Home Education Vassar teacher lands grant to study noise

Vassar teacher lands grant to study noise

A five-year project developed by a Vassar College assistant professor of physics has been awarded $410,000 from the National Science Foundation.

David T. Bradley gained the funding via the Faculty Early Career Development Program that “supports junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars.”

Among his interests is what happens to sound when it hits a solid object. Results could enhance a classical music concert or deaden the bang-bang-bang of an urban jackhammer.

The funds will enable Bradley to further his investigations and integrate them into the Vassar curriculum, providing hands-on laboratory experiences. The grant also supports the expansion of Bradley’s efforts to introduce acoustics topics to high school students, with particular attention to students groups underrepresented in the sciences.
Highlights of what the grant will make possible include:
• creation of 10 undergraduate summer research positions at Vassar;
• addition of $150,000 in acoustics research equipment for the Vassar physics department;
• collaboration with the IBM Acoustics Laboratory in Poughkeepsie; and
• extension of a physics workshop series for ethnic minority high school students from the Bronx.
“Acoustics is a highly multidisciplinary field, very much in keeping with the directions of the Vassar curriculum,” Bradley said in a statement. “The NSF award further lays the foundation for an extensive acoustics program at the college.”
In advance of Bradley joining the physics and astronomy department in 2007, Vassar built a new acoustics laboratory to support his teaching and research.

Bradley’s current research seeks to characterize the behavior of reflected sound from surfaces used in acoustically sensitive spaces, like concert halls and classrooms.
While reviewing the research literature to prepare his grant proposal, Bradley found little information related to architectural engineering about acoustic scattering from fractal surfaces. And, he points out, the scientific significance of his research extends much further. “It combines two fundamentally cross-disciplinary topics: boundary scattering and fractal geometry. Scattering has major implications in the study of several acoustics sub-fields, including sound energy behavior in rooms, noise in urban environments, and boundary interaction problems in acoustical oceanography and underwater acoustics.”

Bradley teaches both introductory and upper-level physics courses, a two-course sequence in electromagnetic theory, an advanced acoustics course and a physics of sound course for nonmajors. He also teaches in Vassar’s multidisciplinary cognitive science and media studies programs.

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Bill Fallon is editor of the Fairfield County Business Journal. He has worked at Westfair Communications for more than five years, previously editing an upstate New York daily and a national motorcycle magazine in Nevada. He attended Iona Prep in New Rochelle, N.Y., and the University of Virginia.


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