Julius Fridriksson — Director

Julius Fridriksson is a professor in the Department of Communication Science and Disorders. He graduated from the Sudurnes Community College (Iceland) with a university preparatory degree (studentsprof) and later completed his M.A. in speech pathology at the University of Central Florida. He then received a Ph.D. from the University of Arizona in Speech Pathology in 2001. Following completion of Ph.D. study, Dr. Fridriksson joined the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at the University of South Carolina.


Hanh Adkins – Accountant

Hanh Adkins is a Darla Moore School of Business Accounting major. She has an anticipated graduation date some time during 2017 and plans on pursuing a master’s degree in accounting at Darla Moore also. She has an associate’s degree in accounting from Midlands Technical College as well as a cosmetology license. She has worked as a licensed cosmetologist for the last eleven years and has four and a half years of accounting experience from a private practice in Rosewood. She is a lifelong Columbia resident and the mother of two. She enjoys spending time with her family and friends.

Taylor Hanayik – Data Analyst

Taylor is a graduate student at the University of South Carolina working on his PhD in Experimental Psychology with Professor Chris Rorden. His work focuses on the analysis of post stroke behavior deficits and their neuroanatomical correlates in both brain structure and function. The overarching aim of his work is to one day make it possible to recover lost function due to brain damage from stroke or similar injuries.

Research Associates

Allison Croxton – Speech-Language Pathologist

Allison Croxton, M.S.P., CCC-SLP, is a research associate for the Center for the Study for Aphasia Recovery (C-STAR). Raised primarily in Central Kentucky, she moved to Columbia, SC during high school. She graduated from Dreher High School (’94), and earned a B.A. in English from Wofford College (’98). Her interests in language acquisition/recovery, the power of communication, and her desire to work in a field where she could help improve others’ quality of life, led her to pursuing a Master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology. She graduated in 2000 with her Master of Speech Pathology from the University of South Carolina. Allison is excited to be a part of such important research, and is continually inspired by the individuals and families with whom she works. When she is not working, she enjoys spending time with her three children, extended family, and friends. She also enjoys walking, yoga, reading, photography & music.

Michele Martin-Speech Language Pathologist

Michele Martin, M.S. CCC-SLP, is a Research Associate for the Center for the Study of Aphasia Recovery. She grew up in Sumter, SC and graduated from Columbia College with a B.A in Speech Correction and from the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa with a M.S. in Speech-Language Pathology. Michele has worked as a speech-language pathologist in a variety of settings including: hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes, home health, and private practice and has experience with a wide range of cognitive and communication disorders, with aphasia being of particular interest. Michele recently moved to a new home on Lake Murray, and she is very excited to have the opportunity to participate in clinical research that will contribute to best practices in the treatment of aphasia. In her free time, she enjoys visiting her two grown children and extended family, home decorating, boating, gardening and relaxing.

Sarah Sayers – Speech-Language Pathologist

Sara Sayers is a Research Associate for the Center for the Study of Aphasia Recovery. She graduated with a B.S. in Speech Language Pathology and Audiology from Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 2007 and a M.S. in Speech Language Pathology at Towson University in 2009. She is an ASHA certified Speech Language Pathologist who specializes in adult neurogenic communication disorders. Her current focus is investigating the relationship between language impairment and response to treatment in patients with chronic aphasia to better predict aphasia treatment outcomes.

Leigh Ann Spell – Associate Director

Leigh Ann Spell, Ph.D., CCC-SLP is the Associate Director of the Aphasia Laboratory at the University of South Carolina. She is also an Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at USC. She graduated with a B.S. in Education/Speech-Language Therapy from Bowling Green State University in Ohio and obtained her M.S.P. and Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina specializing in working with individuals with communicative/cognitive disorders secondary to traumatic brain injury and other neurological disorders. She was a professor of Speech-Language Pathology at Columbia College for 16 years and has had a private practice in which she has worked with both children and adults with cognitive/communicative disorders.

Post-Doctoral Fellows

Alexandra Basilakos

Alexandra Basilakos, Ph.D., CCC-SLP is an ASHA-certified speech-language pathologist and a C-STAR postdoctoral fellow. She earned both her B.A. and Ph.D. at the University of South Carolina, punctuated by time spent at the University of Georgia for her M.A. in Communication Sciences and Disorders. In addition to aphasia recovery, her research interests include improving the differential diagnosis of post-stroke motor speech disorders (apraxia of speech and dysarthria) to improve the clinical management of aphasia and frequently co-occurring speech production deficits. To this end, her work utilizes a combination of neuroimaging modalities in addition to acoustic and perceptual analyses of speech.

Brielle Stark

Brielle Stark has a BA (Honors) in Psychology and Neural and Behavioral Science from Bryn Mawr College (2012) and was a Gates Cambridge Scholar during her PhD in Clinical Neuroscience at the University of Cambridge (2016). During her PhD, she investigated iPad-based, self-delivered speech therapy and inner speech in chronic post-stroke aphasia. Brie is interested in predicting therapy-induced aphasia recovery using biographical, cognitive and neural factors.

Doctoral Students

Lisa Johnson

Lisa Johnson is a doctoral student in the Communication Sciences and Disorders Graduate Program at USC. She received her bachelor’s degree in Speech and Hearing Science from Arizona State University and has previously worked as a Speech-Language Pathology Assistant. Her research interests primarily focus on language recovery and speech processing in adults who have aphasia using neuroimaging techniques. She is from Owasso, Oklahoma and enjoys drawing and traveling in her spare time.

