I graduated from Rose in the Spring of 1996 with a double major in Physics and Math
and a minor in Philosophy. From there, I went to Pennsylvania State University where
I obtained my Masters in Physics in 1999 and then on to The Ohio State University where
I obtained my Ph.D. in Physics in 2004. My area of research was low-temperature condensed
matter experiment, studying the interactions between individual electrons and between
groups of electrons in high magnetic fields and at temperatures close to absolute zero.
Since that time, I have been employed at Lynntech, Inc., a research and development
company of about 140 people working in a broad range of new technology areas. I am
currently a Senior Research Scientist, there, and the Sensor Program Coordinator.
Essentially, I am an inventor. I work in the area of sensors and mathematics is a
tool I use on a daily basis. I developed an optical method and related instrumentation
for NASA to monitor the strain in their high-altitude scientific balloons in-flight,
using sunlight. The mathematics used to extract strain information from the light is
described through both algebra and computational techniques; I used MATLAB to analyze
the data matrices.
I also developed an electrostatic air sampling method and another air sampling method
for use with surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy or Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy.
The airflow dynamics in these devices is described by differential equations, such
as the Navier-Stokes equations. Since exact solutions in complex environments cannot
usually be obtained, computational fluid dynamics is used as well, although even these
tools have significant limitations. I used a combination of analytical and computational
techniques for analysis.
I work with microfluidics, as well,and have developed twowater-quality-testing instruments
for NASA. As part of that work, I invented a new zero-G liquid-gas phase separator
that does not require any power to operate. After extensive ground testing, NASA sent
me on a C9-B aircraft to do zero-G flight testing for a week, as shown in my photo.
The device worked quite well, as designed from other differential equations, such as
the diffusion equation.
In all of this work,evaluating the validity of results obtained often relies on statistical
analyses. One good result is usually not enough to make a convincing argument that
a new device works effectively. Lifetime testing and finite element analysis in design
can provide further evidence that a device will operate well in a real environment.
The examples listed above should provide some insight into how I use mathematics on
a regular basis. I cannot emphasize strongly enough how critical mathematics has been
in my career so far. The tools, techniques, and general approaches I learned have been
applied in a number of areas. I think one of the advantages of having a mathematics
background is the realization that many real-world problems in diverse fields can be
simplified to common problems in mathematics. That insight can be invaluable when tasked
with solving problems across fields or in new areas.
|Tony Ragucci at Work