Listening In at the Acoustical Society of America

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Meeting Notes - SPS Reporters at Science Conferences

Listening In at the Acoustical Society of America


Phoebe Sharp, AZC & SPS Member, Rhodes College 

When I decided to major in physics, I was surprised and excited to discover how broad and inclusive the discipline is. Not only have I studied the stars, but I’ve also researched the properties of sound in bone to diagnose osteoporosis, and after I graduate I hope to work in science policy.

 Abel Diaz, Jordan Ankersen, Phoebe Sharp, and Joshua Moore.

My research using ultrasound to detect changes in the density of bone brought me to the Acoustical Society of America meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana, where I had the opportunity to hear other students from my research group give talks on bone density and imaging with ultrasound for biomedical purposes. We want to use the techniques that we’re testing to help diagnose osteoporosis in high-risk locations, such as the 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, the impacts of the disease are not just physical but economical as well.

At the conference, most of the researchers involved in similar forms of biomedical ultrasound research were from Japan. I was especially interested to discover the connections between the research they’re doing and the research I’m part of, along with the differences between our labs.

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’re using sound from a scientific perspective.

As a clarinet player, I thought one of the most interesting topics was a project looking at how sound varies when four different musicians play the same jazz piece on four different clarinets. Another group of researchers is looking at how language is produced from people diagnosed with ALS and Parkinson’s. Others gave presentations on the best way to design an open office to combat distracting noises. Alongside these were countless other diverse projects that allowed researchers to look at and use sound to help our understanding of the world around us.

And because this was New Orleans, there was plenty of music. In lieu of an hour-long lecture, the Savoy Family Cajun Band treated us to a concert, with question-and-answer sessions between pieces. It was a great change of pace. The band would play an enthusiastic piece, and physicists would walk to the front of the banquet hall and dance! Afterward, people asked about how the accordion worked and how different keys impacted the sound of the different instruments used. I was happy to learn that this existed within the acoustics community—equal parts work and play.

The music continued with a jam session by acoustical physicists that’s been a tradition for 10 years. I loved how cohesive the group was and how inclusive they were of younger players. This was one of many demonstrations of inclusiveness in the community at this conference. For people from many different research backgrounds and experiences to come together and not only share their research but also share their time and passions was fantastic to witness and great fun to be a part of.

With so many different fields represented, this conference showed me just how different each acoustic physicist is. I’m grateful for my experience at this international gathering and aim to keep learning about the many different disciplines of physics that are still out there. //

Abel Diaz, secretary of the Rhodes College chapter of SPS, presenting his research “Correlation of ultrasonic backscatter difference parameters with bone density in clinical ultrasound images.”

An image from the presentation “Signal Analysis of New Orleans Jazz Clarinet Sound” by Joshua Veillon from the University of New Orleans.  All photos by Phoebe Sharp.

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Meeting Notes - SPS Reporters at Science Conferences