Robert Giles, Director, Submillimeter Wave Technology Lab
Expertise / Activities: Experimental laser physics, optics
“As a student and as a professor, the opportunities to follow are limitless. You can just dream here.”
To watch Prof. Bob Giles interact with students in the classroom and laboratory, you would never know that he was once a reluctant university educator.
Focused entirely on his research for many years, Giles had declined faculty positions at the University. “I really was fascinated and passionate about my research, and not interested in a faculty position at first,” says Giles. “The imaging technologies program matured by the mid-90’s and was thriving, and so I was looking for a new fascination.”
Giles brought his extensive laboratory experience and skills into the classroom in 2000. He developed a laboratory sequence for the UMass Lowell undergraduate and graduate students to help them to improve their instrumentation, laboratory and electronic skills.
As a result, he brought an already strong Physics Department
squarely into applied physics, which is his background. “We continue to bring in faculty with expertise in new areas, the most current research in applied physics,” says Giles, “So I see that as a real benchmark in what we do.”
Taking the Physics Department in an exciting new direction for its students may have been Giles’ first “new fascination” as a professor, but on a personal level, his teaching interests have evolved into a passion for assisting students at home and abroad, namely in Haiti.
“UMass Lowell has a variety of Haitian students we support and the objective is to develop online science, preparatory–type curriculum, which will do two things,” says Giles. “It will enable us to augment what the students are getting in the high schools so they can strengthen their science and math backgrounds. Also we can vet the students,” he explains. “So if we see some students really excel, we can facilitate them coming to any U.S. college, and for those who do well in the curriculum but maybe don't want to come to the U.S., they'll be better science teachers in the high schools in their own country.”
Giles first became involved in Haiti after returning there about ten years ago; he’d spent time in the Caribbean with his family as a young man. “I developed a love for the country and the people,” he says. “There are many countries in need, but eventually you pick a country where you hope to make a difference. I know there are other countries equally desperate.”
What Giles hopes to offer to Haitian students echo his sentiments and dedication for his alma mater, UMass Lowell. When he looked at other schools for his bachelor's and master’s degrees, and thought about moving, he always found what existed here looked better than anywhere else.
“As a student and as a professor, the opportunities to follow are limitless. You can just dream here. When I was a freshman and later a graduate student, I thought, ‘Imagine what I could create.’ This is a great place. At this University, you have the opportunity to excel!”