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Department ofPhysics


Catching up with Alumni: Sean Wells-Rutherford, B.S. Physics, 2011

I arrived at SCU in 2007 with a slight inclination towards pursuing a physics degree, but I was also attracted to numerous other majors offered at SCU. However, after a brief impromptu meeting with Dr. Phil Kesten at summer freshman orientation, I knew I would end up with my B.S. in Physics. (I also completed a minor in Philosophy to keep a good balance with the humanities.) During my time as a physics student, I had the opportunity to work with Dr. Guy Ramon on research into spin qubits in quantum dots. That work gave me a new appreciation for the grueling pace of basic research, but I also discovered the thrill of applying mathematics and mastering new analytical skills to solve practical problems. It was toward the end of my college career that I discovered a deep fascination with synthesizers and music production and was introduced to the field where I discovered I truly belong.

Following graduation in 2011, I worked at a few startups in the Bay Area, but ultimately decided to continue my education at Arizona State University, near my home. At ASU, I completed a Master’s in Electrical Engineering, with a focus in Signal Processing and a personal interest in audio. Though I was behind in some of the more basic EE courses when I started at ASU, I was uniquely ready for the more advanced topics encountered in Digital Signal Processing (DSP), as the mathematics strongly resembles that used in physics, particularly in quantum mechanics and statistical mechanics. The computer modeling skills I learned in Computational Physics at SCU gave me an edge in almost all of my graduate courses. During my graduate studies I worked as an intern at Fender, where I began by designing analog guitar pedals. I later worked in a digital communications research lab within the EE department at ASU. There, I analyzed experimental data and studied Doppler effects in Multiple-Input Multiple-Output wireless systems.

I was awarded my Master’s of Science in Engineering from ASU in 2014, and have since joined the DSP engineering team at one of the premier audio companies in the world - Shure, Incorporated (near Chicago, IL). Most of my work now revolves around speech processing for conferencing and telecommunication, including the development of linear and non-linear DSP blocks for embedded targets. I also work on microphone array processing and in advanced research and development on Acoustic Echo Cancellation techniques.

Image: Professional digital-signal-processing engineer Sean Wells-Rutherford enjoying his work!

alumni story, physics alumni