Catching up with...Helen Hanson '83

Publication Date

Helen Hanson '83 is an associate professor in the Electrical, Computer, and Biomedical Engineering Department. After graduate school in Cambridge, Mass., she was a research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She returned to Union in 2007 as a faculty member. Her research focuses on the speech acoustics of young children and cognitive representations of speech. Hanson lives in Schenectady with her family and their dog, Gunnar. They spend much of their time attending her son's soccer games and tournaments up and down the East Coast, and they enjoy watching soccer on TV. Hanson understands the offsides rule and has mixed feelings about VAR (video assistant referee).

Helen Hanson '83

Helen Hanson '83 in Carmel, a small beach city on California's Monterey Peninsula.

FIRST APP YOU LOOK AT IN THE MORNING:

My calendar and the weather. I have to get myself mentally prepared for the day before I can get out of bed. If it's a busy day and the weather isn't good, it's a slow process.

ONE BOOK YOU HAVE READ MULTIPLE TIMES:

The Tale of Genji” by Murasaki Shikibu. After I read it the first time, I realized that it was an abridged edition. Next, I read two unabridged translations simultaneously. I wanted to know how the translations were affected by when they were translated and who the translators were. I have a third, more recent, translation waiting for me to read, maybe after I retire.

BEST ADVICE YOU EVER RECEIVED:

A math professor told me not to memorize equations or methods to solve a probem. Instead, I should focus on understanding the concepts behind them. It was a life changer, and I apply it to every subject, not only math.

FAVORITE SPOT ON CAMPUS:

The Whipple Bridge and the Pyramid. I'm an engineer, you know.

GO-TO BREAKFAST:

Smoothies or steel-cut oatmeal

NETFLIX OR AMAZON:

ESPN+ - the home of Union hockey! I believe they'll be streaming NHL games starting this season too, and now they're the home of La Liga - Barcelona is my team.

FAVORITE PODCAST:

Ear Hustle. To quote: "On Ear Hustle, they bring you the daily realities of people inside prison shared by those living it, and stories from the outside, post-incarceration."

ONE SKILL YOU WISH YOU HAD:

Every day I think of a new one, but recently I was in Hawaii, and now I really wish I could surf. Also, since I was a teenager, I wanted to be able to roll my R's. A rolled R is one of the most beautiful speech sounds, and it drives me crazy that I can't produce one.

ANOTHER SUBJECT YOU WISH YOU COULD TEACH:

I can't think of anything besides what I teach now.

MOST CREATIVE EXCUSE YOU HEARD FOR A LATE ASSIGNMENT:

Nothing special. Students are overwhelmed with other assignments, lab reports or exams. For some reason, other classes take precedence over mine. Maybe I'm the least scary professor on campus.