Friday, March 9, 2012

Vigeant Receives Highly Competitive NSF CAREER Award

Michelle Vigeant, assistant professor in the Mechanical Engineering Department and Acoustics Program in the College of Engineering, Technology, and Architecture (CETA), has been awarded a highly competitive Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). She is the first University of Hartford faculty member to receive an NSF CAREER Award.

The NSF CAREER grant is the most prestigious award for a junior faculty member in engineering and the sciences, and it is sought by researchers from top science and engineering programs around the country. Vigeant received the award on her first attempt, which is extremely rare.

Vigeant was awarded $422,814 over a five-year period for her project, “Importance of
Late-Sound-Field Properties and Listener Envelopment to Room Acoustic Quality and Design.” The grant runs from June 1, 2012 to May 31, 2017.
See the abstract for Vigeant’s award.

The overall goal of the project is to investigate the sense of acoustics quality in concert halls and to find a measurable quantity that can be used to quantify the acoustics of halls. A particular component of perceived concert hall acoustics is listener envelopment, the sense  of being immersed in the sound in the hall, or in other words the perception that sound is arriving in all directions, not just from the front. This property will be investigated in great detail and its relationship to perceived quality will also be investigated. The project includes taking measurements in a number of concert halls in both the United States and Europe. In addition, international collaborations will be established with Dr. John S. Bradley at the National Research Council of Canada and Prof. Michael Vorländer of the Institute for Technical Acoustics at RWTW Aachen University in Germany.

The project will include research opportunities for approximately 15 undergraduate students in the acoustics program at the University of Hartford. Women students in particular will be recruited to work on the project, as women remain under-represented in the engineering profession. Over the course of the five-year project, three students will assist with the research per year, with one during the academic year and two during the summer months. The students will get to participate with taking measurements in concert halls and also testing human subjects using listening tests in the anechoic chamber in the University of Hartford’s Acoustics Laboratory. A summer program for undergraduate students working in the STEM fields will be created to promote a sense of community and also to provide seminars about relevant topics, such as pursuing graduate studies.

The grant proposal also includes educational outreach in local area elementary and middle-schools to expose young students to science and to a woman scientist role model by interacting with the students through educational activities. Vigeant will collaborate with the Connecticut Science Center to enhance the educational outreach for fifth-grade students for the unit on sound. In addition, through a collaboration with the Acoustical Society of America’s Education Committee, Vigeant will create activity kits to introduce students to the topics of sound through interactive, hands-on activities. The kits will be tested in local area schools, including the University of Hartford’s Elementary Magnet School and Annie Fisher School (K-8), which includes a STEM focus in their curriculum. 

Vigeant earned a PhD in engineering, focusing on architectural acoustics, from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and she received a BSc in mechanical engineering from the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada. Her research interests include architectural acoustics, specifically room acoustics measurement parameters and computer modeling. She is a member of the Acoustical Society of America, American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and the American Society for Engineering Education.
The NSF’s
Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program offers the National Science Foundation's most prestigious awards in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations.

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