The Sounds of Science

October 11, 2022
Malinda McPherson

2022 SHBT Alumna Malinda McPherson brings a musician’s mind to the study of hearing 

It was music that led Malinda McPherson to science.

A violist now for over two decades, McPherson started her college career thinking she would pursue a double bachelor’s degree in art history and music performance. But, a neuroscience course she took as a freshman elective unlocked an interest in how people hear and remember sound. She’d always been intrigued by the subject, so she changed the direction of her career and went all-in on science.

“I started studying music as a performer,” McPherson remembers. “Then I had the opportunity to work in a research lab, exploring what happens in the brain during jazz improvisation. That got me hooked on understanding the neuroscience and psychology of human auditory perception.”

McPherson’s passion for music and hearing led her to Harvard’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS)—specifically the Harvard/MIT Program in Speech and Hearing Bioscience and Technology—where she earned her PhD earlier this year. Her research there changed how scientists understand the different ways people hear—and the way that culture shapes the experience of music.

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