Alumni Advisory Board

The Physics and Astronomy Alumni Advisory Board (PAAAB) was established in 2006 . Its primary role, as approved by the Department of Physics and Astronomy, is as follows: the Physics & Astronomy Advisory Board (PAAAB) will advise & assist the Department of Physics and Astronomy with their stated mission of education, research, and service by contributing their time, talent, and financial support. Specifically, the PAAAB shall:
  • assist and advise the Department in maintaining effective communication with alumni of the Department;
  • advise faculty and students on current and future trends in Physics and Astronomy;
  • assist and advise the Department on fund-raising efforts and aid in the identification of future sources of support;
  • assist with equipment and facility needs.

The PAAAB was initially established with 6 members and met for the first time in Spring 2007. The Board has been expanded annually until the full membership of 10 was attained in Spring 2010. The 2011-2012 Board chair is William B. Anderson, Jr. Members of the Board can be communicated with by email either individually, using the addresses listed below after each bio, or collectively by sending email to The year for completion of their term on the Board is listed after the name of each member below. Upon completion of a term, Board members are designated as Associate Members of the Board.

W.B. Anderson
Chair (2012)
Vice-President for Product Engineering, Retired
Lockheed Martin Corporation
Mr. Anderson graduated from KU in 1967 with a BS in Engineering Physics. After joining General Dynamics (now Lockheed Martin) in 1967, he obtained an MS degree in 1971 from Southern Methodist University. Mr. Anderson retired from Lockheed Martin in 2005 after 38 years with the company and involvement in numerous projects. His three most recent positions were vice-president of engineering, vice-president of the F-16/F-2 production business group, and vice-president of customer support. Mr. Anderson resides in Ft. Worth, Texas with his wife, Lauren, also an alumnus of KU.
Tom Armstrong
Associate Member
Professor Emeritus of Physics and Astronomy
University of Kansas
Dr. Armstrong received a BS in Physics from the University of Kansas in 1962, followed by an MS and PhD from the University of Iowa in 1964 and 1966, respectively. After postdoctoral appointments at the University of Iowa and Culham Lab in the United Kingdom, Tom joined the KU Department of Physics and Astronomy as an assistant professor in 1968. His prolific research career garnered numerous awards and focused on space physics, with heavy involvement in NASA space missions ranging from the Mariner Mars missions of the 70’s to the Saturn Cassini mission in 1998. Tom retired as Professor Emeritus of Physics and Astronomy in 2002 to work full-time on his company, Fundamental Technologies, LLC.
Professor of Physics
University of Arizona

Dr. Barrett received his BS in Physics at KU in 1961. He went on to obtain a Ph.D. in Physics from Stanford University in 1967. After post-doctoral research associate positions at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel and at the University of Pittsburgh as an Andrew Mellon Post-doctoral Fellow, Dr. Barrett joined the faculty at the University of Arizona as an Assistant Professor in September 1970. In 1976 he was promoted to Professor of Physics at the University of Arizona. His research interest centers on nuclear-structure theory, mainly on microscopic theories of nuclear structure utilizing the large-basis, no-core shell-model approach and the quantum many-body theory of effective interactions and operators. Other investigations include the microscopic interpretation of the Interacting Boson Model for nuclear collective motion and its applications and extensions. Dr. Barrett has been an APS Council member since 2009 and an APS Fellow since 1987. In 2012, he was appointed to the U.S. Liaison Committee for the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP).

John Beacom
Associate Member
Professor, Physics and Astronomy
Ohio State University
Dr. Beacom received BS degrees in Physics and Math from KU in 1991. He obtained his PhD in Physics from the University of Wisconsin in 1997, studying solar neutrinos. After spending three years as a Fairchild Postdoctoral Fellow at Caltech and four years as a Schramm Fellow at Fermilab, Dr. Beacom joined the faculty at Ohio State University in 2004 as an Assistant Professor in the Departments of Physics and Astronomy; he was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure in 2007 and Professor in 2010. His research interests lie at the intersection of the fields of theoretical astrophysics, particle physics, and nuclear physics, concerning mostly neutrinos and supernovae.
Rebecca Chaky
Owner/CEO, Never Done Press
Retired as Principal Engineer, Boeing Corp.

