Etendue: Robert Boye

    Date Posted: 
    Thursday, April 23, 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 Robert Boye, Ph.D. 2000.

     The throughput of a life in optics" banner

    Where are you from?

    Robert Boye wearing a baseball cap, sitting at a table in a dark roomI am originally from New Jersey, but I challenge anyone to hear my accent. I left after high school to get my bachelor's at MIT, and after stops in Maryland and Vermont, found myself bound for Tucson and the Optical Sciences Center.

    Who or what influenced your interest in optics?

    There were a couple of folks early in my career who helped direct my first steps into optics. My senior year at MIT I took the course Modern Optics Laboratory taught by Cardinal Warde and found myself fascinated by the various hands-on exercises. I was also lucky to have Robert Kingston advise me on my senior project working on an optical heterodyne receiver. My first job was with Westinghouse in Baltimore (now part of Northrop Grumman), and I joined a small group working on electro-optic switches and acousto-optic modulators (among other fun things). There was a senior staff member, Drew Flechsig, who modeled the attributes necessary to be a successful engineer and professional, and I was lucky enough to share an office with him. After a short “detour” to IBM, I decided it was time to get serious about optics and pursue my advanced degree at UA.

    Robert Boye with his sons Dash and Cal in front of a doorwayDescribe your career.

    In a word, fortunate. It seems like a series of lucky accidents that have brought me to where I am now. The folks I mentioned earlier sparked an interest and gave me the first solid steps towards my career. My time at OSC was simply phenomenal. I went through my classes with a wonderful cohort of friends and I benefited immeasurably from Ray Kostuk’s guidance. After finishing my Ph.D., I joined a small company, Digital Optics. Again, I joined a wonderful group of people and had the chance to travel around the world. Since then, I have spent the last 10 years at Sandia National Laboratories, and this may be the best job anyone in a technical specialty could ever have. There are very few places where you can pursue projects and bring to bear a diversity of capabilities beyond almost any other institution.

    Describe your current job.

    Currently, I manage a department at Sandia National Labs that has both atomic physics work and electrochemistry. The best part of this job is learning every day. Admittedly, I have a better time understanding the ins-and-outs of an atomic clock or neutral atom trap (remember, those use lasers) than I do the intricacies of a conformal gold plating process for X-ray gratings. Again, I want to mention how fortunate I am because of the quality of people I am surrounded by within my organization.

    Susan and Robert Boye in front of a river in BrazilShare your single best OSC experience.

    I have to be careful here because I met my wife while in grad school. Having said that (and mollified my wife), there are a couple of moments that stand out: passing written prelims, then the orals, my first publication, passing my dissertation defense. But I like the little, personal stories better; Angus MacLeod stopping mid-equation to listen to the sounds of a bagpiper, Ray writing equations so long they ran off the end of the blackboard, Roy Frieden’s obvious (yet subtle) delight at recounting the achievements of dead French mathematicians. The real value of these stories is that they were shared with my cohort, and they have become lifelong colleagues and friends.

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

    Optics is the cornerstone of my career, and it is hard to express how much I benefited from the community that is the College of Optical Sciences. One of the values my father taught me is that we should always endeavor to be active, contributing members of our communities, both personal and professional – and OSC is both. [Editor's note: Rob is the trustee of the Boye Foundation, which has supported the college by funding scholarships and laboratory enhancements for more than a decade.]

    Name one neat fact about you.

    I have attended matches at seven different World Cups, including last year’s tournament in Brazil.


    Photos from top: Boye watching the U.S. play Portugal at the World Cup; with sons Dash and Cal wearing their World Cup colors; with Susan on the beach in Brazil


    << Back to Etendue