James Madison University

Dr. Michael Hall Receives Emeriti Legacy Grant

By: Lauren Mitchell
Posted: November 10, 2015

This year, the College of Health and Behavioral Studies (CHBS) was chosen to award one of their outstanding faculty members the Faculty Emeriti Legacy Grant. Funded by the Emeriti Association, this unrestricted grant is a $2,000 award given to a faculty member who has made significant professional contributions to the college and has best reflected the mission of the college during their career at JMU. The Emeriti Association includes over 190 retired JMU faculty members who remain involved with the campus community.

Photo: Hall

Dr. Sharon Lovell, Dean of CHBS, was given the difficult task of picking one of the professors in the college to receive this award. Each department in the college determined a nominee who they felt best represented their department. From those nominees Lovell had many remarkable choices, but in the end she selected Psychology professor Dr. Michael Hall.

Hall grew up in a household with a concert pianist as a mother and a physicist as a father. He found himself struggling to choose between studying music or psychology, but ultimately he chose psychology. He found through his studies that he was more interested in the process of how the brain works rather than the result of these processes, which led him to pursue a career in psychological research.  Hall ultimately combined his interests in music and psychology to inspire his research in how people recognize common auditory events. He turned this passion into the development of products involving psychophysics and music such as virtual synthesizers. These synthesizers are used to create different sounds by manipulating the shape of the product, much like a human’s vocal tract changes shape to produce vocalization. This work on source-filter synthesis methods has been recognized with James Madison Innovations Intellectual Property Disclosure Incentive Awards for the past two years. Hall hopes to market these devices as tools to both auditory researchers and electronic musicians.

Hall began teaching at JMU in 2004 and has definitely made his mark on Madison. He has received numerous awards and goes above and beyond the typical job description of a professor. He served as the Director of the M.A. program in Psychological Sciences for four years. Hall is an active member and previous president of the International Honor Society in Psychology, Psi Chi. Through Psi Chi, he works to connect with students going into the psychology field and helps to provide them professional and award opportunities.
He also has chaired the Organizing Committee of the Auditory Perception, Cognition and Action Meeting (APCAM) for the past five years. This national conference gathers auditory specialists once a year to share and discuss ideas. Hall is mostly known for his work with timbre, which is a branch of psychophysics that deals with sound quality. Hall refers to psychophysics as the “psychology before there was something called psychology”. The topic of timbre discusses how humans recognize particular sound sources and why things sound differently. An example of this would be how we can tell the difference between the sounds of a guitar and the sounds of a piano.

 The Faculty Emeriti Legacy Grant is the most recent recognition that Hall has received for his work. He now joins a select group of talented individuals that make JMU the great university that it is today. “This award really means a lot to me because it is coming from my colleagues. I feel humble and lucky to have been chosen among other colleagues who are equally if not more qualified to receive the Emeriti grant.”