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Career Steps Profile: SPIE Fellow Bill Goodman

Materials Scientist Perseveres When Market Drops

photo of materials scientist and SPIE Fellow Bill Goodman

William A. "Bill" Goodman

SPIE Fellow Bill Goodman is "47 years young" and director of Optical Programs at Trex Advanced Materials. He is an adviser to the board of the New Mexico Optics Industry Association, its former president, and the former director of Lightweight Optical Systems (LWOS) and business development at Schafer Corp.'s Albuquerque operations.

An active member with SPIE, he serves on the SPIE Fellows Committee. His Ph.D. in material science is from UCLA.

What innovations currently occurring at your organization or in your field are likely to affect you/your career most directly?

photo of SPIE Fellow Bill GoodmanSilicon carbide optics have been around for at least three decades but are just now coming into their own in terms of being deployed in operational systems. In the past, mirrors made with silicon carbide were heavy, brittle, difficult to machine and almost impossible to polish cost effectively. The recent revolution in materials and processes promises inexpensive, mass production of silicon carbide mirrors. Because of current research and development activities, Trex Enterprises Advanced Materials is poised to demonstrate such a capability in the near-term.

The ability to inexpensively produce tens of thousands of mirrors inexpensively will certainly take my career to places that I have been imagining for a long, long time.

What was your most successful career step?

This is easy: Deciding to go to graduate school after having been in the work force for seven years.

Who (or what) has had the most impact or influence on your career success?

A former colleague of mine, Dr. Jack Lewis, encouraged me to pursue the discipline of materials science. I promptly enrolled at UCLA and earned my master's degree. I fell in love with this discipline as it combines chemistry, physics, and engineering to create new materials to solve previously unsolvable problems. When I announced that I would pursue the Ph.D. degree, my general manager told me I would not be able to do it.

The worst thing anyone could ever tell me is that I can't do something. Drive and passion proved him wrong. Therefore drive and passion and working with outstanding mentors have had the most influence on my career.

What has been your most difficult career step or decision?

When I received my B.S. in chemical engineering in 1982, the petroleum and petrochemical markets crashed. A new chemical engineer could not find a job, and I wasn't ready to go after a master's at that time. I also had student loans to pay off. I was working as a "Stay in School" for the Air Force Weapons Laboratory in Albuquerque and had an outstanding mentor/supervisor in Dr. W. "Pete" Latham. Pete connected me with a vice president for a local contractor. This contact ultimately led to a job offer performing defense related systems engineering.

It was quite different than the petroleum processing which I was trained in but offered the opportunity to go work in Los Angeles. The allure of California threw me over the top, and I decided to change career fields.

Moral of the story: Don't be afraid to try new things. You have nothing to fear except fear itself.

What has been the easiest step in your career?

During the time I was pursuing my master's degree (which emphasized metallurgy and composites), the bottom fell out of another marketplace, the composites and metal matrix composites industry. This was 1991. Sounds redundant, but a materials engineer could not find a job. This time I was hungry and ready for more school and I had interest in working on a solution to a problem related to uncooled laser optics. The decision to continue on towards the Ph.D. was made easy by the GM who told me I couldn't do it.

What steps do you take to keep on top of developments in the field and the competition?

Membership in professional organizations such as the SPIE has been of utmost utility to me in keeping abreast of advances in optical materials and structures. I have been the conference chair or co-chair for the SPIE Optical Materials and Structures Technologies conference series (part of SPIE Optics+Photonics). In addition to being of service to SPIE and the optics community at large, it's a good opportunity to get papers from your competitors to review in advance of the conference proceedings. Membership in other optics related organizations and lots of reading, such as NASA TechBriefs and Space News are other ways I keep abreast.

What steps do you recommend before taking a career risk -- or any type of risk for that matter?

  • Think through the consequences of your actions.
  • Put yourself in the other person's shoes.
  • Ask yourself the question, "Would a sane person do this?"
  • Weigh the risks against the benefits on a piece of paper and trust what the paper tells you."
  • Trust in God. He wouldn't bring you this far to drop you on your bottom.

What's the next step in your career?

I see four potential paths: Becoming an executive, going to work in a government laboratory as a civilian employee, or teaching. The fourth potential path? Early retirement to see this great world of ours.

Profile of Bill Goodman submitted/posted October 2008.

DOI: 10.1117/2.4200810.90

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