Fully-funded PhD opportunity at the APL

Posted on 24 Mar 2023 by Hyunkook Lee

Intelligent monitoring of psychoacoustic annoyance in urban acoustic environments 

* Update:  This grant has been awarded to Sam Dickinson and he started working on the project on 2 Oct 2023.

We are looking for strong candidates to apply for a fully-funded PhD project on “Intelligent Monitoring of Psychoacoustic Annoyance”, which will be supervised by Dr Hyunkook Lee and Dr Steve Fenton, with the world-renowned soundscape researcher Prof Jian Kang of UCL as an external supervisor.

This is part of the EPSRC doctoral training programme (DTP) at the University of Huddersfield, and there is a competitive application process which will include an interview.

The application closing date is 19 May 2023. The EPSRC DTP is for UK applicants only.

If you are interested in applying and have any questions, please contact Dr Hyunkook Lee at h.lee@hud.ac.uk

Click HERE for the details about the application requirement and procedure.

Project Introduction

Noise-induced annoyance is known to have significant influence on mental health. Conventional models of psychoacoustic annoyance are limited in that they are based only on spectro-temporal features of sound, and their ecological validity has not been rigorously testedThis PhD project aims to (iadvance knowledge in this field by determining the influences of spatial features on annoyance and their interactions with conventional features, and (ii) develop an intelligent real-time annoyance monitoring system to be used in various acoustic placesIt is expected that the outcomes of this project will positively impact people’s wellbeing and quality of life. 

Project Details

Context and Research Needs: A growing number of international bodies and governments are recognising the importance of perceived soundscape quality on citizens’ quality of life and wellbeing, e.g., ISO12913, The Whoqol Group, Welsh Gov. etc. One of the prominent psychoacoustic attributes of indoor and outdoor soundscape is annoyance, which has been found to have a significant influence on mental health. Previous studies on psychoacoustic annoyance have two major limitations, which the proposed project aims to address: (i) existing models of annoyance are based only on basic spectro-temporal features such as loudness, sharpness and roughness, and do not consider spatial characteristics that are important for the perception of soundscape, and (ii) the ecological validity of existing models has not been rigorously investigated. 

Aims and Objectives: From the above rationale, this PhD project aims to (1) create new knowledge about the influence of spatial characteristics of sound on annoyance, (2) establish an advanced psychoacoustic annoyance model based on both spatial and spectro-temporal features, and (3) develop a real-time annoyance monitoring system for real-world environments. The project is multidisciplinary in nature, involving psychoacoustics, signal processing, statistical analysis, and electrical engineering. Specific objectives and timeline of the project are:  

  • To determine spatial acoustic features (e.g., direction, distribution, diffuseness, etc.) that are correlated with annoyance perception, and their dependencies on the type of sound source (Month 1-9). 
  • To establish the relative weightings of spatial and conventional features in relation to annoyance perception (Month 10-15). 
  • To derive a new theoretical model of psychoacoustic annoyance (Month 16-18). 
  • To subjectively validate the model with real-world soundscape recordings (Month 19-24). 
  • To develop a microcontroller system with a small form-factor microphone array that can measure annoyance in real time using the developed model (Month 19-24). 
  • To field-test the system by collecting data from various indoor and outdoor places and conducting in-situ survey on subjective annoyance (Month 25-30). 

Impact: This project has the potential to create significant impacts on knowledge, society and the economy. Knowing what acoustic features are responsible for causing annoyance would help urban planners and acousticians design new acoustic environments with high soundscape quality. Being able to monitor psychoacoustic annoyance in real time would be beneficial for evaluating and improving the soundscape qualities of various existing environments, leading to an enhancement of people’s quality of life. Furthermore, the intelligent monitoring system derived from the project could potentially create patentable intellectual properties and be commercialised as a product. 

Entry Requirements

Qualification: A taught MSc degree (preferably Distinction, min. Merit) or an MSc by Research degree in relevant subject areas, including acoustics/psychoacoustics, audio engineering, computer science, neuroscience and electrical engineering. 

Skills: Programming languages for stimuli creation and statistical analysis (Matlab or Python, and R), digital audio workstations, basic sound recording and mixing skills, technical and academic writing skills, games engine (preferred, not compulsory). 

Experience: The candidate should preferably have experiences in conducting or assisting on a research project in a related area, audio programming, and sound recording and editing using professional equipment. 

Knowledge: The candidate should have soild basic knowledge in human auditory mechanisms, digital audio theory, audio signal processing and statistical analysis. 

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