Noteworthy ASA lectures: Focus on Acousticians of Color

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On Being an ASA Member of Color: Talks by and about members.

Dr. James E. West, formerly of Bell Laboratories, now research professor at the Johns Hopkins University, interviewed on June 10th, 2009 for the occasion of the Juneteenth celebration by the Student Technology Services, celebrating contributions to science and technology by African American innovators. Dr. West, together with Gerhard Sesslar, invented the Electret Microphone, which is used in roughly 95% percent of microphone applications today.



Where I'm Coming From: Tyrone Porter

Tyrone Porter grew up in Detroit. At the time, he says, the city was about 75 percent black. Now he’s an associate professor of mechanical engineering in the College of Engineering, where the demographics are very different. “Once I left the comfort of my black bubble and entered a predominantly white world at the University of Washington I recognized I needed to adapt,” says Porter. “I could not be exclusive. I had to be inclusive and identify both white and black friends, advocates, and allies. Once I opened myself to that philosophy I began to establish relationships with people from all backgrounds. I realized it made me a better, more tolerant person and put me at ease at a predominantly white institution. I have had the same experience at BU identifying white allies at all levels in the university.”


Mr. Porter is now on the faculty at The University of Texas at Austin.

Tyrone Porter, Ph.D. (he/him/his)
Professor of Biomedical Engineering
Myron L. Begeman Fellowship in Engineering

The University of Texas at Austin | Cockrell School of Engineering



James E. West and Ellington S. West will present the Acoustics Virtually Everywhere Keynote Lecture

Monday, 7 December 2020, 4:30 p.m.

Sponsored by Task Force B: Better Engagement of Industry and Practitioners, the College of Fellows, and the Committee to Improve Racial Diversity and Inclusion

This address was presented at the ASA’s first online meeting, Acoustics Virtually Everywhere, in December, 2020. James West is a former ASA president, as well as a winner of both the silver and gold medal of the ASA. His work developing the electret microphone is world renowned and resulted in his inductance into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. He has also dedicated his life to mentoring, showcasing and encouraging the work and success of Black scientists and other people of color. His current work uses acoustics and AI to allow stethoscopes to detect and diagnose diseases of the lungs. He and Ellington West, a healthcare business developer and marketing leader, have founded Sonavi labs to promote this venture. Their keynote lecture discusses the scientific features, the development and the use of this new stethoscope in hospitals around the world, especially locales with limited health care facilities.

A digital stethoscope with active noise suppression and automatic detection of abnormalities in lung sounds

Auscultation, the action of listening to sounds from the body, typically with a stethoscope, as a part of medical diagnosis remains one of the most common, and cost-effective diagnostic practices but requires a high level of expertise. Although widely practiced, it is undermined by subjectivity in interpretation, limiting the ability to accurately interpret sounds objectively and repeatedly. Frequently, high environmental noise levels render conventional stethoscopes useless. It is also true that substantial experience is required in order to properly diagnose lung abnormalities such as pneumonia and Covid-19. Here we present a digital stethoscope with active noise suppression and an artificial intelligence algorithm (AI) that identifies lung abnormalities with accuracy comparable to trained medical personnel. This new line of respiratory diagnostic tools is appropriate for community health workers in under-resourced regions, for chronic respiratory patients in their home, and for medical professionals in noisy clinics, who wish to improve their ability to hear and interpret lung sounds. This conversation will also explore the opportunities and obstacles associated with bringing a product from the lab to the marketplace.

James E. West

Ellington S. West

James E. West is currently Professor at Johns Hopkins University, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the Department of Mechanical Engineering. His pioneering research on charge storage and transport in polymers (the electrical analogy of a permanent magnet) led to the development of electret transducers for sound recording and voice communication. West was inducted into The National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1999 for the invention of the electret microphone. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering; a Fellow, and past President, of the Acoustical Society of America, and a Fellow of the IEEE. West is the recipient of the Acoustical Society of America's Silver and Gold Medals in Engineering Acoustics, the National Medal of Technology, and the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Engineering

Ellington West is the Co-Founder and CEO of Sonavi Labs. She brings over 10 years of experience in healthcare business development, market research and leadership to Sonavi Labs and is overseeing the development of the company's inaugural product line. Prior to founding Sonavi Labs, Ellington served as the Mid- Atlantic Director of Sales for a national healthcare organization, driving 250M in revenue annually. Ellington is best known for delivering record-breaking revenue and profit gains within highly competitive regional markets.


Carol Espy-Wilson is a Professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Department and the Institute for Systems Research (ISR) at the University of Maryland.

