2016 Spring Luncheon Honoree

Dr. Donna L. Neff

Dr. Neff obtained a BS and MA in Psychology and Experimental Psychology from the University of Nebraska at Omaha, and the PhD in Experimental Psychology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship in the Laboratory of Psychophysics at Harvard University. Donna’s professional career as a research scientist at the Boys Town National Research Hospital is notable for the important contributions she made to the understanding of how humans process sound. Her work on signal uncertainties was groundbreaking at the time and continues to be a focus of current psychoacoustics research. This is the hallmark of significant and innovative research – the fact that more than 30 years later, Donna’s publications in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America are still contributing to the interpretation of new findings and being built upon by researchers who have followed and learned from Donna’s work. To recognize her scientific accomplishments, in 1996, Donna was named an ASA Fellow, “For contributions to the understanding of signal uncertainties in sound detection and discrimination.”

Donna has given outstanding service to ASA, which also involves being a role model for women students and early career acousticians. A brief list of her contributions includes membership on the Psychological and Physiological Acoustics (P&P) Technical Committee and her election in 1996 as the first woman to Chair the P&P Technical Committee. It is notable that many women scientists have followed Donna in this role as chair of the P&P Technical Committee, but it remains significant that Donna was the first.

Donna was also called upon to serve ASA in many other capacities, including membership on Standards working groups, subcommittees on membership, societal growth, improving meetings, a vision task force, and as chair of the Committee on Innovation. Donna was a member of the Women in Acoustics Committee from 2004-2007 and chaired its awards committee.

Donna was elected to the ASA Executive Council and served from 2000-2003. She was then elected Vice President and served on the Executive Council in that role from 2004-2007. Her Vice Presidency was highlighted by the preparation for the very large and successful joint ASA-EAA meeting in Paris, for which Donna devoted enormous energy in both planning and execution.

Donna has an incredibly active career, where she is still a pioneer for women. She is working on her pilot’s license for sailplanes, where once again she is the only woman among a large group of men. In fact, when Donna was a young woman in the Air Force, women could not be pilots or navigators, so Donna is still breaking new ground.

Dr. Neff is the Women in Acoustics Spring 2016 Luncheon Honoree.  Donna is also highlighted in the Acoustics Today article, Women in Acoustics: Honoring Some of Our Heroes.