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K-State Today

October 15, 2012

Alumnus, Manhattan native to present general public lecture in physics

Submitted by Kim Coy

Bob Woodruff

Bob Woodruff, associate of the Center for Astrophysics and Space Astronomy at the University of Colorado in Boulder and recently retired technical fellow in the position of chief scientist for optical systems at Lockheed Martin, will present the 2012 Ernest Fox Nichols Lecture in Physics. 

His lecture, “An Inquiring Mind in Search of Phun from Fysics,” will start at 4:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 15, in Town Hall at the Leadership Studies Building. This lecture will not be of a technical level and is geared toward the general public. 

Woodruff was born and raised in Manhattan. He graduated from Manhattan High School in 1961 and enrolled at K-State, where he earned a bachelor's degree in physics in 1964. He went on to University of Illinois where he earned an master's degree in physics in 1965. 

As someone who was inspired to become a physicist by a first-year teacher at Manhattan High School, Woodruff will discuss his ensuing career in designing space optical systems. He will describe in some detail two examples of opportunities a physics education presented him -- fixing the Hubble Space Telescope spherical aberration problem and the optical design for Kepler that is currently in orbit detecting extra-solar earth-like planets.

Woodruff has more than 45 years experience designing optical systems for U.S. space program missions, making significant contributions to projects ranging from Skylab to the Hubble Space Telescope.  

The lecture is open to the public and is free of charge. Students, faculty and community members are encouraged to attend to hear about Woodruff’s work. Refreshments will be served prior to the lecture at 4 p.m. in Room 112 of the Leadership Studies Building.

The Nichols lecture series is named for Ernest Fox Nichols, who graduated from Kansas Agricultural College in 1888 and later earned a doctor of science degree from Cornell. Nichols was a pioneer in studying the far infrared and served as president of Dartmouth and MIT. He published a paper about his infrared studies on page 1 of volume 1 of Physical Review. The K-State physics department honors Nichols' accomplishments through the Ernest Fox Nichols Lecture Series, which honors distinguished physics alumni from K-State.