Resonating Legacies: James E. West’s Impact on Acoustics

We recently posted about past recipients of the James E. West Fellowship which provides funding to minority students in their pursuit of graduate-level degrees in acoustics. Today, we’d like to highlight some of the publications of the man who the award is named in honor of: inventor and past ASA President, James E. West.

Besides being President of the ASA from 1998 to 1999, he’s also a recipient of the Silver Medal in Engineering Acoustics and the Gold Medal. After a retiring from a career at Bell Labs, he went on to start a second career as a research professor at Johns Hopkins University. Over the years, his research has helped not only the acoustics community, but the world at large.

Perhaps West’s most well-known work is his 1966 publication with G. M. Sessler about the development of foil-electret microphones. This Journal of the Acoustical Society of America (JASA) article revolutionized the microphone industry; these types of microphones have been used in everything from hearing aids and phones to GPS devices and underwater instruments. This invention actually got him inducted into The National Inventors Hall of Fame (You can read more about the impact of the electret microphone in this Reflection!)

James E. West Tuning Fork

ASA President Lawrence Crum (R) presents President-Elect James E. West (L) with the ASA President’s Tuning Fork. (June 1998)

But, of course, West continued to research and impact the acoustics community after this seminal work. More recently, he coauthored this JASA paper about noise in hospital emergency rooms with Douglas Orellana and Ilene J. Busch-Vishniac. He and Busch-Vishniac also wrote an early Acoustics Today article about attracting more undergraduate students to studying acoustics.

Want to learn more about this pioneer of acoustics research and his contributions? Check out “A History of Consumer Microphones” and “Being a Black Scholar” in Acoustics Today!

James E. West Silver Medal

ASA President Robert Apfel (L) presents the Silver Medal in Engineering Acoustics to James E. West (R). (Nov 1995)

James E. West Gold Medal

ASA President William Yost (R) presents the Gold Medal to James E. West (L). (June 2006)

Unlocking the Sounds of Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras, renowned for its vibrant parades in New Orleans, brings to life the spirit of celebration with music and revelry leading up to Ash Wednesday. While the sound of parades may appear commonplace, research has uncovered fascinating nuances in the soundscape. A paper published in the Proceedings of Meetings on Acoustics (POMA) introduces an automated classification algorithm capable of discerning crowd reactions at a Mardi Gras parade from those at a basketball game. Explore the fascinating findings here:

For those who haven’t experienced the magic of a Mardi Gras parade in-person, the question lingers – what is it like? The prospect of virtually attending such events is on the horizon, prompting curiosity about whether the auditory experience can be replicated. In an insightful article published in Acoustics Today, the creation of dynamic virtual soundscapes is explored, offering a glimpse into the potential future of immersive virtual Mardi Gras experiences. You can read more in the article here:, or listen to the Across Acoustics podcast episode featuring the author:

Mardi Gras - Basketball

Cluster distribution of crowd noise for basketball and Mardi Gras data.

Mardi Gras - Virtual

Left: watching Mardi Gras on a TV set; right: being literally “inside” Mardi Gras, in a virtual acoustic environment. Original photo of marching band by Prayitno, used under the Creative Commons license with attribution (CC BY 2.0).

Excitingly, ASA is set to return to the vibrant city of New Orleans for the 188th Meeting, jointly held with the International Congress on Acoustics from May 19-23, 2025. Having last convened in the city in 2017, the conference yielded a treasure trove of proceedings papers spanning a myriad of acoustics topics. For those captivated by the fusion of sound and science, immerse yourself in the 174th ASA Meeting proceedings here:, or check out the Lay Language Papers (LLP) here: We hope to see and hear you back in New Orleans in 2025!

Mardi Gras - NOLA Meeting

174th ASA Meeting held in New Orleans in 2017

Popular Social Media Posts – January

The first month of 2024 has flown by, which means it’s time to review January’s most popular social media posts. The following posts got people to like, share, and perhaps most importantly, read the published research!

