Summer Fellow incorporated interest in sound into physics research

Summer Fellow incorporated interest in sound into physics research


Eddie Alford decided to study the effects of sound propagation through granular material upon realizing that this topic engages his interests in both physics and music.

“When Dr. Owens suggested this research project, I immediately realized that it would be an ideal project to do,” said Alford.

According to Dr. Eli Owens, assistant professor of physics and Alford’s faculty mentor for the project, “A granular material is a collection of macroscopic particles that interact through a strictly repulsive contact potential. Granular materials make up an important class of materials with broad industrial and scientific interest.”

For his project, Alford sent sound waves through granular material composed of sand while varying the interface, the surface forming a common boundary between the matter, placed in the sandbox. He did so in order to study how to match a source of sound to the granular system so that the acoustic energy was efficiently transmitted from the source into the granular material.

“This phenomenon is analogous to how cupping your hands around your mouth improves the coupling of your voice into the air,” said Owens.

A senior physics major with minors in mathematics and music, Alford is a member of Sigma Nu fraternity and is involved in multiple music ensembles including the PC Ringers, jazz band, wind ensemble, pep band, and Cantare!

“This project is significant because sound coupling is a helpful tool for people searching for oil or other valuable resources in the ground using sound,” said Alford. “Sound is a great way to detect these materials in the ground because it is a non-destructive probe. This project will contribute to the field because it tested whether a large or small interface will maximize sound propagation through granular materials.”

When asked about his goals for his research, Alford mentioned how he hoped to expand his understanding of the field of granular physics as well as physics in general. Owens, his advisor, hoped to continue this research beyond the summer in order to produce publishable results and present the findings at conferences.

Alford plans to obtain a master’s degree in engineering after graduating from PC and understands that his research aided him in this endeavor: “This research project allowed me to expand my knowledge and meet new people. It also allowed me to get experience in my field and to understand what it will be like once I am in the field.”



Presbyterian College is located on a striking 240-acre campus in Clinton, between Columbia and Greenville, S.C. Offering challenging academics and a culture of honor, ethics, and service that prepares students to be leaders in communities, PC offers its students the benefit of engaging with an exceptional faculty who take individual interest in their students’ well-being, both personally and in the classroom. The Presbyterian College School of Pharmacy opened in 2010, and is dedicated to the ideals of leadership, honor to the profession, and service to the community. For more information about Presbyterian College, visit