Dr. Chaky received her BS degree in Physics from the University of Central Florida in 1974. She obtained her MS and PhD in Physics from the University of Kansas in 1976 and 1981, respectively. Dr. Chaky spent six years as a Section Head at Northrup Grumman, including two years at the Anderson School of Management at UCLA. In 1987 she joined Boeing Corp., where she remained for 24 years before retiring in August 2011. In 1995 she founded Never Done Press, a company for which she has been the CEO for 17 years and counting.
Ron Gilliland
Astronomer Emeritus, STScI

Dr. Gilliland received BS degrees in Physics, Math and Astronomy from KU in 1974. He obtained his PhD in Astronomy from the University of California, Santa Cruz in 1979. After starting as a postdoc, and spending seven years on staff at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, he took up a position at the Space Telescope Science Institute from '88-'11. He recently took Astronomer Emeritus status from STScI, and an Adjunct Professorship at Penn State University, continuing research in asteroseismology and exoplanets with the Kepler Mission. Awards include a team share of the '07 Gruber Prize in Cosmology, and the current Tinsley Prize of the AAS.
Mike Hennessy
President, MTECH Laboratories, LLC
Dr. Hennessy received a BS in Engineering Physics at KU in 1967, followed by a PhD in Physics in 1972.  Dr. Hennessy served as Chief Scientist at Intermagnetics General Corp. in Latham, NY, until 2001, when MTECH Laboratories, LLC was founded to research, develop and commercialize spin-off technologies associated with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). MTECH Laboratories is located in Ballston Spa, NY, and works closely with high-tech companies, government agencies, universities, and hospitals.
Lindley Johnson
Program Executive-NEO, NASA