On the ASA Facebook page, a JASA Express Letter post featuring “Sound power of NASA’s lunar rockets: Space Launch System versus Saturn V” had really good engagement. You can visit the post first or read the article at

Facebook-January Social MediaFacebook

Next, a Proceedings of Meetings on Acoustics (POMA) paper presented at the most recent ASA Meeting did well on Twitter (X). See the original tweet or read the paper at:

Twitter-January Social MediaLinkedIn

Next, a Proceedings of Meetings on Acoustics (POMA) paper presented at the most recent ASA Meeting did well on Twitter (X). See the original tweet or read the paper at:

Instagram-January Social MediaInstagram

Finally, folks on LinkedIn enjoyed a post featuring an article from the 3D Sound Recognition Special issue of JASA. View the post and read the article at

LinkedIn-January Social MediaLinked In

In fact, many of our upcoming social media posts will be about 185th Meeting, Acoustics 23 and will contain #Acoustics23. If you will be attending, be sure to include the hashtag so that we can follow along! We are especially looking forward to the POMAs that come after the meeting!

Call for Editor: Acoustics Today

The Acoustical Society of America (ASA) is seeking a new Editor for Acoustics Today, the science and technology magazine of the ASA. Each issue of Acoustics Today is sent to ASA members in print form and is also freely available online at The primary purpose of Acoustics Today is to provide timely scholarly articles, short essays highlighting important ASA programs, and other (including societal) material to ASA members that is interesting, understandable, and worth reading regardless of a member’s background.

Appointment as the Acoustics Today Editor will begin on January 1, 2025, for an initial three-year term. To find out more about responsibilities, qualifications, and how to apply, go to

Acoustics Today Winter 2023

Acoustics Today Spring 2023

Acoustics Today Summer 2023

Acoustics Today Fall 2023

Celebrating Past Fellows and Inviting Applications for the James E. West Graduate Fellowship!

James E. West Graduate Fellowship

Informal portrait of James West. Niels Bohr Library & Archives, American Institute of Physics. One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740.

The Acoustical Society of America (ASA) established the Minority Fellowship in 1992 with the goal of supporting minority students in their pursuit of graduate-level degrees in acoustics. In 2018, the Minority Fellowship was renamed to recognize Dr. James E. West’s integral role in establishing the fellowship and advocating for underrepresented minorities in science and engineering. (Read more about Dr. West in Acoustic Today!) With the 2024 application cycle starting for the James E. West Graduate Fellowship for Minorities, let’s take a moment to reflect on the valuable contributions of past Fellows.

This magazine article written by 2020 West Fellow, E.K. Scott, looks at the transformation of stage acoustics over the years from the musicians’ vantage point.

  • Douglas M. Photiadis, Mauricio Villa, Saikat Dey; Auxiliary superfield method for statistical predictions of complex, structural acoustics systems: Saddle point approximation for the mean field.  Acoust. Soc. Am.1 June 2023; 153 (6): 3239–3257.

In this JASA article, Mauricio Villa, the 2016 Minority Fellow, and his coauthors introduce the auxiliary superfield method in the structural acoustics context.

  • Visar Berisha, Steven Sandoval, Rene Utianski, Julie Liss, Andreas Spanias; Characterizing the distribution of the quadrilateral vowel space area.  Acoust. Soc. Am.1 January 2014; 135 (1): 421–427.

This JASA article coauthored by the 2014 Minority Fellow, Steven P. Sandoval, presents a detailed analysis of the statistical properties of the vowel space area.

  • Annamaria Izzi DeAngelis, Robert Valtierra, Sofie M. Van Parijs, Danielle Cholewiak; Using multipath reflections to obtain dive depths of beaked whales from a towed hydrophone array.  Acoust. Soc. Am.1 August 2017; 142 (2): 1078–1087.

In JASA, Robert D. Valtierra, the 2012 Minority Fellow, and his coauthors demonstrate the potential for towed linear hydrophone array studies to obtain dive depths from a greater sample of groups and species.

Be sure to help inspire and encourage future and current graduate students pursuing acoustics; Applications are due 1 April 2024!