A renowned physicist, Dr. John J. Degnan III devoted most of his almost six decade career to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC).
ANNAPOLIS, MD, February 07, 2020 /24-7PressRelease/ -- Marquis Who's Who, the world's premier publisher of biographical profiles, is proud to present John J. Degnan III, PhD, with the Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award. An accomplished listee, Dr. Degnan celebrates many years' experience in his professional network, and has been noted for achievements, leadership qualities, and the credentials and successes he has accrued in his field. As in all Marquis Who's Who biographical volumes, individuals profiled are selected on the basis of current reference value. Factors such as position, noteworthy accomplishments, visibility, and prominence in a field are all taken into account during the selection process.
A renowned physicist, Dr. Degnan devoted most of his almost six decade career to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) in Greenbelt, Maryland, where he accumulated nearly 40 years of technical expertise and 25 years of supervisory and project management experience related to the development of advanced lasers and related electro-optical systems for a variety of applications. As an undergraduate NASA Student Trainee from Drexel University in Philadelphia, he served as a junior member of the NASA team that first demonstrated laser ranging to an artificial satellite in 1964 and coauthored 3 journal articles on Rare Earth Chelates, the forerunners of liquid dye lasers. Upon obtaining his BS in Physics from Drexel in 1968, NASA hired him as a full time Civil Servant and funded his MS (1970) and PhD degrees (1979) in physics at the University of Maryland at College Park. His doctoral research, under Professor Carroll Alley, resulted in the first successful modelocked Nd:YAG laser oscillator/regenerative amplifier which achieved 6 orders of magnitude amplification of a 100 picosecond pulse. The latter device was used to accurately transfer time, over a 15 hour period, between identical ensembles of atomic clocks located in a ground based trailer and an aircraft to verify Einstein's predictions of the relativistic effects of gravity and velocity on atomic clock rates, as described in the documentary film, "Einstein's Universe", which was released by the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) in 1979 on the 100th anniversary of Einstein's birth. His regenerative amplifier was later adopted for use as the first stage in laser fusion experiments at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratories in California. In parallel with his dissertation work, Dr. Degnan also published several well referenced journal articles related to optical resonators, waveguide gas lasers, optical antenna gain, and spaceborne laser communications.
Upon completing his PhD in 1979, Dr. Degnan took on a series of supervisory roles at NASA, initially as Head of the Advanced Electro-Optical Instrument Section in the GSFC Engineering Directorate (1979 -1989), as Deputy Manager of NASA's Crustal Dynamics Project (CDP) from 1989 to 1993, and as Head of the Space Geodesy and Altimetry Projects Office (SGAPO) in the Earth Sciences Directorate (1993-2003). During this period, he reduced satellite laser ranging errors in the NASA network from 20 cm to a few mm through the introduction of picosecond lasers, low time walk microchannel plate photomultipliers, and few picosecond precision time interval units and event timers. In 1994, he proposed the first high repetition rate (2 kHz), single photon sensitive SLR2000 system which has since evolved into the Space Geodesy Satellite Laser Ranging (SGSLR) system, which is scheduled to be deployed throughout the NASA network over the next several years. In 1998, Dr. Degnan created the International Laser Ranging Service (ILRS) and was elected as the first Governing Board Chairman from 1998 to 2002. The ILRS coordinates the tracking of several dozen satellites by an international network of SLR stations in support of global Earth science (e.g. center of mass, gravity field, tectonic plate motion, sea level rise, etc.) In 2001, he demonstrated a single photon sensitive airborne laser altimeter ("microaltimeter") based on SLR2000 single photon technology and, in 2002, published the concept of two way laser transponders designed to enable laser ranging and precision time transfer over interplanetary distances. From 1989 through 1995, he also developed well received early optimization theories for actively and passively Q-switched lasers.
Upon retiring from NASA in 2003, Dr. Degnan was offered the position of Chief Scientist at Sigma Space Corporation in Lanham, MD, a small aerospace firm in Lanham, MD supporting NASA and DoD research programs. His primary research activity was the development of 2nd and 3rd generation airborne, Single Photon Lidars (SPLs) capable of rapidly generating high resolution 3D topographic and bathymetric maps from a high altitude aircraft (_30 kft) at rates up to 6 million ground pixels per second. Subsequently, he provided major engineering and algorithm support to NASA's ICESat-2 mission, launched in September 2018 to map the Earth from a 500 km orbit using SPL technology. In 2005, he participated in two successful transponder experiments from the GSFC 1.2 meter telescope to two interplanetary spacecraft equipped with laser altimeters: (1) the Messenger spacecraft enroute to Mercury at a distance of 22 million km from Earth and (2) the MOLA-2 spacecraft in orbit about Mars at a distance of 80 million km. He also served on NASA review panels for several deep space missions including the OSIRIS-REx mission to the asteroid Bennu, the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter (MOLA-2) mission to Mars, as well as the future Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) ELSA lander mission to Europa, the innermost Moon of Jupiter. He retired from Sigma Space in 2018 but continues to serve as a part time technical consultant on laser-related instrumentation.
Dr. Degnan is a Fellow of the International Association for Geodesy (IAG) and the Optical Society of America (OSA), a Senior Member of the Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), a Charter Member of the International Laser Communications Society (ILCS), and Sigma Pi Sigma National Physics Honor Society. He is also the recipient of numerous awards including the Annual Moe I. Schneebaum Award for Engineering from NASA/GSFC (1987), Distinguished Alumnus in the Marple Newtown School District Hall of Fame (1989), the Russian Space Agency's Tsiolkovsky Medal for his contributions to SLR (2002), the NASA Space Act Award (2003), the Drexel University Alumni Circle of Distinction Award (2005), and the ILRS SLR Pioneer Award (2014). A celebrated Marquis listee, Dr. Degnan has been showcased in approximately 55 editions of Who's Who in America. Who's Who in Science and Engineering, Who's Who in the East, Who's Who in the World, and Who's Who of Emerging Leaders in America as well as American Men and Women of Science.
Dr. Degnan also engaged in several educational activities during his career beginning as a Modern Science Laboratory Instructor as an undergraduate at Drexel, as a Distinguished Adjunct Professor of Physics at the American University where he intermittently taught a two semester graduate course in Quantum Electronics from 1988 to 1993, as a member of the OSA Fellows Traveling Lecturer program, and as an invited lecturer at various international workshops and schools. As a lover of the Performing Arts, Dr. Degnan has also been active in Maryland community theater, having performed in or directed over 60 plays and musicals since 1982.
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