Iowa State University


Donald Thompson, CNDE, (515) 294-8152
Anita Rollins, IPRT, (515) 294-1113
Skip Derra, News Service, (515) 294-4917


Donald Thompson, who played a key role in transforming a laboratory technique called nondestructive evaluation it into an instrument of industry, will begin phased retirement at the end of February. Thompson is a distinguished professor of aerospace engineering and engineering mechanics at Iowa State University, director of ISU's Center for Nondestructive Evaluation and director of Applied NDE Programs at Ames Laboratory.

Thompson is a pioneer of quantitative nondestructive evaluation (NDE), which allows the inspection of a structure or product in a non-invasive manner. Through the use of NDE methods, the flight worthiness of airplanes can be assured, the integrity of bridges can be inspected and the reliability of manufactured products can be tested. Thompson has been at ISU since 1979.

Lester Schmerr, professor of aerospace engineering and engineering mechanics and associate director of CNDE, will be interim director of the center. A national search for a permanent director of the center is under way.

"Don is one of those rare individuals who not only conceives a bold vision but also has the administrative, intellectual and interpersonal skills necessary to make that vision a reality," said Joel Snow, director of the Institute of Physical Research and Technology.

"There is no doubt that the ISU community is richer for having had Don," said ISU Provost John Kozak. "He has built a program here of international stature, an accomplishment that he can look at with pride."

"Don really created the field of quantitative nondestructive evaluation through recognition of the problem and creation of a program to address it," said Bruce Thompson, CNDE deputy director. "The result has been the development of a technical foundation for the field of NDE and a new community of researchers interested in these problems. The annual Review of Progress in Quantitative Nondestructive Evaluation, one of the most important international scientific meetings in this field, has come into existence primarily due to Don's leadership."

Thompson, a 25-year veteran in the NDE field, said NDE techniques currently are finding many new uses. "We still use NDE to inspect materials and structures, but now we are applying it to animal science, medical diagnostics and precision farming," he added.

NDE also is finding a home in the classroom thanks to Thompson. In a collaboration between CNDE and ISU's College of Engineering, Thompson has helped develop a fully accredited minor in NDE within the college, a first-of-its- kind program. CNDE and ISU's College of Engineering are also forming relationships with community colleges in the upper Midwest with two-year NDE programs.

After February, Thompson plans to continue to work part time in some capacity with both ISU and CNDE as a national search for his replacement continues.

Thompson has B.A., M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in physics from the University of Iowa. Before coming to ISU, he held several positions, including director, with Rockwell International Science Center, Thousand Oaks, Calif. He was also a group leader in radiation effects at the Solid State Physics Division of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tenn., and at the Air Force Cambridge Research Center, Atomic Effects Directorate, Lexington, Mass.

Thompson is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, an Anson Marston Distinguished Professor, a distinguished fellow of the Rockwell International Science Center, and a fellow of the American Physical Society and the International Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers.

A retirement reception for Thompson will be held Wednesday, Feb. 26, in the Campanile Room of the Memorial Union from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, contact Linda Poore (515) 294-6770.

CNDE is a member of the Institute for Physical Research and Technology, a federation of research, technology development and technology transfer entities at Iowa State University.


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