Instructor, Department of Electrical Engineering
What year did you start working at NIU?
Where is your hometown? and where do you live now?
My hometown is DeKalb, where I currently live.
Where did you attend college and what degree(s) have you earned?
I attended NIU and earned a B.S. in 1975 and an M.S. in 1982.
In which department(s) do you teach?
Department of Electrical Engineering
What do you like about working at NIU?
I like the professionalism and the creative atmosphere.
What advice would you give to students currently attending NIU?
Work hard and try to extract each professor's area of expertise while you are here. Never give up on your dream even if the going gets tough.
Tell us about a research or engaged learning project you have led.
I recently introduced field-programmable gate arrays into the undergraduate digital labs. This required a lot of help, both within the department for support and outside the department for technical advice. Eventually, we ended up with not only a modern course of lab instruction that teaches students the basics, but also a design process that can be transferred to industry.
What do you hope students take away from your class?
Labs are an experience. It's where theory is put into action. There are so many things happening at the same time it is almost impossible to write them all down. So, a lot of the learning comes from doing them. Seeing a schematic and putting that into a layout on the breadboard; knowing the instruments and how to apply them to "see" the voltages, currents and waveforms; and being able to troubleshoot a circuit by breaking it down into smaller testable parts are all skills necessary for electronic design and problem-solving. Ultimately, the students should be able to design and verify their own circuits without a "cookbook" in front of them. That is my goal.
What is your favorite campus event?
I like the musical performances the best.
What is your favorite memory of NIU?
That is a hard one because there are so many. Playing in the NIU jazz bands as an undergraduate gave me a place to escape. While I gave up music as a major, they still allowed me to audition and perform in their bands, and I took full advantage of that.
Who has influenced your professional path?
Dr. D. E. Newell changed the direction of my life. I consider Dr. Newell to be my mentor, as he was to so many of his students. He assigned more problems than you could ever do, but made you feel good about it at the same time. He was always encouraging and building strengths in engineering and character you didn't know you had. Dr. Newell's professional strengths were in crystals and oscillators. He was known as the father of the TCXO, or the temperature compensated crystal oscillator, and was renowned in that field. I learned all I could from him and worked mostly in that field for over 20 years.
What did you want to be when you were growing up? Are you currently doing it? If not, what changed your path?
I had an early interest in electronics since about sixth grade. I was reading books on electronics then, but rarely understood them. I was building Knight kits for just about everything. It always amazed me when they worked. In high school, I became more interested in music and was the tech person for the bands I was in. I was a music major at NIU first but quickly realized I had more talent in math and science, so I enrolled as a pre-engineering student and was going to transfer to UI. Eventually that changed to studying in the Industry and Technology Department at NIU, where I got my B.S. and M.S. degrees.
Are you a member of or hold a position within a professional organization? If so, what organization? What is the purpose of that organization and how does being part of this organization benefit you in your role at NIU?
I am a life member of IEEE, the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers. That organization keeps you up to speed in the rapidly changing field of electronics. It is organized locally as well as nationally. There is a student branch of it here at NIU. It keeps you connected with those in the field, which has many advantages.
What community organizations are you involved in?
I am involved with the Faculty Senate here on campus and the social justice committee. I am also president of the board of trustees and a lay minister at the Unitarian Universalist church in Dekalb.
What do you do to relax or recharge?
I practice and teach yoga. I like cycling around town and to and from work on campus. I also have a large family with five grandkids who keep me hopping. One recently beat me at chess in four moves, and I am still trying to figure out how! I love word puzzles and listening to music. I am always trying to improve my Spanish and at playing the piano.
Is there anything else you'd like to share about your NIU Huskie story?
NIU gives one an opportunity to excel and grow as a person while you develop your own career path. It worked out well for me as a student, an alum and now as an instructor, giving back to the institution that gave me so much.