The 174th meeting of the Acoustical Society of America: My Experience

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Acoustical Society of America (ASA) Meeting

December 4, 2017

New Orleans, Louisiana

Meeting host:

Acoustical Society of America


Phoebe Sharp

SPS Chapter:

I am a senior at Rhodes College in Memphis, TN. I decided to study physics because I wanted to be an astronomer, but having done research in a very different field, I have stayed with physics because of how diverse and complex physics is. And that is evident in acoustics. I wanted to go to the Acoustical Society of America meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana because of my research experience. My lab uses ultrasound to detect changes in density of bone. We want to use the techniques that we are testing to help diagnose osteoporosis in high risk locations locations on a patient, primarily a hip or lower back, where most osteoporotic fractures take place. Techniques used today involve large instruments and expensive equipment. With osteoporosis affecting 54 million Americans (, it is a detrimental disease not only on its victims physically, but monetarily as well. Other students from my research group presented their research, which gave me the opportunity to listen to other talks about bone density and imaging with ultrasound for biomedical purposes. Most of the researchers involved in similar forms biomedical ultrasound research were from Japan. I was extremely interested to find the connections between the research they are doing and the research I’m apart of, along with the differences between our labs. This community of bone imaging via ultrasound is international, fitting in at not only an ultrasound conference, but also the acoustics community, demonstrating the connection shared through science.

Acoustics is a massive field, and with good reason; we use sound all the time, and this conference was the place for researchers to talk about how they are using sound in a scientific perspective. One of the most interesting topics personally, as a player of the clarinet, was a project looking at how sound varies when four different musicians play the same jazz piece on four different clarinets. Other researchers were looking at how language is produced from people with ALS and Parkinson’s. There were also presentations about the best way to design an open office to combat the different typical distracting office noises. Alongside these were countless other diverse projects that allowed for researchers to look at and use sound to help our understanding of the world around us.

The first part of the conference that I went to was a “lecture” about the Savoy Family Cajun Band. This was not the typical hour long sit through of a professor talking at you about their work. Instead, we were privy to a concert with question and answer sessions in between pieces. It was awesome and a great change of pace from the average conference lecture. They would play a very enthusiastic piece, and physicists would walk to the front of the banquet hall and dance! After the piece, people in the audience would ask about how the accordion worked and how different keys impacted the sound of the different instruments used. And then after, they would start playing another piece. I was very happy to learn that this existed within the acoustics community; equal parts work and play.

The student life at this conference was abundant. There is an entire student council for the Acoustical Society of America. The president of this council, Trevor, was kind enough to let me interview him about his experience in ASA. Trevor is a graduate student at Pennsylvania State University researching structural bolt joint dynamics. He was apart of ASA since his undergrad, attending meetings and networking with other people in different fields of acoustics. His advice for undergraduates is very similar to that of SPS: get involved, attend meetings, and connect with other local chapters. ASA does a lot for their students by providing them with opportunities to network, learn about other research opportunities, and learn what other people are doing in the field. One of my friends from my research group met a research advisor from a school she has applied to for grad school during the conference. The advisor was also the chair of my friends session, which that gave her a great opportunity to meet someone she wants to work with and show her prospective advisor not only her presentation skills, but also her understanding of complex research methods she had become familiar with.

I was also able to interview Dr. Ioup from the University of New Orleans. She was celebrated at the Women in Acoustics luncheon for all of her many contributions to acoustics over her career. She went to the University of Florida for her Masters and the University of Connecticut for her PhD. She currently studies signal processing from whales to the jazz clarinet. She recommends for students to always ask questions and to keep trying. She says, “Don’t worry if you don’t get the grade, job, position that you want, just keep trying. You may get something better!” When I looked up her most recent publications, she has been a part of all different types of signal analysis projects. She was a part of the team that analyzed the sound from different clarinet players. She has looked at population densities of dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico and the communication between Sperm Whales using clicks when they search for food. She has done so many projects in so many different fields. She really demonstrates how diverse and expansive the field of acoustics is.

The conference overall was incredible. On Wednesday night, there was a jam session at a local bar, a tradition for 10 years. A large group of acoustical physicists came together to play all different kinds of music. The session started with a group that had played together for many years, knowing all the songs I heard by heart. With so many musicians on stage, a song would go on for seemingly ever, allowing everyone to take a solo. I loved how cohesive the group was and how inclusive they were of younger players. This was one of many demonstrations of inclusiveness of the community at this conference. For people from many different research backgrounds and experiences to come together and not only share their research but to also share their time and passions was not only fantastic to witness, but great fun to be apart of.