With his MIDI keyboard and INCE 2022 student scholarship in hand, Sam Underwood is out to change the world of acoustical engineering. Every year INCE honors professionals and students in the noise control industry with awards based on their commitment to and ingenuity in noise control engineering. Sam’s skill and expertise earned him three INCE noise control honors making him a “Triple Crown” award winner.
Read below to find out what acoustical engineering means to Sam, and what inspired him to pursue this career path.
Congratulations on winning the 2022 INCE Student Scholarship, a 2022 Leo Beranek Student Medal for Excellence in Noise Control, a 2022 Classic Papers in Noise Control and Engineering Presentation Award, and a Michiko So Finegold Award! After nearly sweeping the awards board, is there an aspect of your research that personally stands out to you?
I am very thankful to INCE and the INCE Foundation for supporting and recognizing my research work through these awards. The aspect of my research that excites me the most is simply the wide variety of projects that I am working on. I have been able to work on projects related to HVAC noise prediction algorithms, sound power level measurement standards, restaurant acoustics, adaptive reuse of industrial spaces, localization of spatial audio, and even recreating historical reverberation time methods. I also am involved in educational research at the University of Nebraska, working to study how our mentorship programs and curricula can better prepare engineering students for the workforce. I am fortunate to have an advisor, Dr. Lily Wang, who guides me with persistent positivity and wise insight.
Can you share what inspired you to become so involved in researching noise control and acoustics?
I first became aware of acoustics and noise control through my undergraduate studies in architectural engineering where “Mechanical/Acoustics” was a degree concentration. Up until that time, I had longstanding interests in music (from playing in band and orchestra) and in buildings and architecture. It was then that I realized that these interests could be aligned. I first jumped into research during my 2nd year of undergraduate studies to get exposure to acoustical topics that I ordinarily wouldn’t get to see until later in the program. Once I realized that I too could ask research questions and develop methodologies to investigate them, I was completely captivated.
What fascinates you about noise control and acoustics?
Since noise control and acoustics are, comparatively, newer areas of scientific study, I firmly believe that the field is wide open. There are still phenomena to be explained, modeling inaccuracies to be corrected, standards to be written, efficiencies to be found, and noises, old and new, to control. Moreover, as technology becomes more accessible, so too does our field. If ever there was a “right” time to get involved in noise control and acoustics, it’s now! Our work has great practical significance and can positively influence the lives of the public at large. With such a proposition, it is easy to be fascinated.
When you aren’t conducting noise control research, what do you enjoy doing for fun in Nebraska?
I am still very musically minded, and always enjoy any excuse to dust off my viola or euphonium. When time allows, I like writing little bits of music with my MIDI keyboard. I love listening to new music from different languages and cultures around the world—my carefully curated road trip playlists tend to garner some bewildered reactions. Outside of music, I am an avid Formula One fan and have become accustomed to waking up early on the weekends to catch the races. I am also learning to work on my golf game and have found that the occasional trip to the driving range is enough to keep my ego in check.