Page 70 - Spring 2018
P. 70

Ask an Acoustician
setup to play the clarinet. In the future, finding a way to re- peat these measurements with real musicians would be ideal (but perhaps impossible).
Currently, I am working at an undergraduate liberal arts in- stitution so even though I am expected to do a significant amount of research, my priority is becoming the best teacher I can be. I teach a full load of courses each semester, advise students, etc. I really enjoy teaching the introductory phys- ics courses, our mathematical methods course for physics majors, and, of course, doing original research with under- graduate students.
Describe your career path (how you got your start, what made you choose your field).
I studied music and clarinet performance and mathematics as an undergraduate and one day heard the word acoustician (somewhere around the first semester of my junior year ... before that I thought I wanted to teach music!). I joined the ASA to get the journal and began seeking research oppor- tunities. Luckily, I found one at Coe College, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, with Jim Cottingham, which led to my attending the 2009 San Antonio ASA meeting. From there, even more ex- cited, I applied to graduate school. I worked on my masters at Penn State and began applying for fellowships for PhD work because funding was scarce. I was awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) graduate fellowship and used this to pursue study in musical acoustics.
I spent the majority of the last three years of my graduate study in Marseille, France, traveling back often to attend ASA meetings as a member of the Student Council. During the last year of my PhD, I applied for and was offered a visit- ing assistant professorship at Rollins College. After gradu- ating with my doctorate from Penn State in August 2016, I began the tenure-track position at Rollins College. I know that if it weren’t for Jim offering me my first research oppor- tunity, I wouldn’t be where I am today!
What is a typical day for you?
This really depends on the time of year. If it is during the ac- ademic year, I get to work around 7 a.m. and begin answer- ing emails. Students arrive in the building closer to 8 a.m., and I can expect students to come knocking no later than 9 a.m. Often, I teach two to three classes a day depending on the semester. Most days, I offer at least one office hour. Going into my third year of teaching, I plan to dedicate 5-8
hours a week in the lab doing research, measurements, etc., otherwise it’s all about teaching and prepping for teaching, grading, assigning homework, and reading. I attend many meetings around campus for campus service and teleconfer- ences for ASA business.
If it is in the summer, I work with at least two undergrads in my research lab for at least eight weeks. We begin at 9 a.m., and I usually get in around 8 a.m. to prepare a to-do list for that day to give to the students. This gives me time to reflect on the work that the students are doing and give feedback if necessary. It’s a different world on campus during the sum- mer, but it’s great for me and for the students to have this dedicated time to deeply think about research.
How do you feel when projects do not work out the way you expected them to?
I am at the beginning of my career and so I am still overly optimistic about all of the ideas I have jotted down thus far. Then again, because musical acoustics has been around for a while and I am just getting started, I generally assume that what I try might not work the first time. This has become less and less hard to deal with; it is an expectation in experi- mental physics. The tenure-track timeline does make this a bit more stressful, but I am lucky to have many mentors to go to for advice.
Do you feel like you have solved the work-life balance prob- lem? Was it always this way?
Absolutely not. There are times when I consciously sacrifice one for the other or sacrifice both for sleep. I think that is how things have improved – that I am choosing when to al- low things to take over... to an extent. I try to take the whole “step back and see what this one chunk of life will impact” or “can my students wait one more day for their exam grades if it means I get to take a break and have a little me time?” Yes, I think they can, especially if it means that I am sane and clearheaded for them the next day. It’s a push and pull, give and take. It’ll take a lifetime to perhaps begin to “figure it out.” If you’re doing something you love, it’s never too big of a problem; it all works out. That’s how I feel at the end of each semester teaching; it’s crazy and the list keeps building, but then, all of the sudden, it’s over and everything keeps moving, time keeps trudging forward, despite my efforts to make things slow down. It’s all going to be fine is something a tiny voice will say to me, often. And most of the time I tend to believe it.
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