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Dani Byrd

Dani Byrd

Vice Dean for Institutional Affairs


Dani Byrd, professor of linguistics, was appointed USC Dornsife’s vice dean for research advancement in 2007, transitioned to vice dean for faculty and research in 2008, transitioned again to vice dean for faculty in January 2011, and was named vice dean for institutional affairs in August 2012. In her current position, Vice Dean Byrd oversees all aspects of USC Dornsife’s academic administration including faculty and educational excellence and strategic planning for programmatic and institutional development.

Byrd studied linguistics at Yale University, where she received a simultaneous B.A./M.A. magna cum laude. She attended graduate school focusing on phonetics at UCLA. There she was an NSF Graduate Fellow and received the UCLA College of Letters and Science Graduate Student Award and UCLA Association of Academic Women's Graduate Woman of the Year Award. After receiving her Ph.D. in 1994, she was an NIH postdoctoral fellow at Haskins Laboratories in New Haven, Connecticut, the pre-eminent speech and reading laboratory in the country. She became a senior scientist there in 1997, and Byrd's research has been continuously funded by the NIH since 1994. Byrd joined the USC faculty in 1998 and founded the USC Phonetics Laboratory.

As a linguist, Byrd focuses her research on human speech production. Spoken language relies on an elegant and complex acoustic structure to support communication. Consideration of the orchestration of articulatory activity that produces this acoustic signal is a necessary element in understanding the process of human communication. This choreography of the tongue, lips, larynx and other articulators is shaped by the specific language being spoken but is simultaneously constrained by the shared biology of the human organism. In the laboratory, Byrd uses movement tracking and real-time MRI imaging of the vocal tract to examine the role that linguistic structure plays in shaping the production of speech. Her special research interest is in articulatory timing, or how the skilled, sound-producing movements of the vocal tract are coordinated with one another. Byrd's work has contributed to increasing our knowledge of speech articulation through empirical laboratory study. Because spoken language stands at a crucial interface between cognition and action, Byrd considers her research to be part of a broad interdisciplinary research effort in cognitive science.

Currently, Byrd participates in various extramural funded research programs. She is P.I. and co-lead investigator (with Professor Shri Narayanan of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering) on NIH R-01 grants that examine speech production. Over the years, Byrd has supported nearly two dozen undergraduates' participation in research.

Byrd has received numerous awards and honors for research. In 2003, she won the prestigious R. Bruce Lindsay Award from the Acoustical Society of America — presented to "a member of the Society under 35 years of age who has ... contributed substantially, through published papers, to the advancement of theoretical or applied acoustics, or both"; she was the first winner of this award from the ASA's Speech Communication Technical Area in 17 years. Byrd is an editorial board member of the Journal of the International Phonetic Association and the Journal of Phonetics. She has reviewed research proposals for the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.  She is co-author of the book Discovering Speech, Words, and Mind.