Lindley Johnson is assigned to NASA Headquarters Planetary Science Division as the Lead Program Executive for the Discovery Program of mid-class Solar System exploration missions, and the Program Executive for the Near Earth Object Observations Program. He attended KU on an AFROTC scholarship and graduated in 1979 with a BA in Astronomy. He also has a MS in Engineering Management from USC. Prior to NASA he served 23 years of Air Force active duty, obtained the rank of lieutenant colonel while working on a variety of national security space systems, and received 15 major individual and unit awards. After joining NASA, he was the Program Executive for NASA's Deep Impact mission to comet Tempel 1, launched in January 2005 to deliver an impact probe to the comet's surface on July 4, 2005 and explore the composition and interior structure of short-period comets. NASA's NEO Observations program has discovered almost 7,000 near-Earth asteroids and comets since Lindley became its manager, about 75% of the total known. Lindley received NASA's Exceptional Achievement Medal for his work on comet and asteroid missions. Asteroid 5905 (1989 CJ1) is named Johnson by its discoverer to recognize Lindley's efforts in finding Near Earth Objects.
Ramona Kessel
Space Physicist
NASA HQ, Washington, DC
Dr. Kessel received her BS in Physics from Baker University in 1978, followed by MS and PhD degrees in Physics from KU in 1984 and 1986, respectively. Since joining NASA she has developed a broad range of research interests that cross traditional discipline boundaries. Her work includes studies in many areas of heliophysics: interplanetary shocks, comets, and Sun-Earth connections spanning bow shock, magnetopause, and inner magnetosphere dynamics, and including reconnection, plasma entry, and space and ground-based ULF waves. Dr. Kessel is the Deputy Program Scientist for NASA's initiative called "Living With a Star" (LWS) which focuses on understanding and ultimately predicting solar variability and its diverse effects on Earth, human technology and astronauts in space. She is also Program Scientist for the LWS Radiation Belt Storm Probes Mission launching in 2012 that will measure the properties of charged particles that comprise the Earth’s radiation belts, the plasma waves that interact with them, the large-scale electric fields that transport them, and the magnetic field that guides them. Dr. Kessel has also been very active in educational work, including a role as the writer/producer on a 28-minute educational film entitled The Milky Way's Invisible Light.
Warren Legler
Associate Member
Physicist, Electrical Engineer -Retired
Dr. Legler received a BS in Physics from KU in 1952. He worked at the Naval Ordnance Test Station (since dubbed the Naval Weapons Center) for ten years.  Having taken a year out to attend MIT and receive a Masters of Science in 1960 (thanks to the Navy's sponsorship), in 1962 the Leglers moved back to Lawrence.  Warren received a Ph.D. from the Electrical Engineering program in the KU School of Engineering in 1969. After some brief teaching stints at KU and at the KU Medical Center, Warren entered the private sector, spending the bulk of his career as a Product Development Engineer at Allied Signal in Olathe until his retirement in 1996. He has been an active member of the KU community, having served recently on the Advisory Board of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
Doug McKay
Professor Emeritus, Physics and Astronomy
University of Kansas
Dr. McKay received his BA in Physics from the University of Pennsylvania in 1962 and his PhD in Physics in 1968, working with C.H. Albright at Northwestern University. He joined the KU Department of Physics and Astronomy as an Assistant Professor in 1970, rising to the rank of Full Professor in 1982. He is currently Professor Emeritus, maintaining an active research program in his long-standing field of interest, Quantum Theory. An extensive list of his many publications can be found at SPIRES .
Colleen McKee
Principal Engineer, Engineering Staff
SES Engineering
Ms. McKee earned BS and MS degrees in Physics from KU in 1987 and 1988. She then joined the Honeywell Defense Avionics Systems Division in Albuquerque, New Mexico moving to Honeywell Aerospace in Phoenix, AZ in 1990 to lead a Boeing 777 avionics validation simulator development team. In 1993, Ms. McKee was recruited by Lockheed Martin in Princeton, New Jersey. After launching the EOS Terra spacecraft ( ) in 1999, Ms. McKee joined SES Engineering ( Ms. McKee enjoys maintaining the attitude control subsystems on a large diverse fleet of communications satellites, also supporting spacecraft operations and procurement with frequent domestic and international travel.
Richard Sapp
Associate Member
Professor Emeritus of Physics and Astronomy
University of Kansas
Dr. Sapp was born in Indiana in 1928 and educated in the Wilmington, Ohio public schools through 1946. He received BS degrees in Physics and Math from Wilmington College in 1949, followed by a PhD in Physics from Ohio State University in 1955, working on nuclear orientation in crystals at very low temperatures. After a two-year stint as a postdoctoral fellow at Rice Institute, Dick joining the KU faculty as an assistant professor in 1957. Dr. Sapp retired as a full professor in Physics and Astronomy in 1993, ending an extensive research career investigating low-temperature solid state magnetism and nuclear orientation. As professor emeritus, his time has been consumed by travel and reviewing some old, unresolved research problems. 
Joe Shields
Professor, Physics & Astronomy
Ohio University
Joe Shields graduated from KU with bachelors degrees in physics and astronomy in 1985.  He completed a PhD in astronomy at the University of California at Berkeley, and his dissertation was awarded the Astronomical Society of the Pacific's Trumpler Award for Outstanding Dissertation in Astronomy in North America. Shields held appointments as a postdoctoral research associate at Ohio State University and Hubble Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Arizona's Steward Observatory.  He is currently a faculty member at Ohio University in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, a department similar in many ways to that at KU. Shields’ research interests include the properties of galaxy nuclei and the interstellar medium, which he studies with observatories on the ground and in space. At Ohio Shields served as department chair for six years, and is currently Vice President for Research & Creative Activity and Dean of the Graduate College.
Ed Sion
Associate Member
Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics
Villanova University
Dr. Sion received a BA in Astronomy from the University of Kansas in 1968, an MA in Astronomy from KU in 1969, and a PhD in Astronomy from the University of Pennsylvania in 1975. His research interests include the  formation, structure and evolution of white dwarf stars, the physics and evolution of cataclysmic variable stars, and theoretical studies of accretion physics. In addition to his research and teaching responsibilities at Villanova, Dr. Sion serves as an Associate Editor of The Astrophysical Journal.

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