Acoustics graduate program director leads key adaptation for scientific society


By Tessa M. Woodring

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — In May 2018, Victor Sparrow, director of the Graduate Program in Acoustics and United Technologies Corporation Professor of Acoustics in Penn State’s College of Engineering, became president of the Acoustical Society of America (ASA). Over the course of the next year, he led teleconferencing adaptations for the international organization that later became extremely essential to its operations.

As a scientific society, ASA focuses on the dissemination and promotion of the knowledge of acoustics and its applications. Sparrow first became involved with ASA nearly 35 years ago as a college student. Since then, he has held numerous executive positions — including vice president and executive council member. He has also chaired the ASA committee on education in acoustics and the committee on archives and history.

Before Sparrow began his term as president, ASA’s executive council meetings were held just twice a year at conferences that took place in various locations all over the world. Sparrow made it his mission to change that.

“When my term as president started, the ASA executive council had never used teleconferencing as a way to communicate,” Sparrow said. “The teleconferencing adaptations that I instituted in the summer of 2019 have created better communication for ASA. Little did I know that the world would change in March of 2020, and these teleconferences would become so important to ASA.”

The ASA executive council now meets on a monthly basis using GotoMeeting, a web-hosted video conferencing software. According to Sparrow, teleconferencing helps executive council members become more informed and stay connected with one another. Because of the adaptation, the ASA executive council is able to connect more frequently and reach more members.

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sparrow now realizes how imperative this conversion to teleconferencing was for ASA.

The organization’s in-person, semiannual conference that was to be held this spring was cancelled due to COVID-19. However, because of Sparrow’s implementation of teleconferencing, the administrative parts of the conference and open technical committee meetings will still go on, with a shift to a virtual format. This shift will include over 50 teleconferences from May 11 to 15.

“Because of teleconferencing, we are able to still function,” Sparrow said. “We have had a lot of practice, and I think that has made the impromptu transition of our larger meeting a little easier for everyone.”

Although Sparrow’s term as president will end on May 15, he plans to continue his involvement with ASA.

“ASA is sort of like my home professional organization,” Sparrow said. “I think ASA is well-positioned to move forward, and I am glad I had an opportunity to help out with the transition that has put them in this position.”

According to Sparrow, there are between 60 and 75 Penn State faculty and students currently involved with ASA. The University also has an ASA student chapter (PSUASA) that holds outreach events, seminars and social events for students.

“Scientific and professional organizations like ASA are so important because they are forums where peer scientists and engineers from all over the world can collaborate,” Sparrow said. “Nobody lives on an island. We all learn from each other.”


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Megan Lakatos

head shot of a man with glasses wearing a suit and tie

Victor Sparrow, director of the graduate program in acoustics and United Technologies Corporation Professor of Acoustics in Penn State’s College of Engineering. IMAGE: PENN STATE COLLEGE OF ENGINEERING