I always wanted to be involved in space exploration in some way. My mother claims it started when she witnessed a launch from Kennedy Space Center (before it was named that) when she was 8 months pregnant with me. Growing up in DeLand, Florida, I could see the rockets from the Apollo program heading toward Earth orbit and the Moon from the roof of our house. I got a B.S. in Physics with a minor in Applied Mathematics from Stetson University in DeLand, where my father was a professor in the English department, in 1985. Four years later I had a Ph.D. in Astrophysical, Planetary, and Atmospheric Sciences from the University of Colorado, and a darling daughter Aylia with my charming wife, Anne-Marie.
My research is in planetary sciences, with an emphasis on solar system dynamics, planet formation, planetary rings, moons, and dust in the solar system. Aside from a one-year stint at the Observatoire Midi-Pyrenees in Toulouse France as a Fullbright Scholar in 1995-1996, I was a research associate at the University of Colorado’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics from 1989 through 2006. Since December 2006 I have been on the faculty of the Physics Department at the University of Central Florida in Orlando. I direct a Center for Microgravity Research that is developing payloads for the International Space Station, parabolic airplane flights, and suborbital rocket flights, as well as drop tower experiments. My professional web site is at the University of Central Florida.
Although I’m the only scientist in my immediate family (with the exception of a nephew en route to a Ph.D. in Physics), I share a love for movies that seems to run in the family. My father was a movie reviewer for the Daytona Beach News Journal for a dozen years, and I reviewed movies myself for the Louisville Times in Louisville, Colorado, from 1994-2001. That included attending the 1996 Cannes Film Festival as a journalist where I saw 27 movies in 9 days. One of my brothers, K.C., is a First Assistant Director in Hollywood. Look for his name at the top of the end credits. Thanks to this connection I was hired as a “Comet Advisor” on the 1998 movie “Deep Impact“, a position that also earned me a brief appearance in the movie with a small speaking part. My daughter, Aylia, now has her sights set on a professional acting career.
I am also a proud Trekkie, terrible piano player, and a huge Jethro Tull fan.
Here‘s an explanation of the psychedelic display of Saturn’s rings in my blog banner.