Page 59 - Winter2018
P. 59

of my former professors at NU, Tom Tillman, that changed my path. He convinced me to return to NU for a PhD and I jumped at the chance. I always thought I would obtain a PhD, but this single discussion with Dr. Tillman was all the encouragement I needed to pursue my further educa- tion straightaway. On returning to NU, I chose to work with Fred Wightman, who taught me how to be an experimen- talist and an independent thinker. I became good friends with the other students working in Fred’s lab, especially Pete Fitzgibbons and Larry Humes. When I was ready to defend my dissertation, Pete informed me of a faculty position at the University of Maryland. I got the job, which has been my one and only academic position for my entire career.
What is a typical day for you?
This is not an easy question to answer because every day is different and varies between the academic year versus sum- mer or winter sessions. Nonetheless, many days have com- monalities. I start each day checking email (who doesn’t!) to learn what calamities may be awaiting me in the lab (usually first thing Monday morning), what tasks someone wants me to do, etc. I often spend time in the lab to troubleshoot prob- lems and develop new experimental protocols. Typically, I have advising appointments with students, ranging from undergraduates considering graduate school options to PhD students planning their dissertation research. It is a rare day when I do not meet with at least one student. Much of my time each day is spent designing studies, reviewing pilot data, analyzing final datasets, and writing or revising manu- scripts. These research-related activities are often in consul- tation with students and colleagues and are the best part of any day. I tackle at least one administrative task each day. As director of the Doctoral Program in Clinical Audiology, I monitor student progress, the quality of the instructors in the program, course scheduling, and the graduate curricu- lum and respond to emerging issues as they arise.
As codirector of a T-32 Institutional Training Grant (, I may plan a workshop, prepare an annual report, or monitor the budget. During the academic year, I prepare for teaching my class one or two days/week to keep the material current and engage the students through new techniques. I also attend at least one meeting a day, which, like for most of us, is the least favorite part of my day. These can range from department-wide faculty meetings to ad- ministrative meetings at the college or university level. I serve on promotion and tenure-review committees, curricu- lum committees, and award selection committees. At home in the evening, I often write reference letters for students or
colleagues, review manuscripts, and review grant applica- tions. Each and every day goes by incredibly fast.
How do you feel when experiments or projects do not work out the way you expected them to?
The results of our experiments often do not yield the results we expect. I am no longer surprised or disappointed by an unpredictable outcome because it is inherent in conducting empirical research. Our strategy is to design experiments in a way that the results tell us something important and new, even if the outcome is unexpected. We often are prepared for the possibility of unanticipated findings as a result of col- lecting and monitoring a considerable amount of pilot data, and we may alter the experimental protocol as a result of these pilot data, such as adding measures to help us explain the data.
Do you feel like you have solved the work-life balance problem? Was it always this way?
Work-life balance is difficult to achieve, especially for wom- en who are early in their academic careers while at the same time raising young children. When my children, Brian and Maida, were young, my strategy was to focus on work when I was at work and focus on my family when I came home. I prioritized important events in my children’s lives. I also had a lot of support from my husband, Steve, but as his own career as attorney, magistrate, and judge became more de- manding, the time he could devote to family life was consid- erably reduced. But in looking back, I realize it was extreme- ly stressful to have a productive academic career while at the same time enjoying a rich family life. There really aren’t easy answers, but one approach is to say “no” to requests to serve on committees or write manuscripts that are not valued in academia. Now that my children are grown and living in- dependently, I have a new work-life balance, namely, taking advantages of opportunities to enjoy my personal life while working on an increasing number of research activities. I still feel guilty saying no to work requests, but I am finally learning how to protect my time after decades in academia.
What makes you a good acoustician?
I think a lot about the acoustic characteristics of the signals we present to participants in our studies and how the in- dividual’s auditory capabilities will enable them to process these signals. We prepare many new speech materials in my lab. I insist on equalizing the levels of the speech signals within a stimulus set and characterizing the temporal prop- erties of these signals. My students and I listen to the speech materials we develop to ensure that they are free of distortion and accurately represent the intended signal. We also collect
Winter 2018 | Acoustics Today | 57

   57   58   59   60   61