Etendue: Jacobus M. Oschmann

    Date Posted: 
    Thursday, August 6, 2015

    Welcome to Etendue, featuring interesting and accomplished individuals known for their leadership and contributions both with their careers and the College of Optical Sciences, in their own words. (For a similar view on the college’s best and brightest – our students – please check out Another Wavelength among our Students in the Spotlight.)

    This week, we hear from Jacobus (Jim) M. Oschmann, M.S. 1983.

     The throughput of a life in optics" banner

    Where are you from?

    I was born and raised in Rochester, New York, until a teenager. At that time, our family moved to Kendall, New York, a small farming community west of Rochester. I moved back to Rochester for my undergraduate education at the University of Rochester in optics. After briefly beginning a job in California at TRW, I attended the UA for my M.S. in optical sciences and, much later (20 years), I returned to the UA for an MBA from the Eller College of Management.

    Jim and Michelle Oschmann with their dogWho or what influenced your interest in optics?

    Though I don’t think I recognized it explicitly at the time, around age 8 I began spending many hours wandering the city of Rochester visiting the George Eastman House and the new Strasenburgh Planetarium many, many times. With a father who worked in Kodak, and a scholarship from Bausch & Lomb, there were optical influences all around. I began in physics at the University of Rochester but soon switched to the Institute of Optics while working under Dr. Nickolas George and a postdoc named Dr. Mike Morris. This work made everything I was studying real, practical and important. I was hooked.

    Describe your career.

    My career evolved from optical systems work for lasers, imaging, communications and optical testing, to systems engineering, to program management for large astronomical and solar telescopes. I joined Ball Aerospace in 2004 as their chief engineer and later became an executive for our Antenna and Video Technologies business unit.

    Describe your current job.

    I serve as vice president and general manager of Ball Aerospace’s Civil Space & Technology strategic business unit. Historically, this is the part of Ball that developed the corrector optics assembly for the Hubble space telescope, other Hubble scientific instruments, earth science instrumentation and the Kepler telescope. Current programs include the optics for the James Webb Space Telescope, various earth science instruments and supporting technology development. In this role, I oversee both the business development and the execution of our current programs, primarily for NASA. In my "spare" time, I serve on a number of advisory and management committees for NASA-, NSF- and AURA-sponsored astronomy programs, university departments and many SPIE-related activities, from past board membership, to conference chairing, to currently serving as chair of the SPIE membership committee.

    A view of the Boulder Flatirons from the Oschmanns' windowShare your single best OSC experience.

    Following on the extreme generosity of Jim Wyant, committing to and completing funding of an endowed FOTO scholarship was and is the best experience. Giving back financially to help current and future students at this point in my career is extremely rewarding. I could not have entered this field without the help of others. [Editor’s note: Jim and Michelle Oschmann have generously funded the Jacobus M. and Michelle L. Oschmann Graduate Student Scholarship in Optical Sciences and Business Leadership. Jim was also recognized by the University of Arizona in 2014 as the Alumnus of the Year for the College of Optical Sciences.]

    Why is staying involved with OSC important to you? How are you involved?

    Beyond the scholarship, staying involved with OSC remains important from both a personal and business perspective. Giving back is more than the money. It is time, advice and continued learning. From the business perspective, Ball continues an important relationship with OSC through the Industrial Affiliates, contracting and partnering opportunities. I serve as a member of OSC’s development board.

    Name one neat fact about you.

    I have lived and worked in New York, California, Arizona, Hawaii and now Colorado. For Arizona, this was on three different occasions totaling 14 years. I think I must have liked it ... and I visit often!


    Photos from top: Jim and Michelle Oschmann; a view of the Boulder Flatirons from their window


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