Craig A. Champlin
Professor and Chair, Department of Communication Sciences and
University of Texas at Austin
Certificate of Clinical Competence, Audiology
1989 Postdoctoral Training, University of Texas at
1987 PhD, University of Kansas
Audiology and Hearing Science
1982 MA, University of Kansas Medical Center
1978 BA, St. Olaf College
Biology and Psychology
I chose an academic/research career because:
It allows me to explore and discover. I strive to learn something
new every day, and then I try to pass this knowledge along to
What do you do in your career as a teacher, scholar,
I work at a major research university. I teach both undergraduate
and graduate courses in audiology and hearing science.
Additionally, I conduct research in a lab on basic properties of
hearing. While I currently have administrative responsibilities,
I see this role as relatively short-term and plan to return
full-time to my professorial activities soon. I am mainly
interested in temporal resolution in audition, which is to say I
want to know how we parse the incoming stream of acoustic
information into meaningful units of speech or music. I also want
to understand how certain hearing disorders affect temporal
resolution and what can be done to overcome such impairments.
It is helpful for me to divide the work week into three
segments. On Mondays and Wednesdays, I teach classes; on Tuesdays
and Thursdays, I work in the lab or my office; on Fridays, I
attend faculty meetings and engage in professional service (e.g.,
I am a journal editor). This form of block scheduling helps me
focus on the activities of the day and lets other people know
where I am. On "teaching days" I attend classes and
give lectures. I also make it a point to be in my office on these
days, so students can find me. The one-on-one discussions we have
during office hours are often quite illuminating for me. I am
generally less accessible on "research days." I
typically attend lab meetings or journal groups, work on
developing experiments, and write or review papers. Although I am
a certified audiologist, I rarely supervise clinical practica. My
accomplishments are reviewed annually by the Budget Council of
the department and by the Dean. I am rated in each of three
categories-teaching (40%), research (40%), and service (20%).
Although the Dean is technically my boss, he is not meddlesome; I
may go a week without seeing him. Working in an environment of
loose supervision is very appealing to me as is the diversity of
experiences I have on a daily basis.
How did you get to the position you have today?
As an undergraduate student, I was fortunate to assist a
professor who was testing the balance systems of astronauts. This
was my introduction to the study of the ear. From there I became
interested in auditory perception. Specifically, I wanted to
integrate the physiological knowledge from my biology classes
with the perceptual knowledge gained through my psychology
classes. Because hearing is the primary sense in communication, I
found it much more compelling than vision, touch, or the chemical
senses. I discovered that one could go to graduate school to
study hearing science exclusively, so off I went. There were few
hearing science students, but numerous audiology (and
speech-language pathology) students. They showed me the value of
studying impaired communication systems as a way to better
understand normal processes. In fact, I got a degree in
audiology, became certified, and practiced as an audiologist in a
large metropolitan hospital. During my stint in the "real
world," I came to see that numerous holes existed in our
knowledge base. The hospital, however, did not encourage
research. Eventually, my curiosity and need to experiment drew me
back to school where I completed my PhD degree. Although my
doctoral program was excellent, the research training was not
quite as extensive compared to other scientific disciplines
(psychology, biology, biomedical engineering, neuroscience,
linguistics, etc.). I felt I needed additional research
experiences, so I wrote a grant and subsequently became a
postdoctoral fellow. This latter experience has been invaluable,
and I would encourage all doctoral students to seek such
What were the key factors in your academic/research
As an undergraduate, I was permitted to teach a laboratory
section of a course in physiological psychology. The professor in
charge was beset with personal problems, so I was permitted to
teach the course more or less unfettered. There were both
teaching and research components, which I found extremely
interesting. This experience more than any other pointed me in
the direction of a career in academics.
What do you like most about your career?
As an academician I am literally free to investigate whatever I
choose. My colleagues undoubtedly appreciate the fact that I
confine my study to topics in audition. The point is that I could
study continental drift if I so desired. Because I am tenured, I
can express myself freely without worry of retribution. I cannot
think of any other job where this freedom is possible and even
What do you like least about your career?
Occasionally, I become overwhelmed by the lack of what I call
vocational closure-knowing that I can work hard my entire
lifetime (hopefully contributing something meaningful from time
to time) yet there is always more to be done. It's not like
building a house or sorting letters at the post office. The job
of the academic by definition has no end.
Who are your heroes/heroines?
I have two professional heroes-Larry Feth, my doctoral advisor,
and Dennis McFadden, my postdoc sponsor. Both men are
extraordinarily smart, flexible, and have great senses of humor.
They have been extremely generous with their time whether
discussing experimental ideas, philosophies of science, or
reviewing my manuscripts. They were also gracious in introducing
me to people at scientific meetings. I continue to collaborate
with both mentors.
What advice would you give to an undergraduate or
master's student who expressed an interest in an
academic/research career in communication sciences and
My advice would be to find a lab that's active and get
involved. Any good investigator or lab group can always use
another pair of hands (and a brain). Seeing what others are doing
and talking to them about it is the best way to learn about
What was the best thing about your PhD program?
The best thing about my doctoral program is that my advisor and
committee allowed me to explore a wide range of topics and course
work in many different departments. I was able to tailor my
program to fit my interests. This is what distinguishes a
doctoral program from any other degree (HS, BA, MA, etc.) plan
where the curriculum is highly prescribed.
If you did your PhD program or your early career years
all over again, what would you do differently?
I would take more courses in mathematics. Math and physics are
central to many aspects of hearing and speaking, so understanding
the fundamental concepts is essential.
How do you find balance between your professional
activities and your personal life? What do you do to
My spouse, who is not an academic, and my children understand
that my job is not 8 to 5, Monday to Friday. They know that there
are times when I need to bear down (e.g., grant deadlines);
however, they also realize that I need to take breaks. My
schedule is reasonably flexible, especially in the summer, and my
calendar matches up with the children's school calendar.
Although there is some work-related travel, it is not unbearable,
and often one or more family members accompany me. The invention
of the laptop computer has enabled me to accomplish much in my
home office where I can squeeze in an e-mail note between
It may sound odd but because I like my job, the need to take a
vacation doesn't often cross my mind. Nonetheless, I am truly
grateful for having a family who can remind me to unplug.
What will you be doing 5 years from now? 10 years from
Hopefully, I'll be doing in 5 years what I'm doing now.
Each academic year arrives with new students and new things to
learn. Ten years from now I hope to have successfully applied
chaos theory to the prediction of number patterns in lottery
drawings. I am looking forward to becoming a