1973-00-00: UNH, graduate school

In August 1973, Susan and I shipped a bunch of stuff by rail to Boston, sold our old cars, loaded up our new Chevy Nova, and headed for Durham, New Hampshire. Along the way, we stopped in Mars, Pennsylvania at Carl’s house, where we learned my Dad had died. He had pancreatic cancer, though I don’t think I knew the specific type at the time. When we arrived at UNH, we found housing in an apartment in Dover, on the “Kari-Van” route of minibuses operated by UNH. Later, we moved to a farmhouse in Greenland, where Ronnie and Paul lived on the second floor (with Fritz the cat), and we were on the first floor. Our landlord, Franklin Beck, lived across the street in his newer farmhouse. There was a large field, with cattle, between our living room window and Great Bay.

At UNH, Susan quickly found a research area in the Microbiology department, with Prof. Metcalfe. I settled in to taking courses. Eventually, I worked with Prof. Chupp on gamma-ray astronomy.

I found the physics courses interesting enough, the math less so, and found computer courses to expand my expertise in that area. For a class on integral equations, I was the only student, and I convinced the professor to let me use the computer center to develop automated ways to solve the problems, using a symbolic mathematics package called Macsyma.

I was never much interested in actually doing the experimental aspects of physics (though I liked to learn about them), but UNH didn’t provide many opportunities for theoretical research at that time. I drifted into Prof. Chupp’s lab, and was able to help test and assemble components for a gamma-ray telescope he was developing for an eventual balloon-borne observation program. I also developed the software to control the telescope from a ground station while it drifted in the stratosphere. (He was also developing a similar instrument for inclusion on the Solar Max satellite, to be launched by the Space Shuttle in 1980.)

When Susan completed her dissertation (I helped to edit and print it on thesis paper in the computer center, the first such at UNH), and received a prestigious National Science Foundation post-doc offer in Maryland, I decided to stop working toward a PhD, and accepted the “consolation prize” of a Master of Science in Physics. My Mom came to UNH to see me receive the degree in May 1977.

I had committed to support Prof. Chupp’s expedition to Australia in Fall 1977.

Sometime in the last hectic months at UNH, Susan and I agreed that we would never refer to our time at UNH as “the good old days”. While there were good times during this period, it was quite stressful with unpleasant aspects (probably much like everyone else’s experience of grad school).

 

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