Gardner loyal to Illinois in his career and retirement
Last fall, ECE Professor Chester S. Gardner retired from teaching after 37 years. A long-time member of CSL's remote sensing and space sciences group, Gardner will continue pursuing his research at CSL.
After receiving his PhD in electrical engineering from Northwestern University and working in industry for a short period, Gardner joined Illinois' electrical and computer engineering faculty in 1973.
“Back then, I never would have imagined spending my whole career here. I thought I would only be here for a couple of years before trying something new,” Gardner said. “But it didn’t take me very long to realize that ECE ILLINOIS was a special place. The quality of students, faculty, colleagues, and support staff—they are truly wonderful here.”
At Illinois, Gardner served in a variety of academic and administrative roles. His most recent administrative position was as special assistant to President B. Joseph White and chief executive of the Illinois Global Campus from 2006 to 2009. He has also taken on other roles during his time at Illinois such as vice president for academic affairs, vice president for technology and economic development, and chair for the board of managers at IllinoisVentures, LLC.
Gardner’s research at Illinois has concentrated on atmospheric physics, optical communications, adaptive imaging, and laser remote sensing (lidar). His work has included development of novel new techniques, instruments, and important scientific studies of atmospheric dynamics and chemistry. Currently, Gardner and his team are researching wave-induced constituent transport, a fundamental atmospheric process that has profound effects on the chemistry and composition of the Earth’s upper atmosphere. They are making measurements using powerful laser radar systems from different locations around the globe, such as Cerro Pachon, Chile and McMurdo Station, Antarctica, in order to determine the geographic variability of the transport process.
As part of his research work, Gardner visited the South Pole, where he happily unfurled an Illinois flag.
“My research has taken me all over the world,” said Gardner. “Typically engineers work at the front line of engineering—building instruments or new devices—but I was fortunate enough to, at the same time, explore the very frontiers of science.”
After retiring in December, Gardner spent a month at McMurdo Station in Antarctica to continue his research and testing. Gardner then took a position as a research professor at Illinois once he returned to Champaign.
“I have five grandchildren, and so my wife and I plan to spend more time with them. We also have a home in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where we hope to visit more often,” said Gardner.
As for what Gardner will miss most about his current position at Illinois, he said, “The level of interaction that I have with students and colleagues now will diminish in this new role as research professor. But quite frankly, I will miss being in the classroom. I truly enjoyed teaching the students here at Illinois.”
Gardner has co-authored over 200 journal papers and book chapters and has presented more than 75 invited papers at international scientific and engineering conferences. He was a member of the NASA Science Team that designed the Lidar-in-Space Technology Experiment and has been recognized numerous times for his contribution to research. Overall, Gardner felt that his time at Illinois had been a very rewarding experience.
As an ECE professor who has never received a degree from Illinois, Gardner only has one regret: “I wish I would have gotten a chance to benefit first-hand as a student of this great University. Working and researching at ECE ILLINOIS has always been my passion, and it was a pleasure to be a part of this wonderful department. ”