Sigfus Kristinsson

Sigfus is a first year doctoral student in the Communication Sciences and Disorders program at the University of South Carolina and a Speech-Language Pathologist. Sigfus recently moved to SC from Iceland, where he grew up and earned his undergraduate and graduate degrees at the University of Iceland. He plans to pursue a career as a researcher in a university setting. In his free time, Sigfus spends time with his family, reads, hikes and enjoys the outdoors.

Lorelei Phillip

Lorelei Phillip, M.S., CF-SLP is a doctoral student and speech language pathologist working towards obtaining her clinical certification. She graduated from Duke University with a bachelor’s degree in linguistics and completed her master’s degree in speech language pathology at Vanderbilt University. Her research interests include aphasia treatment and recovery, neuroimaging, and post-stroke quality of life. She is from Concord, North Carolina and enjoys baking and reading.

Helga Thors

Helga Thors, MSc, CCC-SLP is an ASHA-certified Speech and Language Therapist from Iceland. She completed her bachelor’s degree in Icelandic and Sign Language Linguistics and Interpretation from the University of Iceland and then her MSc degree in Speech and Language Therapy from the University of Reading, UK. She is currently a doctoral student at USC and her work focuses on investigating treatment and recovery in individuals with aphasia.

Graduate Students

Brittni Beerman

Brittni Beerman is a second year graduate student in the MSP program at USC. She is from Waterloo, Indiana She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Speech-Language Pathology at Ball State University. She is still exploring settings within speech, but would love to work in a medical setting with all ages. In her spare time, she enjoys swimming, going to the beach, and watching HGTV.

Sarah Beth Bradford

Sarah Beth is a graduate student in the University of South Carolina’s speech-language pathology program. She is from Greenville, SC and received her B.S. in Exercise Science with a minor in Communication Disorders from USC. Upon graduation she wants to work in an inpatient acute care setting. In her spare time she enjoys running, crafting/painting, and cheering for the Gamecocks!

Erin Forward

Erin Forward is currently a graduate student in the USC Master of Speech Pathology program from Rochester, NY. Erin attended the University of Pittsburgh where she received her Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology and a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Sciences and Disorders. Erin is interested in working with cognitive-communication disorders in children, but enjoys doing research in the Aphasia Laboratory where she learns more about neurogenic communication disorders. In her spare time Erin enjoys traveling and exploring new places (she has visited Australia and Peru).

Jenna Kessler

Jenna Kessler is a second year graduate student in the MSP program at USC, originally from Columbia, SC. She went to Wofford College, where she earned her BA in English and French with a concentration in Gender Studies. After graduation, Jenna moved to Charleston to work for a literacy-focused nonprofit in elementary schools.  Jenna enjoys working with both children and adults, particularly language therapy. She is looking forward to working with the CSTAR team and gaining new experiences to shape her future interests in speech-language pathology. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, running, hot yoga, and traveling.

Kayla Koch

Kayla Koch is a first year master’s student in the University of South Carolina Communication Sciences and Disorders graduate program. She grew up in Endwell, NY and received her undergraduate degree at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology. Kayla is currently undergoing her clinical practicum experience in various settings and has not yet decided what aspect of the field she would like to pursue. In her free time, Kayla enjoys traveling (especially up north to her hometown to see her family), exploring local restaurants, and spending time outside.

Lizzy McDonald

Lizzy McDonald is a graduate student in the USC Master of Speech Pathology program originally from Charleston, South Carolina. Lizzy received her Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education from the University of South Carolina. Lizzy’s interests in the field of speech-language pathology are widely varied, and she is looking forward to continuing to explore all of these areas during graduate school. In her spare time, Lizzy enjoys hiking, traveling, the beach, and reading.

Allison Stratton

Allison Stratton is a first year graduate student in the Speech-Language Pathology masters program. Allison is from Marietta, GA and earned her undergraduate degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders from the University of Georgia (Go Dawgs!). Allison is currently open to working in any region of the field as an SLP. When she’s not at the clinic or the lab, Allison enjoys going to the River Walk or drinking coffee and watching the world go by on Main Street.

Emily Taylor

Emily Taylor is a graduate student in the MSP program from Woodruff, SC. She is a proud alumna of Clemson University, where she earned a B.S. in Spanish and International Health. Upon graduation, Emily hopes to work in an outpatient setting with adults with acquired, neurologically based communicative disorders and has a particular interest in serving bilingual populations. In her free time, Emily enjoys traveling, hanging around local coffee shops, and playing with her nephews.

Sarah Williamson

Sarah Williamson, of Columbia, SC, is a second-year graduate student in the USC Master of Speech Pathology program. She earned her undergraduate degree in Kinesiology from Anderson University in Anderson, SC. After graduation from USC, she is looking forward to working with medically fragile children in an in-patient setting, specifically those with feeding and swallowing issues. In her spare time, Sarah enjoys going on walks, spending time with her family, and antiquing and refinishing old furniture.

Maggie Wright

Maggie Wright is a graduate student at USC in the Master in Speech Pathology (M.S.P.) program. She received her bachelor’s degree from Butler University (go dawgs!) in Indianapolis, Indiana. She majored in Communication Science and Disorders, with a minor in Special Education, and was a member of the varsity swim team. She is from St. Johns, Michigan and enjoys spending time being active outdoors, crafting, knitting, and sewing. Maggie will be a member of the POLAR team at the aphasia lab.

Undergraduate Students


James Malcolm Sutton

James Malcolm Sutton is an undergraduate student attending University of South Carolina majoring in Chemistry and minoring in Neuroscience. He is currently a junior and is also involved in the Air Force ROTC program. Upon graduation, he plans on attending medical school to become a physician in the United States Air Force