Nicole Li-Jessen, Ph.D., is a speech-language pathologist and a computer biologist by training. She obtained her clinical degree at the University of Hong Kong with extensive clinical experience in voice and swallowing disorders. She then pursued her Ph.D. training in computational biology at the University of Pittsburgh and post-doctoral training in tissue engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the United States. She joined McGill University as Assistant Professor in 2014. She is Canada Research Chair (tier 2) in personalized medicine of voice disorders. She received the Rosemary Wedderburn Brown Prize in 2017 and the Principal’s Prize for Excellence in Teaching in 2018.
Dr. Li-Jessen's Voice and Upper Airway Research Laboratory focuses on advancing personalized medicine in voice and upper airway disorders through the development of high-performance computing, wearable devices, non-invasive diagnostics and biomaterials for tissue regeneration. In particular, her team integrates in vitro, in vivo and in silico (computational) approaches to study vocal fold biology and wound healing. The ultimate goal is to guide surgeons and speech pathologists in the best methods to repair voices that have been lost. Current research projects focus on what cells and proteins drive the vocal fold injury and repair after surgical and vocal trauma, along with the roles of biomechanical stress in cellular and tissue adaptation. Her lab also uses agent-based modeling to simulate patient-specific vocal trauma and repair response.
Lastly, her lab in collaboration with engineers and surgeons are at work to develop non-invasive assessment of vocal fold pathology, create 3D printable biomaterial for vocal fold reconstruction as well as wearable e-health devices for voice safety monitoring. Her work is funded by Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and National Institutes of Health in the United States. Dr. Li-Jessen is the National Coordinator (Canada) of World Voice Day.
She and her students from the Speech Language Pathology Clinical Program organize year-round outreach activities to raise the public awareness of vocal care. They provide free voice consultation, research seminars and voice workshops for public and professional voice users such as teachers, singers and public speakers. They also provide free voice workshops to transgender populations in Montreal for their voice and communication transition. At present, Dr. Li-Jessen is the Chair of Widening Participation Committee (Faculty of Medicine) with the mission of enhancing the diversity of student body within health professional programs at McGill. She is dedicated to promote diversity, cultural competence and social accountability in health professions education.