Academic Career Advice

A student sent me an e-mail this week that prompted an extended, and slightly surprising, response. I didn’t really think that I had that much to offer on the subject of “how do I choose an MSc? And how do I get into teaching?”. Rather than my rather elongated reply go to waste, here is the nearly unredacted e-mail below.

Hi [student],

You’ve also asked a series of large questions that are, literally, years away!

What type of Masters should you go for?
Doing an MSc is often an additional top-up to your knowledge, critical thinking, and personal development. For some fields (think acoustics) it’s required because there aren’t many training centres that do a subject specific degree. Therefore, many students will leave university or college having not touched a sound level meter, leaving the companies with a lot of internal training left to do before the applicant can ‘do’ the job.

In terms of critical thinking development – a good MSc/MEng will give you some taught modules and then some independent modules that focus on a task your own design. More often than not this will be a pilot project, and then a larger project. Certainly for most universities the model works well as they teach you how to do publishable research, and then make you properly design the research project to completion.

The most important type of masters is the one that you want to do.

Currently, you probably don’t have enough subject knowledge to pick out a single MSc (from Applied Acoustics through to Audio Engineering, and Music Technology). You probably just know what you like. In a few years with a bit of knowledge you’ll able to find the right course, delivered in the right way, and the right topic of dissertation.

And also, what would be a possible way of becoming a lecturer?
There are several types of lecturer, so I’ll try to address most of them. I’ll get to how you become one at the end.

The first is a college lecturer. These guys often have an honours degree and a bit of experience. It’s unlikely they’re an expert, or understand the Higher Education model of publishing and grant funding – but they’re subject experts in their own way. Being an inspiration can really help get the next generation into University.

Secondly, you’ve got a University lecturer.. but as a part-timer. They’re known as Associate Lecturers. Often they work in the industry and they’re employed to cover specific units and topics. They’re specialists in their field. It’s every possibility that they are MSc’d or even PhD’d, but in Solent’s case they are unlikely to be that highly trained. They’re just very good at their industry job. You work between 1-3 days a week covering a specialist topic. The rest of the working week is spent doing the job for a commercial company.

Lastly, you end up as a full time University lecturer. In more modern universities – they will be ex-professionals who want to ‘give back’ into the industry. Despite our ages, the team at Solent are in this category.
In the ‘russell group’ universities there will be an expectation for a PhD as a minimum, but this is slowly creeping into the modern university culture too. As part of the job you will have completed research projects, become a world-leading specialist in something, and then teach on that subject.

To give you some context – there are four Drs on staff. Outside of teaching we engage in topics of research that can be found in the Institute of Acoustics, Audio Engineering Society, SMPTE, and other journals. We’re lucky enough to be supported in the research by [team’s MSc and PhD projects]. There are a lot of very clever people on the team.

How do I actually become a lecturer though?!
Hopefully that’s given you an overview of what the skills are, how you use them, and how they relate to a ‘lecturing’ job. Now I can finally answer your ultimate question of how to become one. The short answer is that you study as much as you can, work in the field for a few years, and then apply. In everyone’s case; they arrived at the job in a slightly different way.

Not everyone who has a PhD will teach, and not all who teach have a PhD.

I certainly didn’t think that I would become a university lecturer – it happened as a result of having a student who told me that my part-time teaching should become a vocation. I applied for two jobs, and one of those was at Solent.

Final Words of Advice
To conclude my lengthy e-mail, I will offer you some advice. Enjoy your undergraduate degree. Go out and do as much work experience as possible. You’re at an early stage of your university life; it’s great that you’re aware of the possibilities but don’t drown yourself with them.

If you do want to continue on the academic path then ask the lecturing staff once you’re ready. For some people looking at ten years of university (i.e. me) was fun, and for others is wasn’t (my mate Conor). We’re both successful and happy.

I hope that some of my advice helps you, either now or in the future. I’m in the university over Easter so get in touch if you want to sit and discuss specific courses or any point I’ve made!

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Pint of Science; Southampton 15th May 2017

I’ve been invited to give a brief discussion about science, over a pint, in Southampton on Monday May 15th @ 7pm. The venue is the Belgium & Blues 184 Above Bar Street, SO14 7DW.

Tickets are £4 and there are only a few remaining!
Book here:

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Sennheiser and the V&A

David Bowie’s exhibition at the V&A museum relied on Sennheiser’s partnership to create a surround sound experience previously unheard. Now they’ve deployed a 14.1 system and a large scale projection map to take things to the new level. The article and full tech information can be found here.

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SoundField: A new windshield

TSL have joined up with French company Cinela to create a slotted windshield for the SoundField microphone. Useful for any sound designers and audio engineers recording outside, inside, or anywhere! A link here.

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Batman: Arkham Asylum VR audio

Rocksteady Ltd used the skills of audio designer Andy Riley to help move Batman into the world of VR. A full article and interview on the process is available here.

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Dissertation Writing

I often find at this time of year my 2nd year (Level 5) students need a bit of help for the looming mountain that will be their Final Major Project / Dissertation.

I wrote this guide last year, and I’ve just updated it to include another piece of work on how to generate ideas. Let me know what you think!

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2014 Ref: Spatial Audio

Derby University submitted as part of their REF for 2014 a useful document on where Bruce Wiggins is going with his ambisonic research. Very handy to have!

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Terminator style!

It’s been a long time since I last posted on this website. My fault. Sorry. But I’m relatively back, and I’ve got a few things that I want to share with you guys. So, like the terminator – both I and ambisonics are back.

The first is that Scott Dorsey gave me some page space on his blog here on my paper with a project student from last year, Tom Webb. Thanks Scott!

I’ve also had a few trace backs from people citing my work – which is fantastic. Some examples from J. J. Gomez and Fabio Sousa . Thanks again!

In the latest version of WWise – ambisonics is coming. This is a good thing. Finally, the work and perspectives offered by us academics are finally seeing light. Virtual Reality can now be a little more real, and a little less virtual. At least for audio.

Finally – I am trying to maintain this blog a little more, but the use of reddit and r/spatialaudio has partially rendered the linking of stuff on here to be redundant. Right now I have some updated tutorials and a mixture of material that was ex-teaching and is now up for distribution online. If I remember I will cross post!


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Innovation in Music 2015: Deadline Extension

“Innovation in Music (InMusic’15) is a European music industry conference that sits alongside a suite of conferences organised by KES International. KES International is a not for profit organisation that exists to disseminate research and best practice through a number of disciplines. KES’ main focus at present includes Media (InMusic and Film Archiving); Sustainability and also Intelligent Systems.

Innovation In Music was created by a number of academics and industry practitioners within the UK and Europe to discuss the interface between the Artist through the industry to the consumer. The music industry is going through a considerable amount of change with fantastic innovations that need to be discussed socially, technically and morally. Innovation In Music is the forum for this.”

For more information, click here!
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Surround Broadcasts: Milkwood

The BBC have released their latest development with HTML5 – and re-released their 2003 production of Milkwood online.

A few years ago I released some streaming files that contained 8-channels. I found that there weren’t many users who had a surround system attached to their PC – but hopefully the BBC find there’s a larger audience now!

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