Acoustics is defined as the science that deals with the production, control, transmission, reception, and effects of sound (as defined by Merriam-Webster). Many people mistakenly think that acoustics is strictly musical or architectural in nature. While acoustics does include the study of musical instruments and architectural spaces, it also covers a vast range of topics, including: noise control, SONAR for submarine navigation, ultrasounds for medical imaging, thermoacoustic refrigeration, seismology, bioacoustics, and electroacoustic communication. Below is the so called “Lindsay’s Wheel of Acoustics”, created by R. Bruce Lindsey in J. Acoust. Soc. Am. V. 36, p. 2242 (1964). This wheel describes the scope of acoustics starting from the four broad fields of Earth Sciences, Engineering, Life Sciences, and the Arts. The outer circle lists the various disciplines one may study to prepare for a career in acoustics. The inner circle lists the fields within acoustics that the various disciplines naturally lead to.

Curiously enough, Lindsey (himself a physicist) didn’t list physics specifically in the outer circle. This is likely because a background in physics provides one with the foundational knowledge necessary to study nearly any of the fields of acoustics research. In fact, the Acoustical Society of America (ASA) (founded in 1929) was one of the five original societies that helped in the formation of the American Institute of Physics in 1931. The ASA is composed of 13 main areas of study called Technical Committees (TCs):

  • Acoustical Oceanography (AO)
  • Animal Bioacoustics (AB)
  • Architectural Acoustics (AA)
  • Biomedical Ultrasound/Bioresponse to Vibration (BB)
  • Engineering Acoustics (EA)
  • Musical Acoustics (MU)
  • Noise (NS)
  • Physical Acoustics (PA)
  • Psychological and Physiological Acoustics (PP)
  • Signal Processing in Acoustics (SP)
  • Speech Communication (SC)
  • Structural Acoustics and Vibration (SA)
  • Underwater Acoustics (UW)