I am a Professor of Acoustic Engineering at the University of Salford where I carry out research and teaching focussing on architectural acoustics, signal processing and audio perception. I am also an author and radio broadcaster having presented many documentaries on BBC radio and written books for academics and the general public.
My work on diffusers is summarized in my academic book Acoustic Absorbers and Diffusers, which was co-authored with Peter D’Antonio, has the most citations in my publications listed in Google Scholar. The most satisfying part of this work is seeing my research turned into actual designs which have been used in performance spaces worldwide.
Some current research projects
One in six people in the UK has some level of hearing loss. Yet only 40% of people who could benefit from hearing aids have them, and most people who have the devices don’t use them regularly. A major reason for this is the perception that hearing aids perform poorly.
A critical problem for hearing aids is speech in noise, even for the most sophisticated devices. A hearing aid wearer may have difficulty conversing with family or friends while the television is on, and hearing public announcements at the train station. Such difficulties can lead to social isolation, and thereby reduce emotional and physical well being. Consequently, how hearing aid devices process speech in noise is crucial.
The Clarity Project‘s approach is inspired by the latest developments in automatic speech recognition and speech synthesis, two areas in which public competitions have led to rapid advancements in technology. We want to encourage more researchers to consider how their skills and technology could benefit the millions of people with hearing impairments. We started running a series of machine learning challenges in 2021.
How can we process and remix music so it sounds best for those with a hearing loss? The new Cadenza project aims to better define what music personalised for someone with a hearing loss should sound like and exploit the latest in machine learning to create improved music listening experiences. Like Clarity, from 2023 we’ll be running a series of machine learning challenges to improve the processing of music. Our aim is to improve the sound on both consumer devices and hearing aids.
Engineering is at the heart of being human. For millions of years we’ve been inventing things. From stone tools through to modern smartphones, we’ve created technology that have made life better and have radically changed society.
The Inventive Podcast is a co-creation between engineers, fiction writers and award-winning radio producers. We mix fact and fiction to create engaging stories about engineers and how their work is changing the World. We cast brilliant, inspiring and diverse engineers who have fascinating stories to tell. We commission award-winning writers to produce a piece inspired by the engineer or their work. Through this, we inspire our listeners about the contribution engineering makes.
My second popular science book, Now You’re Talking was published in 2018. My first popular science book Sonic Wonderland/The Sound Book appeared in 2014. I have also written articles for New Scientist and the Guardian. In 2015 I was given the ASA Science Writing Award for acoustics professionals.
My documentaries for BBC radio have included ‘Green Ears’, ‘A physicist’s Gde to the Orchestra’ and ‘Auditory Illusions. I’ve also been involved in numerous media stories as an interviewee, with the most popular being a debunking of the phrase ‘a duck’s quack doesn’t echo’.
Work with schools
I helped develop extensive teaching resources for schools, the latest reached more than a quarter of a million pupils. I have developed and presented science shows seen by 17,000 children, including appearances at the Royal Albert Hall, the Purcell Rooms at the South Bank Centre and the Royal Institution.
- Former President of the Institute of Acoustics (IOA). Now Honorary Fellow of the IOA.
- Awarded the Tyndall Award by the IOA as well as their award for Promoting Acoustics to the Public.
- ASA award for writing for the public.
My favourite video from my YouTube channel (done as part of a Comic Relief project):