Astronomer, Spitzer/IRS team 2000–present
Infrared and Optical Astronomy, Astronomical Computing
His most recent work is in establishing the Combined Atlas of Spitzer/IRS Sources (CASSIS), an archive of all Spitzer/IRS spectra supporting cone search, browsing, and interface with virtual observatory tools. It now offers automatically reduced spectra for all targeted low and high-resolution measurements (over 25,000), both through its own web interface and through the International Virtual Observatory.
He participated in the site location committee for the defunct Cornell-Caltech Atacama Telescope project, from field-survey teamwork to deploy deploy weather stations and data links atop an 18,300 foot peak, to Differential Image Motion Monitor (DIMM) seeing studies and radiosonde measures of precipitable water vapor, both on the ground and in data analytics.
He was also involved in interface work and instrument commissioning for the Wide-field IR Camera (WIRC) for the Palomar telescope.
Don is also very involved in teaching. From 2006-2014, he has taught Astro 4410 (Experimental Astronomy, previously Observational Astronomy), from 2006-2008 with Jim Houck. Students have great flexibility in designing their own projects in this course. In one popular experiment, students determine the temperature and gas pressure in a distant planetary nebula. In another, they record the rotation of a spiral galaxy, and moments after a long exposure is complete, are inferring the presence of Dark Matter in the universe from the visible shape of the rotation profile. Each year, Don added contemporary experiments, one of the more popular recent ones was the measurement of the physical parameters of extrasolar planets from transits across their stars.
Don also conceived, designed, and implemented significant upgrades to the James Houck-built Hartung-Boothroyd Observatory in support of the "Experimental Astronomy" class and astrophysical demonstrations to students in other courses and majors. Through his interest in historical telescopes, he initiated a program of repair and restoration of long-failed functionality of the nearly century-old Irving Porter Church telescope of the Fuertes Observatory and train undergraduate docents in scientific content relevant to objects shown on the observatory open house nights.
Don was the architect for the Hewitt Laboratory for Undergraduate Computing, and in 2003, taught the course Astro 234 (Modern Astrophysical Techniques), using this facility, introducing students to a survey of astronomical techniques, with intensive hands-on analysis, reduction, and modeling of a variety of raw instrument data.
He also mentored the Cornell Free Outing Club which promoted the classic "outdoors club model" prevalent through most of the century at colleges rather than the increasingly commercialized "guide service" approach. During 2001-2012, he led many student outings including hiking, rock and ice climbing, XC skiing, and astronomical observing.