Acoustical Society of America
R. Bruce Lindsay Award - 2000

Robin O. Cleveland

Robin Olav Cleveland was born near London on 18 February 1967. With his Norwegian mother, British father, and younger brother, Robin moved in 1973 to Rotorua, New Zealand, a small town known among other things for its boiling mud pools and geysers. After graduating from high school in 1984, Robin moved to Trondheim, Norway, for one year before returning to New Zealand to enter the Department of Physics at University of Auckland. There he came in contact with two of the acoustics faculty, Gary Bold and Sze Tan, who eventually guided him toward his present career.

After graduation, Robin remained at Auckland working toward a master's degree under the supervision of Murray Johns and Sze Tan. His task was to develop a digital signal processing computer to be used in an acoustical fish detection system. The project was very successful, and Robin took part in a sea test of the system. The system tested fine but not Robin's own internal equilibrium system: he developed a severe case of sea sickness. After receiving his master's degree, Robin continued work on the same project at the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, which had funded his master's research. That a later generation of this same fish detection system is still in use today is testimony to Robin's fundamental contributions.

While finishing his master's thesis, Robin decided that he wanted to pursue a doctorate in acoustics. Alick Kibblewhite and Chris Tindle, two Auckland physics faculty members who had taken sabbaticals to work on underwater acoustics at Applied Research Laboratories (ARL), University of Texas (UT) at Austin, recommended ARL to Robin. Robin's inquiry eventually reached David Blackstock, whose e-mail reply included the information that soccer was played at lunchtime every Tuesday and Thursday, that participation of his students was expected if not mandatory, and that Robin should remember to bring his soccer gear. The deal was sealed, and in August 1991 Robin arrived in Austin to begin his doctoral work. His academic department was Mechanical Engineering, and his research appointment was at ARL.

David suggested sonic boom research to Robin. The project was sponsored by NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) to investigate atmospheric effects on the propagation of sonic booms. His first work was on "waveform freezing," the tendency of atmospheric effects to limit nonlinear distortion of the sonic boom. Robin's results modified some long held beliefs about this effect. Another topic he investigated was sonic boom rise time, an important ingredient in the perceived loudness of sonic booms. It became apparent that numerical analysis was required, and Robin turned to an algorithm that had recently been developed for sound beams by Yang-Sub Lee during his doctoral work under Mark Hamilton. With Mark's guidance, Robin adapted the algorithm to sonic boom propagation, including effects due to molecular relaxation and atmospheric inhomogeneity. The result was a computer code now considered one of the benchmark algorithms for modeling sonic boom propagation in real atmospheres. Robin's calculations materially increased our understanding of sonic booms, and by the end of his doctoral research Robin had become well known in the sonic boom community.

Having been awarded the Acoustical Society of America's F. V. Hunt Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Acoustics (1995-96), Robin went to work for Larry Crum at Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), University of Washington. Larry's group was working on a large collaborative lithotripsy project supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and Robin was steered toward experiments in medical ultrasonics. The NIH grant involved collaboration with Andy Evan's group at the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis, and Robin became involved in their experiments on cell damage by shock waves. Robin devised tests showing that orientation of the polypropylene vials used in the experiments (and those performed in other labs as well) affected acoustic transmission. He proceeded to design a vial that solved the problem and resulted in much more consistent results. Robin also demonstrated his experimental ingenuity in experiments to measure the effects of lithotripsy shock waves on pigs. After overcoming obstacles related to implantation and positioning of a hydrophone in a breathing animal, Robin reported the first measurements of lithotripter shock waves that were free of ambiguities due to alignment.

Robin also worked fruitfully with others in Larry's group at APL. Two collaborations were with other former UT students: with Mike Averkiou to model shock wave propagation from an arc discharge source in water, and with Mike Bailey to control lithotripter acoustical and cavitation fields. About this time, Robin came in contact with Vera Khokhlova and Oleg Sapozhnikov, visitors from Moscow State University. Collaboration with Vera and Oleg led to papers on effects of relaxation of shock wave pulses, and on acoustic detection of lithotripsy-induced cavitation. Robin reciprocated by working at Moscow State University for several weeks. His international background (Robin is a citizen of both New Zealand and United Kingdom) certainly prepared him for cultural idiosyncrasies, but it was no less a surprise when he showed that he could peel potatoes faster than the locals at a cookout in a small village on the Volga river.

Despite being at APL only two years, Robin established himself as one of the leading experimentalists in shock wave lithotripsy, including the international community. He organized and chaired a special session on shock wave lithotripsy at the joint meeting of the Acoustical Society of America (ASA) with the International Congress on Acoustics in Seattle in June 1998 (one of the most popular sessions of the entire meeting), and another at the joint meeting of the ASA with the European Acoustics Association in Berlin in March 1999. His stellar performance was also noticed by Allan Pierce, who was building an acoustics program at Boston University and wanted Robin to be a member of his team.

In fall 1997, Robin started in his new position as assistant professor in the Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering at Boston University. Robin continues to perform research on biomedical ultrasound. Specific topics include the role of cavitation in lithotripsy and the use of high intensity ultrasound for surgery. He has also started working on a micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) application of acoustics, as part of an interdisciplinary research effort at Boston University to develop an underwater acoustic vision system for divers. Although less than five years beyond his doctorate, Robin already has 20 articles in print or in review and 16 papers in conference proceedings. Very active in the ASA, he is a member of two technical committees, Biomedical Ultrasound/Bioresponse to Vibration and Physical Acoustics, and he participates in all the meetings of the Society.

Besides having technical excellence, Robin is very personable. We would be hard pressed to name a better young ambassador for the Acoustical Society. Robin's close collaborations with acoustics groups not just across the U.S. but around the world have not resulted only from his technical expertise, but also from the fact that people love to work with him. A person has only to meet him, or see him present a paper or chair a session, to discover his delightful and magnetic personality. One who made this discovery is Phillipa Tawn, to whom Robin will be wed in the fall. She is English, and at the time of his writing it remains unclear on which continent they will be married.

Robin is an outstanding scientist/engineer, it is great to have him as a fellow acoustician, and he is a worthy recipient of the R. Bruce Lindsay Award.