HST.750 | Spring 2006 | Graduate

Modeling Issues in Speech and Hearing


Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session

Course Description

This course explores the theory and practice of scientific modeling in the context of auditory and speech biophysics. Based on seminar-style discussions of the research literature, the class draws on examples from hearing and speech and explores general, meta-theoretical issues that transcend the particular subject matter.

Notes on the Seminars

Two consecutive seminar sessions are typically devoted to the discussion and analysis of each group of papers. The first week’s scientific seminar focused on mastering the “what?” and the “how?” of each paper; the second week’s modeling-issues seminar on the “why?”. The first week aims at understanding, the second at integration and critique, focused especially on modeling issues.

Each week, students assume responsibility as paper/problem presenters. Presenters lead discussion of individual papers (during the scientific seminars) or of particular problems/modeling questions (during the modeling-issues seminars). The responsibilities of the presenter assigned to a particular paper/problem include identifying and raising major issues; provoking discussion by asking pertinent questions; keeping the seminar on-schedule, moving, and focused; and helping ensure that everyone participates and understands. Rather than resorting to lectures or monologues, presenters should invite others to give opinions and input. The role of the presenter is not to provide information, nor is it to provide the “right” answer or opinion. Rather, it is to guide the discussion, to keep it moving, to raise objections, and to help everyone come to understand.

During the scientific seminars, approximately 40-60 minutes will be allotted to each paper presentation, depending on the number of papers to be covered. Paper presentations are informal, journal-club style discussions of the scientific content of the paper. The goal of every presentation should be to make sure that everyone understands what was done and how. Although use of audio-visual aids is often helpful (e.g., when summarizing a complicated argument or presenting additional information), their use should be the exception rather than the rule. (Preparation of quality overheads and/or computer presentations can suck up huge quantities of time that would be better spent reading the papers.)

Notes on the Weekly Assignments

Preparation Sheets

To ensure stimulating and worthwhile discussion, everyone must prepare a preparation sheet for each paper prior to class. Although they can be retained for reference until the end of class, preparation sheets are due at the beginning of the class on which a paper is first discussed. A preparation sheet consists of a page or so of comments, criticisms, observations, and questions provoked by the paper. They can be word-processed or handwritten (legibly), pristine or coffee-stained (legibly), beautifully bound on bond or scrawled in blood on the backs of envelopes (legibly). Preparation sheets are meant to stimulate thought, not to preclude it with useless “busywork”.

Problem/Discussion Sets

To help you prepare for the second week’s modeling seminars, the instructors will hand out problem/discussion sets containing specific questions and/or problems to be discussed in class. Individual students will be assigned to lead discussion of particular problems/issues. While rereading the papers for the second week’s seminar, you should think about, work on, and write out answers to these questions-and come up with other questions of your own. Come prepared to discuss your answers and questions in class.

Grading Policy

Participation in Class Discussion 50%
Leading Discussion of Papers/Problems 20%
Problem Sets 20%
Complete Preparation Sheets 10%


1 Introduction

2 The Process of Model Building Problem set 1 due
3 Analytic vs. Computational Problem set 2 due
4 Detailed vs. Heuristic I Problem set 3 due
5 Special Topic I: Dimensional Analysis and Scaling Problem set 4 due
6 Field Trip

7 Detailed vs. Heuristic II Problem set 5 due
8 Special Topic II: Curve Fitting, Resampling, and Monte Carlo Problem set 6 due
9 Forward vs. Inverse Problem set 7 due
10 Special Topic III: Chaos and the Limits to Prediction Problem set 8 due
11 Special Topic IV: Molecular Mathematical Biology Problem set 9 due
12 Student Selections I

13 Student Selections II

14 The Relation between Theory and Experiment Problem set 10 due
15 Recapitulation Problem set 11 due