I am the assistant group leader for a group consisting of 7 Ph.D. research astronomers,
3 technicians (one engineer, one machinist, and one programmer), and one graduate student.
Our main activity is to operate a far-infrared cryogenic grating spectrometer for use on
the Kuiper Airborne Observatory. We designed and built the instrument and the on-board
data system, assembled and tested all the equipment, maintain and update the equipment as
needed, do preflight laboratory testing and calibration, install the instrument and data
systems on the aircraft, plan the observations, fly with the experiment, acquire and
analyze the data, interpret and publish the results. My primary responsibility is to
supervise the day to day operations of the group. We also do some supporting ground based
optical, near-infrared, and radio observations to help understand and interpret our
far-infrared data. We tackle a variety of problems having to do with the star formation
I have always liked technical things. I found Physics to be the hardest class I took
in high school, but also the most interesting. I majored in Physics in college at North
Dakota State University, and then went on to get a Ph.D. in Physics in graduate school at
Iowa State University. I tried several areas of Physics, including Low-Energy Nuclear
Physics, Solid State Properities of the Rare Gas Solids (studying the thermal expansion
and heat capacity of frozen neon, argon, etc.), and the Radio-Frequency Detection of
Tornadoes as an Early Warning System. I became interested in astronomy as a third year
graduate student. I did some theoretical calculations on the gas motions around
quasi-stellar objects (QSOs or quasars) for my Ph.D. dissertation. My unofficial thesis
advisor was a friend at NASA-Ames Research Center, so after I finished my degree, I came
to California as a National Research Council Post-Doctoral Fellow. This was a two year
appointment meant for people just out of graduate school. After I finished my post-doc
(also working on the theory of QSO clouds) and was looking for a job, I got hired to work
on Infrared Airborne Astronomy. I literally fell into a great job and have been at
NASA-Ames ever since, first as a contractor working for my own company and now as a civil
servant working for the U. S. Government.
I never thought much about making money or career goals when I was in school. I just
did what sounded like fun and was easy for me. I got involved in research in a Physics
Lab in college and published a paper as an undergraduate. This motivated me to pursue a
career in research.
On the personal side, my major hobby is my three children - Robert,19; Karen,17; and
Stephen,14. My oldest son started college last year, majoring in computer science. We
have spent many hours together filling out application forms, reading course catalogs,
and discussing schools during the past year. I sew with my daughter and race model cars
with my younger son. At Christmas time we all love to build gingerbread houses.
I also enjoy walking and playing with our dog, cooking on weekends, camping in the
Redwoods, and visiting the Minnesota lake country in the summer. I also work on my cars,
house, and lawn.