Students taking outdoor noise measurements on a sunny day.

Distance Education Courses

The Graduate Program in Acoustics offers a broad variety of courses toward the M.Eng. degree in acoustics. The M.Eng. degree requires 18 credits from a set of core courses, with the remaining 12 credits coming from elective courses. All courses are 3 credits, and the list below provides descriptions of the courses currently being offered through distance education at Penn State.

We typically offer four to six courses during each fall and spring semester. Each semester is 15 weeks in length, and our faculty teach two lectures per week. Most classes are “blended” with the professor teaching resident students in the classroom while distance students either view the live broadcast of the lecture, or an archived recording.

Overview of Acoustics Courses

Required Courses

Elective Courses

Required Course Descriptions

The following courses are required for students pursuing the M.Eng. degree in acoustics. These courses are offered every year, either in the fall and spring semesters. Students are strongly encouraged to start with ACS 501 and/or ACS 502 as these two fundamental courses provide the basic background prerequisite for many of the following required and elective courses. All courses are 3 credits unless otherwise specified.

ACS 501, Elements of Acoustics and Vibration

This course introduces the fundamentals of acoustics and vibration, focusing on structural vibration and sound waves in simple objects such as mass-spring systems, strings, rods, and plates. The fundamental concepts of vibration are presented along with applications to engineering and industrial problems. Topics covered: simple harmonic oscillator; mechanical resonance and damping; forced vibration and normal modes; transverse waves on strings; boundary conditions and standing waves; elasticity; longitudinal, torsional, and transverse vibration of bars; transverse vibrations of membranes; and flexural vibrations of thin plates. [Fall semester]

ACS 502, Elements of Sound Waves in Fluids

This course lays the fundamental groundwork for the propagation of acoustic waves in fluids. Topics include: basic equations of fluid dynamics, acoustic lumped elements, speed of sound, linear acoustic wave propagation, plane and spherical waves, radiation of sound from sources and arrays, sound intensity and power, reflection and transmission of sound at boundaries, absorption of sound, normal modes in rooms, probation of sound in pipes and acoustic filters. [Fall semester]

ACS 503, Signal Analysis for Acoustics and Vibration

Time- and frequency-domain analyses for sampled, discrete-time acoustic and vibration measurements. Development, application, and consequences of filtering, spectral analysis, and correlation for single- and multi-channel data. [Fall semester]

ACS 514, Electroacoustic Transducers

This course covers derivation and discussion of the fundamental operating characteristics of transducers for acoustics and for vibration. Acoustic transducers will include microphones, loudspeakers, and underwater hydrophones and projectors. Student must have a working knowledge of MATLAB prior to taking this course. [Spring semester}

ACS 515, Acoustics in Fluid Media

This course covers sources of sound: superposition of simple courses, free space Green's functions, dipoles and quadrupoles, multipole expansion, radiation of sound, Kirchhoff-Helmholtz integral theorem, Rayleigh integral, radiation from cylinders and spheres, scattering from cylinders and spheres, diffraction, sound sources in ducts, cavities, and rooms, and a very brief introduction to acoustic finite elements and acoustic boundary elements. [Spring semester]

ACS 597 Advanced Signal Analysis for Acoustics and Vibration

This course is concerned with the time and frequency-domain analysis of discrete-time signals and discrete-time linear systems, with an emphasis on developing and applying analysis techniques with applications in acoustics and vibrations. Topics covered include: a review of time and frequency-domain representations of systems; the analysis and design of IIR and FIR digital filters; time-frequency analysis; signal detection and classification; and signal modulation. Possible application topics include vibration and modal analysis, machinery and structural health and condition monitoring, source localization and classification, and outdoor sound propagation. (Prerequisite ACS 597, Signal Analysis for Acoustics and Vibration) [Spring semester]

Elective Course Descriptions

In addition to the 18 credits of required core courses, M.Eng. degree students need to take four additional courses (12 credits) to reach a total of 30 required credits for the degree. The elective courses below are offered on a rotating basis, usually every couple of years. Specific course offerings depend on student interest and faculty availability. The course descriptions below indicate when each course was last offered. Course offerings for the upcoming semester are announced several months in advance.

