Page 68 - Summer 2018
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Ask an Acoustician
mathematical principles to behavioral phenomena). I was fascinated with the theory of signal detection (TSD) that was the topic of interest for two of my mentors, Jim Egan and, especially, Don Robinson. The TSD is a mathematical/ statistical application for understanding decision making. Hearing was a good way to test many aspects of the TSD, so my work quickly gravitated toward hearing. I received a National Science Foundation (NSF) postdoctoral fellow- ship to work with Dave Green at the University of Califor- nia, San Diego (UCSD), La Jolla. Dave is an ASA icon and a developer of the TSD. He was/is a fantastic mentor. I then spent seven years on the faculty of the Speech and Hearing Sciences and the Psychology Departments at the University of Florida, Gainesville, where Don Teas took me “under his wing” and provided strong mentoring in being an academic. I then took over from Terry Dolan (another mentor and life- long friend) the directorship of a small endowed research institute, the Parmly Hearing Institute at Loyola University Chicago. With the help of several colleagues, especially Dick Fay, Parmly grew into a fairly large and well-respected hear- ing research enterprise. While at Parmly, I took a two-year leave to direct two neuroscience programs at the NSF. In the 1990s, Loyola ran into serious challenges, and I was recruit- ed to be associate vice president for research and dean of the Graduate School to help Loyola with what was a financial disaster. By 2005, Loyola had financially recovered and I re- turned to Parmly. However, in the reorganization of Loyola, Parmly was not going to receive the support it once did. So in 2007 I decided not to retire and accepted the opportu- nity to come to Arizona State University (ASU) and chair the Speech and Hearing Science Department, which I did un- til 2014 when I migrated to my current position as research professor. So it is people who got me interested in hearing and kept me informed as to how to be a lifelong learner, and they are why I enjoy what I have been doing.
What is a typical day for you?
“Typical days” have varied greatly over my career. Because the question implies what a typical day is for me now, I will say that, in general, it is as stress free as it has ever been, with the exception of my postdoctoral year. As a nontenured research professor (having given up tenure three years ago), my main responsibility is to oversee research funded by my NIH grant and industrial contracts. I am fortunate to be able to afford a wonderful postdoctoral fellow with whom to work. Although I truly miss classroom teaching, I do not miss some of the stress of dealing with students and espe-
cially those stresses related to the university bureaucracy. Not having to attend university-related meetings has also reduced the stress. Although I enjoy my current situation, I occasionally miss the opportunities that teaching and work- ing with others afforded me in the past. What I find worri- some is the amount of time I have to spend on bureaucratic work for compliance with university mandates for submit- ting a paper for publication or a grant for funding. I believe I should be doing research (or mentoring) and not working for something like a journal. The same problem exists for many other situations, and these situations are made even worse by the horrible websites used for these purposes. I cannot see how this can continue without it having dire con- sequences for research, teaching, and service.
How do you feel when experiments/projects do not work out the way you expected them to? Experiments/projects that do not turn out as I had hoped lead to two very different outcomes in my experience. On the one hand, failed experiments often lead to great discov- eries. That is, you almost always learn something when an experiment fails and you try to understand why. Seeking this understanding can lead to insights you would not have had if the experiment succeeded as you had expected. In fact, a successful experiment may actually not lead to an advance- ment in that if you obtained the results that you expected, what have you learned that is new? On the other hand, it is more than humbling when you are sure that something will succeed and it does not. At times it is easy to lose your spirit for what you are doing when such failures occur. The suc- cessful people I know try to emulate find ways to keep their spirits high, to learn from the failure, and to find new paths.
Do you feel like you have solved the work-life balance problem? Was it always this way?
This is a constant challenge even today, with families that are fully on their own and a career that is winding down. I cannot imagine being where I am today without the support of my wife, who embraced my zeal for what I was doing and oversaw many of our important family responsibilities. I be- lieve (I hope) I helped in this regard and I always wanted to, but for a great deal of my career, my time in the lab, at meet- ings, or in the classroom left little time for “life balances.” The fact that I have a great family and great friends and that I still enjoy what I do must mean that my wife and I were successful, to some extent, in balancing work (both hers and mine) and life.
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