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Report from the Acoustical Society of America's 149th Meeting

By Kenneth Bader, SPS Reporter, Grand Valley State University, Allendale, MI

SPS Reporter Kenneth Bader found the Acoustical Society of America (ASA) meeting to be the pinnacle of his undergraduate experience.  

What happens when acousticians get together? The noise is deafening. The Acoustical Society of America held its 149th meeting on May 16 – 20 in conjunction with the Canadian Acoustical Association in Vancouver, British Columbia. Sessions of specialized topics (i.e. non-linear acoustics, biomedical ultrasound, and physical acoustics) were presented each morning and afternoon. These papers represented several months of research for students and professors alike, stimulating discussion to determine the direction the community should take. Thursday’s Biomedical Ultrasound/ Physical Acoustics session was particularly exciting, as it honored the work of Wesley Nyborg. Nyborg’s presence at the session was humble as several of his previous students spoke of their admiration for their mentor.

Despite the academic prestige, it was the chocolate fondue fountain during the Tuesday night social hour that captured the attendees’ imagination. Both Tuesday and Thursday nights consisted of buffet socials that made for interesting conversations and well-fed acousticians. In addition, on Wednesday night the students (and cool postdocs) gathered for an informal outing to a local pub and jazz club.

My contribution to the meeting was a paper presented during the Wednesday morning Biomedical Ultrasound/ Bioresponse to Vibration session. The paper was a summary of the research I had done the last two years at Grand Valley State University (Allendale, MI) with Professor Karen Gipson. Using a light scattering technique, we studied acoustic cavitation activity along a solid surface/medium interface. The results of this experiment motivated us to visualize the microstreaming patterns of stable bubbles. Using an agar-rheoscopic fluid medium for visualization of the fluid flow, we were able to estimate of the velocity fields surrounding the bubble during microstreaming.

Kenneth Bader takes on Canada's fastest statues.  

I felt quite honored (and nervous) during my presentation as nearly all of the authors of my references were in the audience. The undergraduate presence at the ASA meeting was very small, as only 12 of the 137 students were undergrads at the student social. Of those, most did not present but came to observe. Roland Kruse, a senior at Oldenburg University (Oldenburg, Germany), was the only physics undergrad whom I encountered. Roland’s group investigated the effectiveness of using ultrasound to measure the properties of acoustic materials “I had worked with the group on this project, and my advisor said I should come out to investigate the other research going on in my field. Also, she said it would be good exposure and experience.”

While the undergraduate numbers were small, their impact was evident---Adam Maxwell, a junior in electrical engineering at the University of Washington, actually won the student paper competition over graduate competition. Working at the applied physics lab with Michael Bailey and Lawrence Crum, Adam discussed the mechanisms for cracking cylindrical phantom kidney stones during lithotripsy. “I just enjoy my job. I mean, Michael kind of gives me the freedom to present this stuff at these meetings if I want and I’m always grateful for the opportunity.”

“There are definitely some undergrads at the conference. There aren’t many, but there are definitely some,” said Ron Roy of Boston University, a member of ASA’s executive council. “Usually, they will get in (to the meeting) because they know somebody who can get them in. You see, the ASA is a very family oriented. There’s always somebody here that they (the undergrad) will know and so they will automatically be plugged in. And, of course, that person they know will know somebody else and eventually that student will know the entire community.”

From L to R: Todd Hay (University of Texas at Austin), Alisyn Malek (University of Michigan), Kenneth Bader (Grand Valley State University).  

Roy claims this accessibility and close knit community is what makes the ASA meetings so memorable. “At some other big meetings there will be tons of papers and a ton of parallel sessions and it’s easy to get lost in the crowd. At ASA, it’s more of me telling my friends what I’ve been up to the past few months. That’s what’s so different about ASA. You can go anywhere to give a talk, you go to ASA to see what your friends are up to.”

I would highly encourage anyone who has a chance to give a paper (or even just attend) at the ASA to do so. The community is very honest, but also very friendly. It truly is a family atmosphere.

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