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Project: Early Childhood Metric Initiative

Early childhood suffers from a lack of quantifiable data that is easy to collect at scale. Work with a team of engineers, computer scientists, and early childhood experts to build a non-intrusive, wearable technology that leverages machine-learning to collect real-time, real-world data to measure young children’s early language environments (i.e. the quantity and quality of language interactions they are exposed to). As part of the project, develop machine learning algorithms and models to analyze the large-scale adult-child interaction data collected from this wearable technology. This large dataset will enable researchers and practitioners to better understand the relationships between family demographics, parental inputs, and child outcomes and identify effective approaches, as well as enable policymakers to hone in on the most effectives programs and policies to enhance children’s early language environments. This audio dataset will also allow experts in natural language processing to develop and refine speech processing algorithms.

Mentor: Dana Suskind, MD, Professor of Surgery and Pediatrics, Director, Pediatric Cochlear Implantation Program, Co-Director, Thirty Million Words (TMW) Center for Early Learning + Public Health

Dana Suskind, MD, is a pediatric otolaryngologist who specializes in hearing loss and cochlea implantation. She directs the University of Chicago Medicine’s Pediatric Hearing Loss and Cochlear Implant program.

Recognized as a national thought leader in early language development, Dr. Suskind has dedicated her research and clinical life to optimizing foundational brain development and preventing early cognitive disparities and their lifelong impact. She is founder and co-director of the TMW Center for Early Learning + Public Health, which aims to create a population-level shift in the knowledge and behavior of parents and caregivers to optimize the foundational brain development in children from birth to five years of age, particularly those born into poverty.

Her book “Thirty Million Words: Building a Child’s Brain” was published in 2015.

Dr. Suskind has received several awards for her work, including the Weizmann Women for Science Vision and Impact award, the SENTAC Gray Humanitarian Award, the LENA Research Foundation Making a Difference Award, the Chairman’s Award from the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing in 2018, and the John D. Arnold, MD Mentor Award for Sustained Excellence from the Pritzker School of Medicine.