We would like to keep in touch with our alumni and to make that a little easier, we're now on Twitter and LinkedIn and you can always email us at our alumni email address as well. We're going to be working on a Facebook page and would like to collect stories of your lives after UT or your experiences while at UT. Recently, we received correspondence from a few of our alumni who have graciously given us permission to publish these stories here and in our e-newletters. Click on their names to read their stories.
Carroll received his Ph.D in Physics in 1978. He is currently employed by ON Semiconductor and lives in Chandler, Arizona with his wife, Minnie.
Thank you for the letter. I hope all of you are doing fine. I am in Arizona and work in semiconductors. It is fun. Sometimes, when I remember David's challenges on the faculty boards, I think I have the easier job. It is easy to miss the library and the smell of old books. I think the best thing I learned at UT was to read technical articles and glean the critical information quickly. The business world lacks patience. I am quite certain that business is for people who do not enjoy learning about nature and the way things work. They seem to try to make money quick. I see beauty in solving problems and keeping my co-workers busy on making things. Each day, the work mostly focuses on solving problems and removing barriers. One rarely gets to understand, truly understand an issue.
I ask the engineers what is an inductor and I am told it is a circuit element that impedes changes in currents. Few recognize the root cause of its behavior. I may be wrong, but I see it as nature insisting that Maxwell's equations are satisfied at all points in time. This is important since we live with parasitic inductances and the wrong idea on their origination can prevent a circuit from succeeding. Physics is everywhere in industry if one will "see." So, I am fortunate. Even if I am not in the university, I get to do physics.
However, some days one must make money decisions and drive for success in that way. It is more difficult to think in that manner. One needs to translate the physical world into language that people who can only understand Excel and power point can think. t can be frustrating. A good physicist must learn to think like that. I believe you and David must have done it often in applying for grants. So we do share some consistent tasks. :-)
I will try to write more later. It is getting late for an older person like myself. I copied my work email address.
I appreciate the university physics department taking time with me to help me learn to learn. I know that I was dense then, and probably still am in many ways. If you see David, please give him my best wishes. Perhaps I will get time to travel to Austin and see my in-laws and other friends. I will try to drop by. Are you still on the 5th floor? I think you used to be on the 8th. (Does RLM still exist ;-)? ) They were building too much the last time I was there.
Jim received his Bachelor of Science in Physics in 1962. He is now retired and lives in Williamsurg, Virginia with his wife.
First, I want to say that getting a degree in Physics was an absolutely wonderful experience and prepared me to tackle the real world with enthusiasm, determination and confidence. By the way, in addition to receiving my BS in Physics in spring 1962, I also pinned on my 2nd Lt bars for a 2-year stint in the Army.
So here is a brief chronology (What a ride it’s been!):
- 1962 – 1964 US Army, stationed at Ft Hood (blah! My wife and I wanted to go toGermany). Made 1st Lt at Ft Hood and rose to Captain in 4 years of reserves.
- 1964 - Hired by Texas Instruments, Science Services Division, Dallas as a member of the technical staff. We were using technology from the oil exploration arm of the company to help DoD in various research endeavors relating the detection of underground nuclear explosions. Because of my Physics + very strong math background I was quick to learn a lot about geology and signal processing.
- 1965 – 1972 – Promoted rapidly to include being sponsored by TI to complete my MS in Physics at SMU. Further promotions took me into a technical leadership role and then quickly into program management of a major real time digital signal processing development and worldwide data collection and installation program which involved multiple TI operations.
- The program was overwhelmingly successful and as a result I was assigned leadership role in a related anti-submarine (ASW) program. I next became a strategy leader for ASW efforts of TI and gained some recognition at the national level in ASW.
- 1972 – 1980 – Was hired by Chesapeake Instruments, a small ASW company in Maryland, to lead their system engineering effort following up on an effort TI was not interested in pursuing. We were acquired by Gould Defense Systems where I was promoted to VP of Engineering. I lead a short course for UCLA and was recognized as one of the top systems engineers in ASW. We grew that particular division of Gould X5 in sales in ASW and developed new businesses in Electronic Warfare, Intelligence and Robotics.
- 1981-1983 – Promoted to VP / General Manager of Gould’s Simulation Systems Division on Long Island with the task of turning the Division which had serious operational problems around. Stabilized the operation and consolidated 7 facilities into one for efficiency to improve program performance.
- 1983 – 1986 – After successfully accomplishing the turn around on Long Island I returned to Gould’s Defense Electronics Division in Maryland and took on the responsibility for all of the R&D as well as marketing activities as VP of Business Development in order to further grow the business. We were successful in major developments in fiber optic single mode couplers to improve ASW data collection and transatlantic telephone bandwidth, high precision A/D converters to improve geophysical prospecting operations, robotics for US Army combat vehicles, towed decoys for Electronic Warfare aircraft self protection. While our division was doing very well, corporate Gould because of some ill-advised acquisitions was in serious financial trouble and decided to sell the entire Defense Group. My job was to lead this effort which seemed to be a dead end because if I was successful, I would not have a job at Gould, nor would any of the buyers necessarily be interested in hiring me.
- 1986 – 1990 – Hired by Tracor Aerospace in Austin to be their Group Electronic Warfare Division VP of business development encompassing R&D, Marketing, Business pursuits, international operations. During this period I served on an Engineering advisory board at UT. Tracor was bought by an investment firm, which quickly got into financial problems because of a seriously faulty strategy.
