Faculty Profile: Dr. Colleen Le Prell
Dr. Le PrellIf you had asked Dr. Colleen Le Prell as an undergraduate student where she would end up for her career, she never would have predicted it would have been the field of audiology.

“I was a psychology major, but ended up fascinated by the mechanisms of hearing,” she said.

Le Prell, who holds the Emilie and Phil Schepps Professorship in Hearing Science, heads the audiology program in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences. Based at the Callier Center for Communication Disorders, she also is a leading researcher in hearing loss prevention.

Le Prell joined UT Dallas in the spring of 2015 to lead one of the top ranked audiology programs in the country. Her research has been focused on biochemical events in the ear that lead to hearing loss, as well as the development of drugs that act on those events to try and prevent cell death and hearing loss.

“We look at mechanisms and agents that will prevent both acute injury and injury associated with chronic lower-level insults,” Le Prell said.

Le Prell works with individuals who have been exposed during their college years to different kinds of recreational noises such as bars, concerts and clubs, hoping to find some of the earliest markers for noise injury.

Le Prell earned her undergraduate degree in experimental psychology from the University of Minnesota, Morris, where she had an opportunity to design experiments, collect and analyze data, and publish articles. She received her graduate degree in biopsychology at the University of Michigan and worked in the Kresge Hearing Research Center there. Her doctoral research looked at specific acoustic features in vocalizations produced by non-human primates, how those features were the same or different from those that humans use for speech communication, and she assessed the sensitivity of both humans and non-human primates for detecting changes in vowels and monkey “coo” calls.

In her postdoctoral work, Le Prell studied specific manipulations of the neurotransmitter content in the inner ear and how that influenced auditory perception, and how chemicals and brain centers influence vulnerability to noise injury. She became involved in studies looking at drugs that specifically protect the ear. Her research evolved into the main focus of what Le Prell studies now.

“UT Dallas is an ideal environment to do research, teach and contribute to the development of the next generation. We have incredibly unique and appealing support for audiology, speech and hearing from upper administration,” she said.

Le Prell teaches graduate-level courses including hearing conservation and noise control, and anatomy and physiology of the auditory system.

“I am excited for the UT Dallas AuD program and the way it is embracing the future. We are working very hard to prepare our students not just for audiology as it is now, but for where it is going in a changing healthcare system,” Le Prell said.

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