Dr. Espy-Wilson’s research is in speech communication. She combines knowledge of digital signal processing, speech acoustics, linguistics, machine learning and deep learning to conduct interdisciplinary research in speech production, speech and speaker recognition, speech enhancement and single-channel speech segregation.  She also analyzes speech as a behavioral signal for emotion recognition, sentiment analysis and the detection and monitoring of mental health.

Dr. Espy-Wilson received her B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University and her M.S., E.E. and Ph.D. degrees in Electrical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Prior to joining the faculty at the University of Maryland, Dr. Espy-Wilson was a faculty member at Boston University. Her company, OmniSpeech, translated research in her lab on noise suppression and speech enhancement to technology that improves speech-enabled technology in any device, app or platform.

Dr. Espy-Wilson is a Fellow of the Acoustical Society of America, the International Speech Communication Association, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, and a Senior Member of IEEE.  Among the other honors and awards she has received for her research contributions are a Clare Boothe Luce Professorship, a Career Award from the National Institutes of Health, two Honda Initiation Awards,  an Invention of the Year Award (2010) and an Innovator of the Year Award (2010).

Dr. Espy-Wilson has served as the chair of the Speech Technical Committee of the Acoustical Society of America (ASA) and as an elected member of the Speech and Language Technical Committee of IEEE.  She has served on the board of  ASA’s Acoustics Today and as an Associate Editor of the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America. For the National Institutes of Health she has been a member of the National Advisory Board for Medical Rehabilitation  and as a member of the Advisory Council of the National Institutes on Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering. Currently, she is a member of the Advisory Council of the National Institutes of Deafness and other Communication Disorders.


Wednesday, 9 June 2021, 4:30 p.m. EDT
A Personal Perspective and Journey through DEI & STEM

Sylvester James Gates, Jr., Brown University

Abdus Salam, a 1979 Nobel Prize recipient in Physics, once told the speaker there was a possibility of “Jazz in Physics” coming into existence when the field became more diverse.  This presentation will present a personal interpretation and story on the meaning of this “puzzling” comment and how it led to a citation by the Supreme Court of the United States.

Sylvester James “Jim” Gates, Jr., (born December 15, 1950) is an American theoretical physicist. He received two B.S. degrees and a Ph.D. degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the latter in 1977. His doctoral thesis was the first one at MIT to deal with supersymmetry. In 2017, Gates retired from the University of Maryland, and is currently the Brown Theoretical Physics Center Director, Ford Foundation Professor of Physics, an Affiliate Mathematics Professor, and a Faculty Fellow, Watson Institute for International Studies & Public Affairs at Brown University. While at the University of Maryland, College Park, Gates was a University System Regents Professor, the John S. Toll Professor of Physics, the Director of the String and Particle Theory Center, and Affiliate Professor of Mathematics.

Gates served on the U.S. President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, contemporaneously on the Maryland State Board of Education from 2009-2016, and the National Commission on Forensic Science from 2013-2016. He is known for his work on supersymmetry, supergravity, and superstring theory. In 1984, working with M.T. Grisaru, M. Rocek, W. Siegel, Gates co-authored Superspace, the first comprehensive book on the topic of supersymmetry. In 2017, working with Frank Blitzer and Stephen Jacob Sekula, he co-authored Reality in the Shadows (Or) What the Heck's the Higgs? In 2019, together with Cathie Pelletier, he co-authored Proving Einstein Right: The Daring Expeditions that Changed How We Look at the Universe. In 2006, he completed a DVD series titled Superstring Theory: The DNA of Reality for The Teaching Company composed of 24 half-hour lectures to make the complexities of unification theory comprehensible to non-physicists.

In 2012, he was named a University System of Maryland Regents Professor, only the sixth person so recognized in the system’s history. He is a past president of the National Society of Black Physicists, and is a NSBP Fellow, as well as a Fellow of the American Physical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Institute of Physics in the U.K. In 2019 he was elected to the presidential line of the APS where he is currently serving as President. He also is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society. In 2013, he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences, becoming the first African-American theoretical physicist so recognized in its 150-year history. On November 16, 2013, Prof. Gates was awarded the Mendel Medal by Villanova University “in recognition of his influential work in supersymmetry, supergravity and string theory, as well as his advocacy for science and science education in the United States and abroad.” President Obama awarded Prof. Gates the 2011 National Medal of Science, the highest award given to scientists in the U.S., at a White House ceremony in 2013. During 2014, he was named the Harvard Foundation’s “Scientist of the Year.” In 2019, he was invited to serve on the American Bar Assoc Steering Committee for the Annual Prescription For Criminal Justice And Forensic Science. In 2020, he began serving on the Board of Trustees of the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute. He continues to broadly engage video documentaries with appearances or cameos. He currently continues his research in supersymmetry in systems of particles, fields, and strings.



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