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effectively communicate the information. My involvement in any project typically encompasses three main areas: room acoustics (the character of the sound within a room, which is related to its shape and materials), sound isolation between spaces, and noise and vibration control of building systems.
Describe your career path (how you got your start,
what made you choose your field).
My initial interest in engineering stemmed from my love of math. Growing up, math always seemed more like a fun puzzle than a “problem.” I loved that it could be concrete and creative at the same time, that there was an answer to every question even though you could arrive at the same solution in many different ways. When it came time to apply to college, I was drawn to engineering because I wanted to figure out how to use math and physics to tackle tangible problems in the real world, but my career choice wasn’t quite that simple.
Growing up, I was also dedicated to several extracurricular activities, many of them musical (piano, violin, oboe, glock- enspiel — yes, glockenspiel) as well as figure skating and dance. I considered becoming a pianist instead of an engi- neer but didn’t want to give up everything because virtually nobody makes it to the top. I wanted to keep my options open, but I didn’t want to give up the idea of incorporating music into my professional life. Because I viewed life as one big math problem, my thought process went something like this: “music + engineering = acoustics.”
I went on to study mechanical engineering at Princeton and had the opportunity to do acoustics and audio research with Edgar Choueiri for my senior thesis. One summer, I connect- ed with Ben Markham through Princeton’s alumni directory. He introduced me to the field of acoustical consulting and ad- vised me on graduate programs, and I now happen to work for him. I then completed a master’s degree in architectural acoustics and soon after started my job at Acentech.
What is a typical day?
No two days are the same, and I’m very grateful for that! I often have more than 20 active projects, all at different stages of design and for different types of buildings. Sometimes I’m at my computer modeling a recital hall and developing an auralization so that I can listen to it before it’s built. Some- times I’m in the field measuring sound isolation between apartments or the sound levels of a chiller. Other times, I’m visiting a construction site to see a project in progress. Throughout the design process, I am reviewing architectural and mechanical drawings, developing recommendations to achieve the acoustical design goals, and communicat- ing with the design team. Aside from consulting on project
work, a typical day often also includes writing proposals for new projects and developing ways to advance our simulation and measurement tools. The balance between all of these ac- tivities is constantly shifting, and being a successful consul- tant requires excellent time management.
How do you feel when projects do not work out the way you expected them to?
Although it can be stressful and disappointing for a project to turn out differently than expected, I try to focus on learning as much as possible. These circumstances provide tremendous opportunities to grow if you’re willing to dig in, ask questions, and take measurements until you really understand the un- expected outcome. Architectural acoustics is still a relatively young field, and sometimes it can feel like we have more ques- tions than answers, but this is part of what makes it so exciting!
Do you feel like you have solved the work-life balance problem? Was it always this way?
Has anyone “solved” this problem? If they have, I’d love to meet them! As someone who is very new to the field of acoustical consulting (and to adulthood in general), I cer- tainly struggle with the balance between work and home life. I have found that it’s not a static equilibrium, and it’s important for me to remember this when one is dominat- ing the other. Now that I feel more settled into my job, I’m trying to reintroduce extracurricular activities into my life. Fortunately, I often get to play the piano as part of my work! I’m also very lucky to have a supportive partner to walk our dog and make dinner when I have to work late.
What makes you a good acoustician?
A good acoustician needs to be a technical expert, a creative problem solver, and an effective communicator. I strive to be a good acoustician by drawing on my experience and curios- ity at the intersection between music and engineering and by applying close attention to detail and organizational skills to manage many simultaneous projects. I am passionate about designing spaces that work well for their users. Whether it’s a kid in a piano lesson, a college student in a lecture, or an employee in an open-plan office, I can empathize with the real person, and that motivates me to develop acoustical de- signs that are as effective as possible.
How do you handle rejection?
Acoustical consultants deal with rejection on a daily basis. What may be ideal acoustically is not always best architec- turally or mechanically or feasible to construct. It’s impor- tant for me to be sensitive to the perspectives of other disci- plines on the design team, but it’s also my responsibility to help the design team make well-informed decisions.
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