ACS 519, Sound and Structure Interaction

Topics covered: structural vibrations of beams, plates, and cylindrical shells; structural damping; coupling of structural vibrations with acoustic pressure fields; analytical and numerical techniques (finite element and boundary element methods) for solving structural-acoustic problems; statistical energy analysis; transmission loss of plates; survey of practical applications for aerospace, automotive, and naval structural-acoustic systems.

ACS 521, Stress Waves in Solids

This course will cover recent advances in ultrasonic nondestructive evaluation; the propagation of elastic stress waves in solids; reflection and refraction of waves; horizontal shear; multilayer structures; viscoelastic media; testing principles.

ACS 530, Flow Induced Noise

The objective of this course is to provide the basic and applied aspects of noise created by subsonic fluid flows including prediction and reduction techniques. The concepts of noise and non-radiating pressure fluctuations created by unsteady flows are discussed from both a theoretical and experimental perspective. For a given class of flow, mechanisms for the creation of unsteady wall pressures, forces and sound, radiated directly and re-radiated by the vibration of the structure, are presented. The course will place a heavy emphasis on real world applications with material discussing both current research thrusts and past work in the field including the review and discussion of relevant journal articles.

ACS 537, Noise Control Engineering

Topics covered: source-path-receiver model, human hearing and psychoacoustics, human response to noise and vibration, sound quality metrics and criteria for quantifying noise, acoustic standards related to noise and vibration control, instrumentation for measuring and analyzing noise and vibration, noise sources (distributed sources, impact sources, flow noise), absorption (materials, measurement, placement), control of sound in large and small rooms, partitions and barriers, mufflers, and vibration control techniques.

ACS 542, Physical Principles in Biomedical Ultrasonics

This course focuses on the phenomenon of ultrasound in the context of medical and biological applications, systematically discussing physical principles and concepts. Concepts of wave acoustics are examined, and practical implications are explored — first, the generation and nature of acoustic fields and then their formal descriptions and measurement. Real tissues attenuate and scatter ultrasound in ways that have interesting relationships to their physical chemistry, and the course includes coverage of these topics. This course also includes critical accounts and discussions of the wide variety of diagnostic and investigative applications of ultrasound that are available in medicine and biology. The course encompasses the biophysics of ultrasound and its practical applications to therapeutic and surgical objectives. The course utilizes finite element methods for simulation. [Cross-listed as EMCH 542]

ACS 597, Computational Acoustics

This course provides a background to the field of computational acoustics with exposure to several important computational tools including: symbolic mathematics software (like Mathematica), finite differences, finite elements, boundary elements, scientific visualization, sound propagation algorithms. When possible, emphasis will be placed on commericially available software for solving noise and vibration problems. Guidelines are given for choosing the right numerical approach, generating meshes, and solving problems in areas such as product noise, audio and telephony, structural acoustics, and automobile and aircraft interior noise. Time domain, frequency domain, and fluid-structure interaction problems are all addressed.

ACS 597, Nonlinear Acoustics

The topics covered for this are: review of thermoviscous linear sound; nonlinear equations of acoustics; steepening/harmonic generation; weak shocks/N-waves; Burgers' equation; sonic booms; acoustic saturation; radiation pressure; acoustic levitation; nonlinear reflections and standing waves; biomedical harmonic imaging; streaming; cavitation and sonoluminescence; parametric arrays and the "audio spotlight"; scattering of sound by sound; and computational nonlinear acoustics.

ACS 597, Ocean Acoustics

This course covers a broad, but comprehensive, introduction to many important topics in underwater acoustics. The major goal is to give participants a practical understanding of fundamental concepts, along with an appreciation of current research and development activities. It serves as a foundation for more advanced study of current literature or for other specialized courses. Topics covered: ocean dynamics: e.g., derivation of the Navier-Stokes equation; derivation and solution of the wave equation: Green's functions, wavenumber integration, normal modes, PE, ray theory, energy flux; boundary reflection: layered fluid and elastic media, plane and spherical wave reflection; and boundary and volume scattering.

ACS 597, Spatial Sound and 3D Audio

This course is an overview of recent developments in virtual acoustics (also known as 3-D sound, 3-D audio, binaural audio, or spatialized sound). The course pulls from many subdisciplines of acoustics including psychoacoustics, physical acoustics, signal processing, active acoustic control, architectural acoustics, audio engineering and computational acoustics. Topics to be covered include: Head related transfer functions (HRTFs); elements of psychoacoustics for 3-D sound; the "stereo dipole"; auralization (including reverberation effects); virtual acoustic systems; cross talk cancellation; ambisonics; wave field synthesis; multi-channel audio; virtual reality modeling language (VRML) and applications.

