Etendue: John B. Hayes

    Date Posted: 
    Thursday, January 15, 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. We hope you will enjoy this unique biweekly feature. (For a similar view on the college’s best and brightest – our students – please check out Another Wavelength among our Students in the Spotlight.)

    Our very first subject is John B. Hayes, Ph.D. 1984. 

     The throughput of a life in optics" banner

    Where are you from?

    I grew up in California, and I can still remember standing in the street in front of our house with my parents and all the neighbors to watch Sputnik pass overhead. We later moved to Michigan where I finished middle school and high school. My fascination with telescopes and astronomy started in eighth grade and that’s what ultimately drew me to the University of Arizona where I double majored as an undergraduate in physics and astronomy

    John Hayes climbing a mountainWho or what influenced your interest in optics?

    I went on to Penn State to work on a master's degree in physics and during that first year, I got a hold of an OSA journal that had a cover article about using interferometers to subtract images by a guy named Jim Wyant. I loved it! After that, I was hooked on optics so I left Pennsylvania to work on a Ph.D. at the Optical Sciences Center back in Tucson. Starting with that first OSA article there is no doubt that Jim had the most influence on my interest in optics, optical testing and engineering. Not only did he become my professor and mentor, but we eventually did consulting projects together, worked together at WYKO, started 4D together and generally had a lot of fun with a wide range of optics-related projects. I was very lucky to meet Jim and still feel very fortunate to call him a friend.

    Describe your career in 50 words or fewer.

    I became involved with WYKO at the earliest stages. After graduation, I spent about 15 years designing interferometers, industrial metrology probes and an atomic force microscope system. I then worked on vibration-insensitive interferometry as a research professor at OSC. That interest led back to industry where I co-founded 4D Technology.

    Describe your current job in 150 words or fewer.

    After five years of running 4D, I retired and moved to Bend, Oregon, with my wife and twin boys. Since then, I expanded my interests in aviation by becoming an instructor, earning my ATP and learning to fly aerobatics. For many years I’ve been a regular contributor to Plane and Pilot magazine, which occasionally leads to some seriously fun aviation adventures. As a grad student at OSC, I started technical rock climbing, and I still continue to climb on a regular basis. Finally, my early interest in astronomy and telescopes has resurfaced and I now have a 14-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain on an Astrophysics mount that I use to take photographs of deep sky objects. So far, retirement has been so much fun that I don’t know how I ever had time to work!

    M16, also known as the Eagle Nebula

    Share your single best OSC experience.

    Boy, that’s a hard one. Gosh, I learned computers, built a telescope, made a lot of friends, climbed the inside corner of the building above the receiving dock (very late one night), helped build a great big turkey out of punch cards, passed my defense and scared some guy on the sidewalk silly with an early low-power laser that we shined from the roof. Frankly, I was having so much fun that Wyant just about had to kick me out before I got serious about graduating! One event does stand out though. Jim approached me to ask if I wanted to take a trip to China Lake to meet with Hal and Jean Bennet to discuss some work they wanted done. It turned out that Jack Gaskill and Bob Shannon had rented a twin-engine plane to do the trip, so six of us piled in and we took off with Jack at the controls. We had a great time at the lab seeing all kinds of cool stuff. At the end of the day, we discovered that we couldn’t get any fuel (it was at the height of the 1970s gas crisis) so we had to stop in Vegas to refuel. While we waited, Jim and Jack found some quarter machines. Every time I looked over at them, they would drop in a quarter and get two back. Inspired, I found my own machine and quickly lost all my money. Soon we jumped back in the plane and blasted off for the Grand Canyon. That was back before there were any restrictions on overflight and Jack took the plane right down to the level of the rim and gave us a tour from one end to the other as the sun set. It was a sight and a trip that I’ve never forgotten. What could be better than optics, airplanes and sharing a day with a bunch of world-class optical scientists?

    Snow-capped mountains topped with reddish-orange clouds

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

    I’ve never forgotten the support I received from Ron Haslett at White Sands Missile Range during my time as a student and I feel compelled to give back in the same way to future students. I serve on the college’s development board and have been fortunate to be able to be able to support a number of scholarships. My involvement at the college has also been a great way to stay connected with the friends and colleges that formed during my days as a graduate student. As an adjunct professor, I enjoy the opportunity to meet students and to give a lecture or two when asked by faculty.

    Name one neat fact about you.

    The vision in one of my eyes is so bad that I’m a mostly one-eyed optical engineer and pilot.


    Photos from top: Hayes climbing; a photo he took of the Pillars of Creation in M16, the Eagle Nebula; the morning alpine glow on the Cascades visible from his back porch in December


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