Sherri Jones first came to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to study electrical engineering. However, after hearing a speech from then-UNL audiology professor T. Newell Decker, she wanted to impact the lives of people who have hearing disabilities — like her family members.
After 20 years of research, Jones, the dean of the College of Education and Human Sciences, is receiving recognition for her work. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association awarded her the Honors of the Association for her lifetime work in audiology. She said she had no idea she had been nominated and had almost never thought about being recognized for her research.
Jones said her research is focused mostly on genetic mutations within the ear that cause symptoms such as hearing loss and difficulty balancing. She said others in the audiology field also design amplification devices, such as hearing aids.
“There are hundreds of genes required for the ear to develop,” Jones said. “My work was trying to understand what genes, when disrupted, resulted in hearing loss or dizziness.”
Jones said grants and funding were pivotal to her research. With funding from the National Institute of Health, she was able to conduct research on a variety of mice with genetic hearing disorders and develop a database of genetic mutations that result in hearing loss or balance issues.
Jones said applying for her first few grants was one of the most challenging points in her career. According to Jones, her degree in audiology and gender made it difficult for her to acquire the proper funding. Despite opposition, Jones said she picked herself up, applied for grants elsewhere and began to create a database for genetic hearing disorders and tools to aid her in her research.
Decker, who is now an emeritus professor of audiology, said he first met Jones in 1985 when he was her mentor and major professor while she was in graduate school at UNL.
“I would say that [Jones] is one of the brightest and most inquisitive students I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with,” Decker said. “She pursued her work and made some rather amazing discoveries over the years.”
Decker also said he was extremely proud of Jones being recognized by the association and was one of the three who nominated Jones for the award.
“It was pretty clear to me when she was proposed as a nominee that she would probably get the award,” Decker said. “She just is a standout. She truly is.”
As the current dean, Jones said her career in research has come to an end. But even after being recognized by the association, Jones said she loves making an impact on the future of scientific research.
“I’m just completely excited to see where people will take the work, and the therapies that they will develop,” Jones said. “I will just feel very proud that I played some little foundational role in all of that.”