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National Science Foundation awards physics professor David T. Bradley a prestigious early career grant.

POUGHKEEPSIE, NY -- A multifaceted 5-year project developed by Assistant Professor of Physics David T. Bradley has been funded for $410,000 by the National Science Foundation’s prestigious Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER), which “supports junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars.” Bradley’s research focus is architectural acoustics, and the National Science Foundation (NSF) funds will enable him to both further his investigations and deeply integrate them into the Vassar College curriculum, providing hands-on laboratory experiences and research mentoring for undergraduate students. The grant also supports the expansion of Bradley’s efforts to introduce acoustics topics to secondary school students and cultivate their interest in the sciences, with particular attention to students of color and others underrepresented in the sciences.

Highlights of what Bradley’s NSF award will make possible include:

 -- The creation of 10 undergraduate summer research positions at Vassar.

-- The addition of $150,000 in acoustics research equipment for the Vassar physics department.

-- A collaboration with the IBM Acoustics Laboratory in Poughkeepsie.

-- The extension of a physics workshop series for ethnic minority high school students from the Bronx, NY.

“Acoustics is a highly multidisciplinary field, very much in keeping with the directions of the Vassar curriculum. The NSF award further lays the foundation for an extensive acoustics program at the college,” said Bradley, who is the first Vassar professor to earn funding from the NSF’s CAREER program.

In advance of Bradley joining the physics and astronomy department in 2007, Vassar built a new acoustics laboratory to support his teaching and research, with state-of-the-art computational and experimental equipment and facilities.  Bradley’s current research objective is to characterize the behavior of reflected sound energy from surfaces used in acoustically sensitive spaces, like concert halls and classrooms. To this end he is investigating the scattering characteristics of two-dimensional surfaces exhibiting fractal geometries, where patterns and shapes (“fractals”) repeat their structure on ever-finer scales. These types of surfaces are useful in spaces with high sound pressure levels and low-frequency concerns, such as the multipurpose performing arts spaces that have become more common.

While reviewing the research literature to prepare his NSF grant proposal, Bradley found little information related to architectural engineering about acoustic scattering from fractal surfaces. Moreover, he points out, the scientific significance of his research extends much farther.

“It combines two fundamentally cross-disciplinary topics, boundary scattering and fractal geometry. Scattering has major implications in the study of several acoustics sub-fields, including sound energy behavior in rooms, noise in urban environments, and boundary interaction problems in acoustical oceanography and underwater acoustics,” Bradley said.

Among the priorities of Bradley’s NSF-funded education and outreach plan, he intends to broaden the overall participation of students in science, to strengthen the role of acoustics studies in the so-called “STEM” fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), and to develop collaborations with scholars from other disciplines.

About David T. Bradley

David T. Bradley earned a B.A. in Physics from Grinnell College, and he completed his Ph.D. from the Architectural Engineering program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with the aid of several fellowships, including the Ford Foundation Diversity Fellowship. In addition to his special interest in performance space acoustics and the behavior of sound energy in enclosed spaces, Bradley’s areas of expertise also include room acoustics, sound isolation, mechanical noise control, and environmental noise control. He worked for BRC Acoustics and Technology Consulting in Seattle, WA immediately before joining the Vassar faculty, and his earlier industry experience included consultant positions and internships with acoustical firms in Los Angeles, Dallas, Omaha, and Chicago.

Bradley teaches both introductory and upper-level physics courses, including the first in a two-course sequence in electromagnetic theory, an advanced acoustics course, and a physics of sound course for non-majors. He also teaches in Vassar’s multidisciplinary Cognitive Science and Media Studies programs.


Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential, liberal arts college founded in 1861.

Posted by Office of Communications Thursday, July 7, 2011