in-chief of the journal of the American Auditory Society, Ear and Hearing, to name only a few. Dr. Ryals has presented her work at more than 100 meetings and, despite her unenviable workload, she has managed to practice her skills by her humanitarian efforts in Kenya and with the Special Olympics International.
In all, Dr. Ryals is a highly productive and internationally respected leader in the fields of audiology and auditory neuroscience. She has a strong clinical background and maintains strong clinical ties, which serve to ground her work in activities that inform clinicians as well as basic scientists, and that have the potential to benefit patients. Her innovative research, her dedicated support of the science of audiology, and her generous and expert mentoring of the research careers of her students and colleagues all epitomize the essence of the Jerger Career Award for Research in Audiology.