University of Minnesota
School of Physics & Astronomy
Home > About > News > Alumni >

Alumni

Donald W. Strecker (Ph.D, Physics, 1973; M.S., Physics,1969; B.S., Physics, 1965)

                                                       

Professor Edward P. Ney was my favorite instructor, mentor, advisor, and friend.

His approach to physics; deriving the radius of a neutron star on the back of an old envelope, using half wavelength quantization, and the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, still
amazes me and demonstrates his deep understanding of the principles
of physics. In 1965, Ed took me on as a graduate student plotting data
from his “Ney Ball” dim light photometer on the Ball Brothers Research
Corporation (BBRC) satellite OSO-B2. In 1968, he was developing
infrared (IR) astronomy at Minnesota. I joined the group. A 1971 IR
expedition to Cerro Tololo InterAmerican Observatory in Chili with
Ed was a memorable scientifi c and cultural experience. I also thank
Professor John Williams who, in 1961-1962, made his introductory
physics courses so interesting that I decided to major in physics. In
1973, I was a post-doc at NASA Ames Research Center doing airborne
infrared astronomy. In 1978, I accepted a job at BBRC and moved
to Longmont, CO. I retired earlier this year after thirty years at Ball as an infrared instrumentation systems engineer. I worked on several NASA infrared programs such as IRAS, NICMOS, SIRTF. Recently, I was the Ball systems engineer on the MIPS far-infrared instrument on
SIRTF. Additionally, I worked in the new business arena in technology
development, interacting with potential principal investigators, and by creating conceptual payload designs, costing, scheduling, and writing proposals. My wife, Patty (U of M, ‘66) and I have been married for thirty-five years. We have three daughters who are currently officers in the U.S. Army. Patty and I return to Minnesota quite often to visit friends and relatives and to maintain her family farm. The farm, in the southeast corner of Minnesota, has been in my wife’s family for more than 150 years. My activities now include woodworking and improving the functionality of 1941 Farmall Model H and 1946 Farmall Model B tractors at the farm. Minnesota was an excellent training ground for an experimental physicist and for making the transition from research and academia to aerospace engineering and business.