About Me

My beginnings

As a child I was fascinated with radio/tv communications and like many others wondered how such things worked. We lived near a small library in the Columbia City portion of Seattle and I quickly went through their collection of books pertaining to radio and TV. And to the dismay of my parents who were more tolerant than I as a parent, I was also the child who disassembled things to see their inner workings, hence there was a period of time when we didn't have any working doorknobs or clocks in our house. The last bit is an exaggeration but it is true that I took them apart.  

University of Washington, Boeing, NEC and TRW

As with most people I knew, I started working part-time jobs from the 9th grade and continued through college where I majored in electrical engineering at U of W. My first engineering job was at Boeing Aerospace in Kent Space Center.  I had no idea what I was getting into and was assigned, for what seemed at the time, the daunting task of designing an RF circuit board to down-convert and digitize a radio signal from a Navy JTIDS terminal. It was also my first exposure to surface mount components and microstrip/stripline designs but fortunately I had a good mentor (GWF). The engineering process of going from paper design to circuit boards, chassis and racks, then delivering and integrating at a Naval facility in San Diego was intense and at the same time appealing to me. Like putting together a giant jigsaw puzzle with pieces that you are inventing along the way.  

After 4 years at Boeing I moved to Los Angeles to work for NEC doing cell site maintenance and upgrades. And shortly afterwards I ended up at TRW in Redondo Beach, California, courtesy of someone I used to work with at Baskin Robbins on MLK Jr Way South (still there!) while in high school. It's strange how something seemingly innocuous like scooping ice cream can change one's future. TRW was a great place to work and I also found Los Angeles to be a fun place to live while in my 20s and 30s. I worked with a group of modem engineers and we specialized in the development of high data rate satellite ground station receivers. These experiences at Boeing and TRW (now Northrop Grumman) were my formative years as an engineer and played an important part of who I am today. 

Academia Sinica, Institute of Astronomy & Astrophysics

Fast forward to halfway through my career, I made a switch from communications to the world of radio astronomy and live in the small town of Hilo, Hawaii. Going from industry to a research organization was a difficult transition for me but I've found that most academic organizations are of the accommodating sort. I've definitely learned a lot of new things pertaining to astronomy and astronomical techniques that are not a normal part of communications. And like most things in life, the more I learn the more I know what I don't know. A big THANKS to the people that have and continue to share their knowledge with me, you know who you are. I'm blessed and thankful to still be doing something that I yearned to do as a child.   

Chief Engineer of Hawaii Operations

The ASIAA Hawaii office was established to support the SMA project on Maunakea (20% partnership with SAO) then later the YTLA on Maunaloa and most recently the GLT in Thule Air Base, Greenland (also partnered with SAO). As of this writing, we have a total of 10.5 individuals that are composed of 1 director, 1 scientist, 2 engineers including myself, 2 technicians (1 each for SMA & YTLA), 3 telescope observers (all for YTLA), and 1.5 administrators. Not included in this tally are 1 engineer supporting the GLT from Leon France and 1 scientist supporting TAOS-2 from Philadelphia PA.  

Whether you are interested in only one particular project or to get a general feel for what I do here as an engineer, I hope you find some of the things interesting and informative. All photos in this site were taken by myself using either an iPhone 6 or Lumix GF3, unless mentioned otherwise.  Credits and acknowledgements for individuals working on particular items in addition to myself are provided in parentheses.  

- Derek

System Designs

Instrument Designs

Instrument Designs

Hardware system design drawing for the GLT project.

Though my role in system designs is relatively infrequent, when involved I generally concentrate my early efforts working closely with scientists/system engineers toward developing an initial architectural system block diagram. Crude as it may be at this stage, it’s my attempt at laying out hardware solutions for others to scrutinize. From here, trades and compromises are made until we arrive at an architecture that is realizable within the constraints of the project. It’s analogous to design by committee and is rarely a smooth process that's full of ambiguity and personalities. But if done correctly can make a huge difference on the outcome of a project. 

The GLT system design depicted above was developed in collaboration with my colleague, C.C. Han, in Taipei along with the science team which included M. Inoue, S. Matsushita, and K. Asada. We started from scratch in 2012 and iteratively evolved with increasing details. As of this writing we are on Rev-Q, 17th revision.  


Instrument Designs

Instrument Designs

Instrument Designs

Partial assembly of the LORTM used on the ALMA project

My favorite thing to work on, for better or worse, is with the development of custom instruments. I typically use a combination of circuit board designs and connectorized RF and/or optical components and integrate into a standalone EMI chassis. And more often than not, I end up doing the mechanical design and assembly which can often be an integral part of the units thermal and electrical performance. My aim is for clean and simple designs that are both functional and aesthetically satisfying to myself and the final end user. I don't consider myself an artist but this is one of my few creative outlets that I spend a lot time thinking through carefully with an eye toward craftsmanship. You can find out more about the instrument designs that I have been involved with by visiting the Projects at the top of this page.        

The LO Reference Test Module shown above was developed for the ALMA project in collaboration with my engineering colleague, C.C. Han in Taipei. Software development was provided by R. Srinivasan. This was one of the more complex units I worked on at ASIAA and is described further under the ALMA Projects tab at the top.