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Sungur and Perfetti Research Data Sonification

Posted by Pengxeu Thao '15, Roseville on Thursday, Jul. 31, 2014

Engin Sungur, professor of statistics, is one of 11 professors partnering with students in the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Undergraduate Summer Research Program. He is working with Nate Perfetti ’15, Minnetonka, on data sonification research. The purpose of their work is to add a sound dimension for data analysis, creating better ways of understanding graphics and visual data.

Sungur and Perfetti are trying to implement sound with visual data through sonification. This summer they are using Sonification Sandbox, SuperCollider, and audiolyzR, a software package for the statistical computing software R, to research this method. One way Perfetti is working with sonification is by applying sound to algorithm sorting. As different values in data sets are graphically sorted in a program, different sounds with varying pitches will play.

This project has the potential to make data interpretation more accessible. Adding a sound component can aid visually-impaired students with data analysis and make data-mapping easier for other researchers in various fields.

“The interdisciplinary research breaks out of the paradigm of visual displays, letting you interpret data on more than one dimension,” says Perfetti. “Being able to hear data, in addition to seeing it, can be helpful for a lot of people.”

Although several students have worked on sonification in the past, Perfetti has taken this research in his own direction by using a wider range of platforms and applications of sonic data analysis. He is using this summer research opportunity to optimize the campus’s liberal arts environment.

“Students can start from scratch and develop their own unique approaches for research,” says Sungur. “The liberal arts knowledge can expose students to different directions they can take with their work.”

Perfetti will present his research at an HHMI presentation at the end of the summer. Additionally, he will collaborate with Timna Wyckoff, associate professor of biology, to sonify recent student-research data. The program will continue into the fall semester.

The Undergraduate Summer Research Program is supported in part by a grant to the University of Minnesota, Morris from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute through the Precollege and Undergraduate Science Education Program. Additional information is available at