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This week’s interview is with Dave Mullins.Jessica Barton: What is your job title?Dave Mullins: Electronic technologist.JB: What does your work at LCOGT involve?DM: I design and build control electronics for telescopes and astronomical instruments.JB: Could you tell us a little bit about yourself - your education, interests, past work experiences.DM: I grew up in Cody, Wyoming and I’ve always loved the outdoors. I did two years of junior college in Wyoming and then came to California. I’ve worked for many places over the years including telephone companies and a CNC company. CNC refers to Computer Numeric Controlled which is anything automated moving under computer control of a motor and using feedback. That’s what we call a servo loop. I work a lot with control systems. They live in an electrical panel between the computer controller and the telescopes. They’re really interesting because they integrate the electronics with the physical, real-world instruments.JB: What led you to the career or job you are doing now?DM: On my last job before coming to LCOGT, I was in an electronics store and there was an ad for this job taped to the counter. The ad looked so old and worn by the time I noticed it, I was sure the position would have been filled already, but I called and they asked me to come in for an interview. It turned out be a natural fit for what I’m interested in and my experience.JB: What is a typical day at work like?DM: I come in and get a good cup of coffee then take care of email. I spend a lot of time solving one of two types of problems. Sometimes we have equipment we know we want to use, and we have to figure out how to wire it up. Other times we know what we want to do, but we don’t know what equipment we need so we have to research that. I do a lot of design work and maintaining manufacturing documentation. I actually get to build prototypes and things we are only making small quantities of, like FLOyDS. We’re only making three of them so we are doing them all in-house. My work is a nice mix of desk work, machine shop, and electronics work. One of the great challenges is when we come up with an idea, we actually have to design and make what we want. We can’t just go down to a local telescope parts store!JB: What advice would you offer people wanting to go into the type of work you do?DM: All that stuff you’re learning in school and wondering if you will ever use it? You’ll use it. In fact I think that a lot of the physics behind what we do is as interesting as looking through telescopes. My other advice would be to finish college. There’s a lot you can do with a junior college degree, but there’s more with a bachelors.JB: Do you have any hobbies?DM: I have a lot of hobbies - maybe too many! I like mountain biking, scuba diving, fishing, camping. And that’s one of the things that’s so great about not only this company, but this location. It’s all right here. Almost every day, we have to ask - why do we have to work in this beautiful weather? (A: So we can live in this beautiful place!!!) It’s very different from where I grew up in Wyoming; sometimes we would get two months when it never got warmer than 0 degrees Fahrenheit, in the daytime!JB: Thanks Dave!
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