Ask Me Anything: Sounding Off with Aercoustics Associate Michael Medal

How did acoustics, noise, and vibration become your specialization?

My first exposure to acoustics came from growing up learning and playing instruments; in my case, the piano and trombone. This musical background led me to apply for an internship at Aercoustics after my third year studying Mechanical Engineering at the University of Toronto.  It was during the 16-month internship that my interest and curiosity in acoustics, noise, and vibration developed into knowledge and passion for the subject. When my internship was completed, I partnered with Aercoustics to conduct my fourth year thesis on the design of an adaptive vibration absorber, and after graduation I returned full-time where I continue to grow my knowledge and skills in the field to this day.

 

What project are you most proud to have worked on?

I focus on how to predict and measure noise and vibration from anything that people want to control or reduce, which has taken me from the top of a wind turbine to underground in the Toronto subway tunnels. Aercoustics has been the noise and vibration experts for the TTC for nearly 30 years now, and I’m proud to have managed many noise and vibration studies for them, but in particular one subway vibration study where we helped predict and measure the vibration impact from the trial of a new rail fastener component.  As part of the study, we measured subway vibrations at more than 50 different sensor positions simultaneously in the subway tunnels and at the surface, without any impact to revenue service, both before and after the component change out.

What changes are happening in your industry in the near future?

The noise and vibration requirements of the new transit projects underway in Ontario and across the country are becoming more restrictive and complex, both for construction as well as for final operation. This is welcome news for the surrounding communities concerned with minimizing noise and vibration. Although these requirements can present greater challenges and risks for the teams designing and building these large projects, it also offers them the opportunity to bring in new expertise to help innovate in noise and vibration design and construction.

Did your musical interests bring you to the industry?

My experience playing music, curiosity of the acoustics of high-end performing arts spaces, and interest in high quality speaker systems and audio recordings, all led me to apply at Aercoustics and to further my career in this field. Before I applied to work at Aercoustics, I remember listening to orchestral performances in Roy Thompson Hall, looking around at the space, and wondering how the sound waves might bounce around the different surfaces of the room, and how they might be designed to improve the listening experience.  I remember wondering who and what occupation might focus on acoustic design and what kind of education and career path such a person would have, without knowing I would one day join that industry.

What hobbies do you pursue in your spare time?

I like working outdoors – lately playing ‘lumberjack’ cutting and splitting firewood in Muskoka – to create nice spaces to relax in and enjoy the sights and sounds of nature. I have long collected and enjoyed a variety of wine and whisky, but more recently have taken to mixology and crafting new drink recipes to try and hopefully share once we return to some sense of social normalcy on the other side of COVID. I’m also somewhat of a computer geek, and while it’s been some time since I last built and overclocked a computer, I still try to keep in the know of the latest and greatest computer and phone tech.