Dr. Scott Sommerfeldt Awarded an ASA Silver Medal

The Acoustical Society of America (ASA), the premier acoustical organization worldwide, presents the Silver Medal award to individuals in various sub-disciplines for significant contributions throughout their career. This past year, the Silver Medal in Noise was awarded to Dr. Scott Sommerfeldt, a professor of Physics at Brigham Young University (BYU) "for contributions to active noise and structural acoustic control." He is the thirteenth recipient of the award since it was first presented  in 1978, joining the ranks of a distinguished few.

One of Dr. Sommerfeldt's major contributions to the field of acoustics stems from his forays into energy-based active control. As opposed to a local approach to noise control, energy-based active control focuses on measuring and minimizing acoustic noise density across a large area. As an example, consider trying to decrease the noise in a car. Many pieces in a car create noise. Rather than focusing on minimizing the sound at a single place within the car like the driver's seat, active noise control is effective at decreasing  the  sound throughout the entire vehicle, resulting in a better experience for all involved. Sommerfeldt has made numerous scholarly contributions to his field with nearly 70 peer-reviewed publications and one of his earliest and most cited works introduced an  algorithm for energy based active noise control. In addition to algorithms and noise control methods, Sommerfeld's work has also extended to many applications in reducing noise from tractors to computer fans to airplane toilets.

Upon receiving this award, Dr. Sommerfeldt was "a little surprised and grateful" for the recognition and felt that the Silver Medal award was the " most meaningful" award he has ever received. When asked what his current and future research goals were, he responded that his group is trying to come up with ways to simulate sound fields: "Virtual acoustics, in essence." He is also coming up with novel methods to determine the sound power radiated from a structure using laser measurements.

In a long list of accomplishments in the field of acoustics, Dr. Sommerfeldt considers his role in developing BYU's acoustics program to be among his more notable ones.  

"When I came 26 years ago [the program] was in need of being boosted up. lt was a challenge, but I thought 'Okay, we can make this one of the premier programs in the country', and I think we've by and large accomplished that. There are no official rankings, but I suspect if you ask many people in acoustics we'd probably be regarded as a top five type of program."

Although Dr. Sommerfeldt received the Silver Medal, he made it clear that innovations are happening across the department. " There's a lot of good stuff happening in acoustics across my colleagues, and they deserve a shoutout too." 

Dr. Sommerfeldt's contributions to active noise control and the acoustics program at BYU are certainly deserving of the recognition he has received.

(Student contributors: Logan Mathews, Nicholas Atkinson, Spencer King, and Ethan Edwards)