- 1990 – 2009 – Hired by Sanders, a Lockheed Martin Company as Director of Business Development for their Electronic Warfare Division which encompassed management of all research and development programs including government contracts as well as internally funded R&D, marketing, management of business capture teams, international and domestic marketing, etc. In 2000 took on leadership role of capturing a major multi-billion development and production program in the UK, which we won after a fierce multi-year battle with the incumbent. In 2009 it was time to retire, but the company, which by then was called BAE Systems because Lockheed sold us to solve some cash flow problems that arose from being overextended from acquisitions.
- 2010-2011 – consultant to BAE Systems on a major core business next generation multi-billion EW program. BAE Systems won the program.
- 2011 – today – retired to Williamsburg, VA and enjoy spending quality time with my wife of 54 years (a 5th generation Texan), playing golf, investing, spending time with family and giving back which includes teaching an investment class for retirees as part of the William and Mary affiliated Christopher Wren Association which focuses on continuing education for retirees.
In summary, my degree in physics along with my Army training and experience prepared me well for an exciting and rewarding career as a physicist, nationally recognized systems engineer, senior manager and finally business development – creating and winning new opportunities. My career seemed to follow the spectrum from sub-hertz ASW up thru giga-hertz EW driven by the continuing advancement in electronics (e.g. processing power).
Jim received his Ph.D in Physics in 1954 and now lives in Houston, Texas. We appreciate his story and know that you will as well.
By James Rickard
noun: dissertation; plural noun: dissertations
1. a long essay on a particular subject, especially one written as a requirement for the Doctor of Philosophy degree.
After a couple of years in graduate school at the University of Texas, I had about completed my course work and was ready to start my dissertation. Selection of a topic and a supervising professor is a delicate dance between students and faculty. The student wants a professor with a challenging but achievable project. It is essential that the professor have the respect of the other professors who are duty bound to challenge the student on the scientific worth of his project. The professor wants a student who is smart and works hard, can complete the task chosen, and above all, produces a publishable result.
I tried working for a couple of professors, hoping to find a fit. The first was only interested in optics, which did not appeal to me. The second I sent packing for daring to suggest that I should prefer working in his lab on Saturday afternoons to watching University of Texas football games.
I finally found a perfect major professor, barely in his thirties but with a reputation as a coming star. Best of all, he had a lucrative government contract to build the biggest Van de Graaff generator in existence, with funds to hire students to do the grunt-work. Worst of all, I would need a completed Van de Graaff to do my research.
Van de Graaffs are a type of atom smasher that, for experimental physics, must be hand built over a period of a few years. I would have a good and interesting job for my entire stay with my major professor, Dr. Emmett Hudspeth, but I would be there for a while. Well, I was unmarried, didn't need a lot of money, and would be doing something I really enjoyed, so I signed on.
A Van de Graaff generator consists of a vacuum chamber of about 18 inches in diameter and perhaps twenty feet long. Inside the chamber there is an endless belt that transports electrons up to the top, thereby generating a voltage of up to five million volts above ground. Deuterons or protons are then fired down the vacuum tube to impinge on carefully chosen targets, creating observable nuclear interactions, which reveal many of the nuclear characteristics of the target material.
Our machine was located in an abandoned World War II magnesium manufacturing plant several miles outside Austin, so we were pretty much on our own in the workplace. In addition to becoming nuclear physicists, we student workers would become fairly competent electricians, carpenters, machinists, vacuum engineers, welders, and general handy men. We worked under the supervision of a grizzled forty-year old man of all trades, and he taught us well. It was there that I learned so many of the manual skills that would help me make and repair everyday objects.
This learning experience did not come quickly to any of us students, and we made our share of blunders, both in planning and execution. Dr. Hudspeth would just laugh and say, "We'd better take back that last improvement." I remember all too well the day we finally got the vacuum tube outgassed and down to the desired vacuum, when one of us greenhorns (not me, as luck would have it) pulled the wrong handle, let in air, and ruined two weeks work. Our supervisor just threw his hands up and left for the day. He was gracious enough not to tell us how incompetent we were.
Three years flew by quickly, and when the generator was finished I got all of the data I needed for my dissertation in one week, with most of it coming in one afternoon. I met and married Marge about a year before I finished my dissertation. She made a very important contribution by typing the dissertation, a non-trivial task in view of some of the equations involved. I made lifelong friends there, notably including Dr. Hudspeth. To me, he was a great man. Many years later I was honored to help establish an endowed lectureship in Physics in his name.
The lectureship was announced at a special meeting of the Physics Department in the University Club. Cocktails flowed freely and everybody was having a smashing good time. Near the end of the meeting, I was called on to say a few words. At that point I thought a joke involving Dr. Hudspeth would be well received.
I said, "Last night I dreamed there was a terrible train wreck which killed Eisenhower, Lyndon Johnson, and Emmett Hudspeth. When they got to heaven St. Peter said, "Hmff. You’re barely eligible to be here. Come along and I'll show you your quarters."
They walked along a corridor and came to a first door, which opened onto a room containing a large fierce bear. He growled, had halitosis, and his fur was coming off in patches.
A voice came out of the heavens, saying, "Ike Eisenhower, you have sinned, and in atonement must spend eternity with this terrible bear."
The second room contained a huge angry tiger.
The voice said, "Lyndon Johnson, you have sinned, and in atonement, must spent eternity with this awful tiger."
St Peter led Emmett to the third room, and by now he was getting pretty nervous. The door opened to reveal Bo Derek, more ravishingly beautiful in person than in the movies.
The voice said, "Bo Derek, you have sinned, and in atonement... ........". Emmett got me aside later and asked, "Jim, who is Bo Derek?"