PhD studies taught how to be a good researcher


Julian Parker hopes that the academic perspective does not get lost after graduating.

D.Sc. (Tech.) Julian Parker combines research and design work in the field of music technology. He is a popular visiting lecturer in Aalto University. Most recently he gave a talk in March 2017 in Otaniemi.

D.Sc. (Tech.) Julian Parker, you have graduated from Aalto University in 2013. What have you studied?

I studied for my doctorate in the Acoustics & Signal Processing research group led by Professor Vesa Välimäki. My thesis was about computational modelling of the mechanical springs used in early methods of artificial reverberation. I’m originally from the UK. I did my Bachelor in University of Cambridge studying Natural Sciences and moved to University of Edinburgh to study for the MSc in Acoustics and Music Technology. After my Master studies I started to look for different PhD opportunities in my subject area. I heard about Aalto and Vesa´s group from my supervisor at Edinburgh.

How did you enter your current work and what do you do?

I work for the Native Instruments GmbH in Berlin, where I lead DSP development and research. The company is one of the market leaders in producing software and hardware for music production. I started to work there two weeks after I defended my thesis. My day to day work is quite similar to my activities at Aalto, but industry has different requirements. When making algorithms for customers to use in their music production, sound quality is the most important factor. Achieving this requires a lot of listening.

While working at Native Instruments GmbH you have also time to do research work. What do you research and why?

I have continued doing research in the same areas. I have published on a variety of topics including reverberation, physical modelling of both mechanical and electrical systems, and digital filter design. I think it is a great shame if you can´t contribute to the academic community after graduating, so I continue to research and publish whenever I can.

What are the most important qualities and lessons the doctoral education at Aalto University gave you?

In Aalto I learned how to be a good researcher. I learned how to choose the right idea for a paper, and especially how to present that idea. Of course, I also gained a lot of knowledge from the great experts in my field at Aalto, like Vesa and the late Prof. Matti Karjalainen. I was lucky to do my PhD studies in a great environment with great people.

I think the Aalto merger in 2010 was a great change. I took some courses from the design and arts parts of the university, and I found this extremely valuable in my development. It gave me a larger perspective on my studies.

What kind of advice you would give the students when they are thinking own career path?

It is really important to meet the right people, so attending conferences and networking is very important. Try to publish as much as you can, but don´t forget other skills. Try to present your work so that anyone can understand it, not just researchers.