ACS 597, Outdoor Sound Propagation

This course will cover a variety of outdoor sound scenarios, but a majority will focus on propagation near the ground. Topics include: effects of realistic ground surfaces; temperature gradients; atmospheric turbulence; propagation over barriers and terrain, and computational methods for outdoor sound.

ACS 597, Audio Signal Processing

This course will present the essential signal processing and acoustical modeling associated with audio systems used in broadcasting, communications, music recording, and video foley production. Topics covered: details of digital waveform compression processes and formats; digital signal processing for audio filters, modulation, filters, compressors, harmonizers, and reverberation special effects; digital audio workstations; the history and types of microphones and guitar pickups; amplifier design types, including digital, transistor, and vacuum tube amplifier designs; and loudspeaker system design including measurements and cross-over design for vented and sealed cabinets. This course will prepare students for working in the audio industry by supporting practical applications of acoustics theory to audio-related applications but it will not address electrical design of devices such as amplifiers or transducers. However, it will explain the differences and common uses of devices and processes in audio engineering.

ACS 597, Applications of Aeroacoustics and Vibroacoustics (alternative title: Acoustics of Musical Instruments)

This course will provide an in depth exploration of the physics and acoustics of classical musical instruments. Topics will focus on the mechanisms of sound production by stringed instruments (plucked, struck and bowed), percussion (drums, marimba) brass winds (lip reed, cylindrical bore, conical bore), woodwinds (flutes, single-reed, double reed). Related topics will include radiation properties, damping mechanisms, impedance measurements, and the coupling between acoustics and structural components. As time allows, ethnic variations on classical instruments may be discussed. An understanding of the fundamentals of acoustics and vibration will be assumed as prerequisite for this course.

ACS 597, Architectural Acoustics Theory and Research

This 3-credit graduate course will cover underlying theory and commonly used research methods in architectural acoustics. The theory topics will include reflections from infinite surfaces and finite objects, absorption mechanisms, and psychoacoustics concepts specific to architectural acoustics. The research methods that will be discussed include room acoustics impulse response measurements, modeling of room acoustics using commercially- available software, and experimental design of subjective listening tests. A set of recently published research articles related to these topics will also be examined in detail.

ACS 597, Advanced Transducers & Acoustic System Modeling

Topics for this course include: condenser, electret, piezoelectric, magnetic coil, and balanced-arm transducers, mechanical mounting; interaction of closely-spaced transducers and nonlinear response. Computational modeling for analog circuits using SPICE, and Modelica and Simscape for FEA and DAE models.

ACS 598E, Advanced Engineering Mathematics

This course is only offered for distance education students. This course will provide basic tools for solution of differential equation of acoustics and vibration. Topics include: first, second, and higher order ODEs, boundary and initial value problems; special functions and series solutions; Laplace and Fourier transforms; and numerical integration techniques. [Spring semester]

AERSP 511, Aerodynamic Noise

This course covers all aspects of sound generation by unsteady flow. The material includes methods based on classical acoustics as well as noise modeling and prediction based on computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulations. Topics covered: Human response to noise; noise metrics; fundamental solutions of the wave equation; Green’s functions; sound generated by flow; Lighthill’s acoustic analogy; application of Lighthill’s analogy to turbulent flows; physics of jet noise; modern theories of aerodynamic noise generation; sound generation by solid boundaries; propeller noise helicopter rotor noise; and duct acoustics.

A E 458, Advanced Architectural Acoustics and Noise Control

This course covers advanced consideration of noise control in buildings; ventilating system noise and vibration; acoustic design variables. The course will begin with a brief review of acoustics fundamentals and will include the following topics: (1) sound isolation in buildings, (2) heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) noise control and (3) an introduction to architectural acoustics principles for the design of venues for speech and/or music.



Founded in 1965, Penn State's Graduate Program in Acoustics has become the leading resource for graduate education in acoustics in the United States. The interdisciplinary program leads to the degrees: Master of Engineering in Acoustics (M.Eng.), Master of Science in Acoustics (M.S.), and Doctor of Philosophy in Acoustics (Ph.D.)

Graduate Program in Acoustics

College of Engineering

The Pennsylvania State University

201 Applied Science Building

University Park, PA 16802