Brian A. Hicks, PhD
"...there are folks who want to know and aren’t afraid to look, and won’t turn tail should they find it-and if they never do, they’ll have a good time anyway, because nothing, neither the terrible truth, nor the absence of it, is going to cheat them out of one honest breath of Earth’s sweet gas."

- Tom Robbins, Still Life with Woodpecker


In case you were wondering...
I grew up and went to college in the Midwest, building forts in the woods and playing sports with neighborhood and school friends. Soccer and riding bicycles both recreationally and competitively have been something I've enjoyed throughout most of my life thus far. These are just a couple of things about me. Here's some more...

I've always loved building and measuring things, and can remember early in my childhoold taking long car trips to and from my grandparents house, passing the time thinking about rates, couting silos per mile - one eye on the odometer and the other on the fields passing by, being told how much time was left in the trip in units of Sesame Streets. Many years, early lessons in gravitational accelation and momentum transfer, and boundaries tested later, by the time I was finally taking physics in high school, all of the popular science fiction books and movies I had been exposed to had taken hold of my imagination - I wanted to somehow become involved in space exploration.

My work experience up to that first physics course had evolved from paperboy/soccer linesman, to grocery bagger, to bagel baker and sandwich maker, after which point I made a sudden jump into the world of research, spending a couple of summers assisting in a biomedical research lab - a great opportunity that could have sent me down another path. Ultimately, I knew where my passion was and what I wanted to study in college, and, while in town for a soccer tournament, I serendipitously joined a teammate for a tour of the one college I would end up applying to and eventually enroll the next year.

Beyond studying and fulfilling the course requirements that earns one their degree, I'd spend weekends biking around and in between towns, spring breaks backpacking in new places and terrains in the US, and a semester and longer breaks crossing borders when I had enough time and money saved to do so. I worked the closing hours of a local pub and eatery as a line cook, and later as a bicycle mechanic for money to get around. In the commencement speech to our graduating classes, Garrison Keillor encouraged us to "have interesting failures... If [we] need to have a personal crisis, have it now. Don't wait until midlife when it will take longer to resolve." He added, "get free of us, your parents,'' and that we should experience what his generation and our parents had not arranged for us. While suffering from a continuing case of waderlust, this was just what I needed to hear - before full immersion in extra-worldly subjects (but after completing the summer research position I had already lined up to work in a semiconductor physics lab) I'd find out what it was like to not be in school for a spell and to gladly take some of Mr. Keillor's advice, and I'm glad I did.

After having forgotten enough of what of college taught me, crossing enough borders, and having enough hotdish (casserole) it was time to apply to grad school.  I landed in New England several months later (in time to witness the Red Sox 'Reverse the Curse') knowing I would be starting out in a research assistantship managing a magnetometer array scattered across the Canadian Arctic, working on tools to disseminate and analyze the data it collected. A couple of years later, I switched gears and got involved with sounding rocket experimentation and high-contrast imaging of exoplaents. During the seven years in graduate school in the company of lots of great new friends, I kept traveling, playing soccer, getting around by bicycle, and taking up learning to sail, making up for the previous 20+ years of living life land-locked. Somewhere in this time I realized that I enjoyed thinking about optics just as much as astronomy.

After grad school, I had a couple of choices for a next move, and this turned out to be a much more stressful choice than I would have expected! Both were 'safe,' but in different ways, and I ended up opting to continue working with my graduate research group that had its hands full with two sounding rocket programs while needing to build a new laboratory in an old textile mill, the sum of which was became an invaluable experience. During this time,I learned to ride and bought a motorcycle that was almost as old as me. Lots of other stuff happened too, but this is already a long-winded bio that I'll probably find myself whittling down later...

In 2013, I was contacted about the possibility of working on a very exciting and challenging project at NASA Godddard. The project sounded like it was right up my alley, and before I knew it, I was fully immersed in the work I continue to do to this day - working on concepts and technology for space exploration, and it's great!