Duke Alum Enjoys Twists and Turns in Career Path

Tuesday, September 21, 2010
In the 1950s, my high school principal told me that I had an obligation to help the United States win the space race.  His encouragement fueled my technical interests.  I majored in physics, earning a BS degree from Duke University, an MS from the University of Illinois, and the Ph.D. from Georgia Tech.  I joined Sigma Pi Sigma and Phi Beta Kappa at Duke.  As my physics studies progressed, I began using emerging technology, the computer, as a primary investigative tool.
At Illinois, I held a graduate research assistantship with Dr. John R. Pasta, Director of the Digital Computer Laboratory, who pioneered in using computer simulations to solve physics problems ranging from reconstructing digitized bubble chamber particle tracks to investigating solid state physics lattices.  I then worked with IBM on the Apollo project where I programmed the trajectory equations that generated guidance commands for the Saturn vehicle.  At Georgia Tech, I completed my Ph.D. in Physics under the direction of Dr. Joseph Ford.  We investigated the breakdown of equilibrium in physical systems using computer simulations and published papers in Physical Review A-1 and the Journal of Mathematical Physics. After graduate school, I returned to IBM where I developed a course in celestial mechanics, conducted studies in Battlespace Management for ballistic missile defense, and programmed the reentry guidance equations for the Space Shuttle.  I enjoyed working as a rocket scientist and interacting with the astronaut corps at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. I then transitioned to DoD contract defense work with Georgia Tech Research Institute where I directed projects involving air defense systems.  I also took a lead role in faculty governance as Secretary of the Faculty (a position appointed by the President of Georgia Tech), served on 10 Institute-level committees, and helped to formulate Institute policies and procedures.  I also taught physics classes and published over 40 reports and papers. In the mid 1990s, building on my growing interest in process improvement in the technical field, I started taking classes at the Software Engineering Institute (SEI) at Carnegie Mellon University and became a certified instructor and lead appraiser in their Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) process improvement program. Currently, as an employee of ARINC Engineering Services, LLC, an SEI Partner, I help management and technical personnel in both government and industry work together more effectively while improving their processes.  As a founding officer of the Charleston-wide Joint Industrial Advisory Board, an organization co-sponsored by The Citadel and the College of Charleston, I enjoy helping academia, government, and industry work together in planning curricula and providing employment opportunities for students in science and engineering. I have enjoyed seeing the twists and turns my career has taken.
Written by: Dr. Gary H. Lunsford Senior Process Improvement Consultant Charleston, SC