Mabel L. Rice

Mabel Rice
  • Director, Merrill Advanced Studies Center
  • Fred & Virginia Merrill Distinguished Professor of Advanced Studies
  • Director, Child Language Doctoral Program
  • Professor, Speech, Language & Hearing Department


Mabel Rice is a Distinguished Professor, Director of the Child Language Doctoral Program, and Professor of Speech, Language, and Hearing.  In addition, she is affiliated with the interdisciplinary doctoral program in Neuroscience.  Her research focuses on children’s language and children with language impairments, especially those with Specific Language Impairment (SLI).  In addition, she has collaborated in studies of twin children, children with or exposed to HIV, public health research in Australia and Norway, and children’s television programing. She has also collaborated in the development of app-based language assessments and electronic reading instructional devices.  She has published and/or edited 12 books, 38 chapters, 150 research papers, and one test of children’s morphosyntax.   Her research has been continuously externally funded by NIH and/or the Department of Education for more than 30 years.  For NIH, she served on the Council of the National Institute of Deafness and other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) (2008-2012), during which she served as Co-chair of the Voice, Speech, & Language Subcommittee of the NIDCD Strategic Planning Committee (2010).  In 2021 she served on the NIDCD Advisory Strategic Planning Committee. Her leadership across disciplines has been recognized with Fellow awards from ASHA, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Psychological Association, American Association for Psychological Science, ASHA Honors, and the Alfred A. Kawana Council of Editors Award from ASHA.  She serves on the Education Board of the American Health Council. She works with colleagues in Australia and Norway on longitudinal studies and has professional ties with colleagues in Scotland, South Korea, and the Czech Republic.  She held a Japan Society Fellow for Research at Sophia University, Tokyo, Japan; Hayden Williams Fellow at Curtin University, Perth, Australia; Professorship in innovation at the University of Potsdam, Germany; a researcher in residence at INSERM Hospital de la Salpetriere, Paris, France; a Visiting Scholar in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, MIT; and Visiting Scholar in the Graduate School of Education, Harvard.  She has directed an NIDCD doctoral training grant for 30 years, providing funding for 94 annual traineeships, and additional NIH or Department of Education doctoral training grants for an additional 59 annual traineeships.  Graduates of these programs are in leading research universities throughout the United States.

As Director of the Merrill Advanced Studies Center she has organized 11 scholarly conferences that let to 7 books, and she has organized 25 annual Merrill Research Retreats, for a total 887 participants.


Ph.D. Speech Language Pathology, University of Kansas
M.A. Speech Language Pathology, University of Northern Iowa
B.A. Speech Language Pathology, University of Northern Iowa


The central topic for Dr. Rice’s research is how to better understand why language acquisition is difficult for some children for no apparent reason.  This includes documentation of delayed onset of language, the linguistic properties of language that can identify affected children, long term longitudinal studies of affected and unaffected children to track how language develops over time, language acquisition of twins, families of children with language impairments, and possible causal pathways.  The scope of the research is cross-disciplinary, encompassing linguistics, developmental psychology, social development, speech/language pathology, genetics, familial relationships, educational practices and policies, public health, and innovative methods of assessment and treatment.  These interests are documented in her scientific publications and doctoral training approaches, and her more than $30,000,000 in competitively awarded research funding. Dr. Rice’s interests also focus on research in our public universities, including issues of organizational structures, budget pressures, political pressures, and research policies locally and nationally that impact the work of researchers.  These interests are evident in her leadership of the Merrill Advanced Studies Center, the annual research retreats, and the series of scholarly publications derived from scientific meetings.