After returning to Berkeley in 1934, Dick enrolled in Physics A and D in summer school as qualifications for entry into the graduate physics program. It was the middle of the Great Depression then, and Kay returned to teaching to support Dick’s studies. She taught English and dramatics in a junior high school for the next three years, until 1937, when Dick passed the qualifying examinations for entry into a Ph.D. program. For the next two years, until 1939, the Bolts were supported by financial assistance from academic fellowships.
Working under Professor Vern O. Knudsen at UCLA, Dick earned his Ph.D. (officially from Berkeley) in June 1939. The next academic year he spent at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) doing research and publishing papers jointly with Philip M. Morse, Albert Clogston, and Herman Feshbach on aspects of sound in variously shaped rooms. For two years, starting in 1940, he directed MIT’s Underwater Sound Laboratory, and in 1943, he was named scientific liaison officer in subsurface warfare to the Office of Scientific Research and Development in London.
At the end of World War II, Dick was appointed director of a newly conceived acoustics laboratory at MIT. At its peak, the laboratory employed more than 80 people, and in just 12 years, 108 graduate theses were completed. Dick taught an acoustics course in the MIT School of Architecture and Planning based largely on physical principles; he also taught a course titled “Advanced Seminar in Architectural Acoustics” to students in the Acoustics Laboratory.
In 1946, MIT received a request from the renowned New York architectural firm Harrison and Abramowitz for a proposal for consultation on the acoustics of the United Nations headquarters buildings in New York. MIT asked Dick to respond, and, following a competition, he received the commission. When the project proved to be too big for a single person, he invited Leo L. Beranek to join him; thus the firm Bolt and Beranek was born in November 1948. A year later, Robert B. Newman, then a member of the faculty of the MIT School of Architecture and Planning, joined as a partner. In 1951, BBN was incorporated, with Dick as chairman of the board, Beranek