Engineering students bridge research gaps and advance field of acoustics


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A team of Penn State acoustical engineers recently presented their research at the Acoustical Society of America’s (ASA) 174th conference in New Orleans, one of the nation’s leading societies in the field.

Martin Lawless, an acoustics doctoral candidate and ASA student council representative for the musical acoustics technical committee, presented his paper on office noise and its effects on work performance. His research and involvement with ASA is key to advancing all branches of acoustics, both theoretical and applied.

“ASA has furthered my career technically and socially. I get feedback from professionals in the field, and it’s always helpful. People also come up to talk to me with suggestions after a presentation as to how I can make it better. They’re always trying to help,” said Lawless. “Everyone is trying to further the science.”

ASA is unique in terms of its broadness. Individuals from various acoustic-related fields are selected to present their research on a number of topics chosen by the society. Subjects range from Lawless’s topic of workplace background noise to standards in structural acoustics and vibration, and everything in between. This variety is crucial to advance acoustics, and gives students an opportunity to bridge the gap between research fields.

“Most societies focus on one particular field or area of research, but ASA is very broad. It offers networking opportunities within other fields related to acoustics that don’t exist in other societies, and this is a much better opportunity for students you won’t find elsewhere. I try to meet someone new every conference, whether they’re in my field or not. I learn more that way than the presentations,” said Lawless. 

In addition to technical presentations, the conference also hosted a number of ASA administrative meetings. This was the first year the society offered live-streaming services. Trevor Jerome, an acoustics doctoral candidate and student council chair of ASA, assisted with this process. Jerome also hosted student events such as orientation, a meet and greet, special sessions, awards receptions, and a recruiting reception.

“ASA gives students a base in their acoustics and sound careers. It’s the place to be no matter what students want to do with sound — it spans all of acoustics and is a home for years,” said Jerome.

Jerome and Lawless are both involved with the society’s strategic plan. Jerome focuses on awareness and ASA’s outreach to students, particularly through, an organization that teaches science professionals how to communicate their science. ASA also has a redesigned student website under Jerome’s leadership.

Lawless concentrates specifically on recruiting and retaining early career members. In 2017, he organized a speed networking event in Boston where early career and senior members got together for five minutes to foster relationships.

“ASA offers important technical and professional opportunities for students — the chance to meet your peers and other students, push your career forward, and meet with senior members is priceless. Everyone is approachable. I was able to sit down and chat with the author of our textbook for 20 minutes. You don’t get that opportunity anywhere else,” said Lawless.  

“I’ve gotten several internships through networking with ASA, which allowed me to be well versed in the field. Networking through ASA has been enough to enter my professional field,” said Jerome.

The Acoustical Society of America was established in 1929 to generate, disseminate and promote the knowledge and practical applications of acoustics. The society currently has more than 7,500 members who serve the acoustics community in all branches of acoustics. For further details, visit Students interested in joining ASA may contact Jerome for more information.


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Martin Lawless, Ph.D. candidate, welcomes students to the ASA New Orleans conference.

Martin Lawless, an acoustical engineering Ph.D. candidate and ASA student council representative for the musical acoustics technical committee, welcomes students to the Acoustical Society of America's 174th conference in New Orleans.



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