Highest Award Given to Scripps Oceanographer


William A. Kuperman, professor of Oceanography and director of the Marine Physical Laboratory at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego, received the prestigious Gold Medal from the Acoustical Society of America for leadership, mentorship, and service.

The Gold Medal, first presented in 1954, is an annual award, given in the spring to a member of the Society for contributions to acoustics. Kuperman received the Silver Medal in 1995, and served as president of the 8,000 member international Society in 2004.

"The Gold Medal is an award given for the combination of accumulating work in an area of specialty and contribution to the society," said Kuperman.

Of all the Gold Medal winners, only a handful have been in the field of ocean acoustics.

Kuperman is widely recognized for his contributions to the fields of underwater acoustics and acoustical oceanography. Though he is known as one of the founding fathers of the discipline of computational ocean acoustics, he has also spent three years in research at sea. His work at Scripps concentrates on the natural sounds made by the ocean, and using them either to locate objects underwater or to learn about the ocean environment.

Kuperman's mentorship of generations of scientists has earned him a benevolent reputation in the eyes of many.

"I was told when I was a young scientist at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory that in a research environment, 51 percent of the product is the scientist, and the research results will follow," said Kuperman. "I've lived by that."

Kuperman's Gold Medal citation states that the award was given to him "for leadership in underwater acoustics, mentoring generations of acousticians, and for service to the society".

After joining the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory as a research scientist, Kuperman received his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Maryland in 1972. In 1976, he was offered a position at the NATO SCALANT ASW Research Centre (SACLANTCEN) in La Spezia, Italy. There, he was appointed head of a new environmental modeling group.

Kuperman returned to the United States to join the Naval Oceanographic Research and Development Activity (NORDA) in Mississippi, where he inspired and mentored many early career scientists. After serving as senior scientist in the Acoustics Division of the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, Kuperman became director of the Marine Physical Laboratory at Scripps, and has held that position since. His current research includes using a time reversal mirror approach, a technique used for focusing waves, to study underwater acoustics.

"It is an honor to be recognized with this award by my peers," said Kuperman. "I am grateful to know that my work has been of use to them."

Kuperman, a member of the National Academy of Engineering, received the Walter Munk Award in 2011 from the Oceanography Society. His work continues to impact and inspire early career scientists in the fields of underwater acoustics.

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