EECS Undergraduate Alexander Blair Johnson Wins Gotaas Award

His research focuses on speech analysis and perception, with emphasis on aids for the hearing impaired.

EECS undergraduate Alexander Blair Johnson (EE, 18') has been named recipient of the 2018 Harold B. Gotaas Undergraduate Research Award from Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering.

The aim of this prestigious award, named in honor of McCormick’s third dean, is given annually to a senior, who has performed exemplary engineering research and demonstrated excellence in undergraduate research. The winner is determined by a panel of faculty members on the basis of a research paper and presentation by a group of selected finalists before the judging committee. Dr. Gotaas was Dean of Engineering between 1957 and 1970.

Alexander Blair JohnsonJohnson completed a project, entitled, "Effect of High Frequency in Hearing Aids on Decreasing Listening Difficulty for Hearing Impaired" under the supervision of Pamela Souza, a professor of the department of communication sciences and disorders and Thrasos Pappas, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science.

Through his research, Johnson has focused on speech analysis and perception, with emphasis on aids for the hearing impaired. He's worked on algorithms for increasing the intelligibility of speech in noisy environments and combined dynamic range compression and time-scale modification with enhancement of high frequencies to counter the loss of high frequencies that is typical of hearing impairment. In his experiments he simulated hearing loss as a lowpass filter, and conducted an empirical study with participants with normal hearing to determine the intelligibility of speech in three types of noise, broadband noise with speech compatible spectrum, traffic noise, and multi talker babble noise. Overall, his findings were that the addition of high-frequency gain does not have any significant benefits over just using dynamic range compression and time-scale modification.