“Your education is what you make it—you can do whatever you want with it,” says speech-language-hearing sciences (SLHS) senior Victoria Idowu when asked if she had any advice for young students coming from the same background as her when entering college. Idowu has definitely taken her own advice; as a first generation, woman of color in higher education, she has excelled in her studies, research, and extracurricular involvement.
Idowu was undecided on a major when she began her undergraduate career. She was interested in neuroscience and quickly realized that she prefered the College of Liberal Arts’ broad scope of fields compared to the College of Biological Sciences more rigid tracks. Idowu knew that she was interested in sciences, the brain, and that she wanted to study something that would allow her to give back to the community. She began taking SLHS classes and found her passion within that field.
Now Idowu is very involved not only within the department, but also within the University. She is the vice president of the National Society for Black Engineers (NSBE), a university-wide organization that supports and encourages minority students to pursue higher education in STEM fields. This organization supports students at the university and also reaches out to minority high school students to inspire, encourage, and support them in pursuing STEM fields.
Working with SLHS professor Evelyn Davies-Venn, a scientist who specializes in computational modes of hearing, Idowu is helping create better sensory aids, including hearing aids. Currently she is studying how to improve hearing aids’ ability in environments with a lot of background noise. They are looking into the differences between musicians and nonmusicians’ hearing, because musicians seem to be better at discriminating sounds in noisy environments. “Their musical training has shown to induce neural plasticity and enhance cognitive skills. We are exploring the role of enhanced inhibitory mechanisms that may modulate high intensity effects and how we can implement that in hearing aids to give users a better sound experience in noisy environments,” Idowu says.
Idowu plans on pursuing a graduate studies after graduation; she wants to continue health research in order to provide new technology and innovative therapies in order to better underserved and underrepresented communities. Idowu became interested in the hearing realm after being inspired by her mentor, Dr. Venn, and her strong passion for research was the drive behind her desire to pursue a graduate degree. “I am a very independent person,” says Idowu. “I like the autonomy research provides to develop your own questions and find those answers.”
Victoria Idowu is graduating this spring, and hopes to enter a doctoral program in the fall. She explained that she gets her motivation from doing what interests her and what makes her happy. “I found my motivation and drive within the Department of Speech-Language-Hearing Sciences,” she says, and that’s exactly what she advises other students to do to take full advantage of their undergraduate experience in the College of Liberal Arts. “Find what motivates you,” she says, “Find what makes you happy and keep with that.”