Bob Loewenstein
SOFIA Aircraft System Manager, Mechanical Engineer

I am a Senior Research Associate at the University of Chicago's Yerkes Observatory. I work on many different projects, the KAO being just one. Other things that I have done include helping to build a 3.5 meter remote controlled observatory in New Mexico, and observatories at the South Pole in Antarctica.

I became interested in astronomy when I was in the fourth grade in Texas. My older brother was going to a star party held by the local astronomy club in my city. As you would suspect, a star party is held at night and I thought it was a really neat idea to be able to get out of the house and to stay up late.

So, I began reading some astronomy books (as well as science fiction books), and later that year built a 3" telescope. From then on, I liked astronomy and building things. In high school I was accepted to attend two National Science Foundation sponsored summer institutes at two different universities where I learned more about physics, math, chemistry, and astronomy. I really enjoyed those summer institutes, which exposed me to high school students like myself, and also to real scientists who did real research at universities.

There were several teachers at my high school who also inspired me (although at the time I did not recognize it). One was a social studies teacher who expected us to know more than just what we were studying. She insisted on attention to details in everything that we did in that class, whether it was spelling, pronunciation, or memorization of names and places. At the time I did not understand why we had to do all that; why these non-social studies things were important in a social studies class. But later I realized that this attention to detail makes a difference in the quality of work that I do.

I attended Rice University in Houston, Texas, where I majored in physics. But during college I was exposed to so many different fields that interested me, that I took many non-science related courses in my sophomore year before I had to declare a major. I decided to stay with physics and after graduating college, attended graduate school at Rice, in what was then called 'Space Science'. I studied the Aurora Borealis, and spent two winters in Alaska launching rockets above the Aurora to learn more about them. After helping to build three payloads and launching them all, I acquired enough data to write a dissertation and received my Ph.D.

After a summer spent in the army, I went to work at Yerkes Observatory learning and doing infrared astronomy by flying on the NASA LearJet observatory and the new Kuiper Airborne Observatory. I have made over 300 flights on the KAO in the last 21 years.

When I'm not doing astronomy, I like to sail, x-country ski, backpack, and rock-climb.

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