Swenson steps down from teaching, steps up remote sensing research
After 14 years of teaching and mentoring students, CSL researcher Gary R. Swenson retired this past December from the University. While at the University Swenson had been an active research faculty member in the remote sensing and space sciences group.
He said he is most proud of the work his group has done in upper atmospheric chemistry and dynamics.
“In the eighty to one hundred kilometer region our methods are probably leading in the international community, where we are making inroads which are state of the art,” he said.
Although Swenson, a professor of electrical and computer engineering, will be retiring from his teaching duties he doesn’t intend to stop his day-to-day research.
“I retire from teaching, but I will remain active in remote sensing,” he said. “We have a number of exciting projects involving remote sensing of the upper and lower atmosphere. I really love to teach and to do research, but it’s time for me to slow down."
Prior to coming to Illinois, Swenson worked at NASA and then joined the space physics group at Lockheed Martin, where he worked with atmospheric measurements. At Lockheed he collaborated with ECE Professor Chet Gardner on a number of research activities. When a faculty position at Illinois was available Swenson jumped at the opportunity.
Swenson said he has enjoyed working with his students and colleagues in the remote sensing and space sciences research group at the Coordinated Science Laboratory.
“We have a great group of professors and students,” he said. “It is an exceptionally bright spot for our department.”
Swenson said he has enjoyed working with undergraduate and graduate students during his tenure at Illinois.
“It is an exciting opportunity to develop the mind of a young person and help them generate the background they need to solve problems,” he said.
In the classroom Swenson has taught ECE 329: Introduction to Electromagnetic Fields, ECE 468: Optical Remote Sensing, ECE 445: Senior Design, and ENG 491: Interdisciplinary Design. He was largely responsible for the development of ECE 468, which is an introductory course for remote sensing. Along with Professor Victoria Coverstone, he developed ENG 491: Interdisciplinary Design and has taught the Cubesat section in which students work on teams to build a satellite that will be launched into orbit.
However out of all the courses he has taught or helped developed, Swenson said he most enjoys teaching senior design, for which he serves as the course director.
“It has been a passion of mine to watch students design something unique and to allow students to have the opportunity to demonstrate the skills they’ve developed over the past four years in their senior projects,” he said. "The course encourages students to develop their own ideas and to learn how to solve an open ended problem. The students ‘own’ the problems and consequently earn the gratification of successfully solving the problem. The students earn that reward, a learning experience to begin and enjoy their careers in engineering."
Now that Swenson has more free time, he plans to spend more time in Wisconsin where he owns a second home.
“Bonnie and I, we have a house up north in northern Wisconsin, where I follow my passion of fishing, canoeing, and the outdoors,” he said. “I intend to spend more time up there and with my family.”