John Booske

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     My academic degrees are all in nuclear engineering, starting with a B.S. from Penn State in
1980, and an M.S.E and Ph.D. from the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) in 1983 and 1985,
respectively. My Ph.D. advisor once told me that for landing a good job, the subject of your
thesis is not so critical as doing it really well, keeping your skills current, and paying attention to
the value of networking. Certainly something like that seems to have worked out for me, since
I’ve ended up with a job that I love, but in the field of electrical engineering instead of nuclear

     Part of the story of how I started in nuclear and ended up in electrical engineering is that during
my last two years of undergraduate studies, I became fascinated by the topic of nuclear fusion as
a future energy source. My undergraduate advisor and cherished mentor, Professor Ed Klevans,
recommended that if this was the direction I wanted to take, I should pursue graduate studies and
earn a Ph.D., since there was a great deal of research yet to do before nuclear fusion could be
harnessed for practical electrical power production. At the University of Michigan, I followed
Ed’s advice and studied experimental plasma science under the terrific mentorship of Professors
Ron Gilgenbach (Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences Department) and Ward Getty
(Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department). Following graduation in 1985, I
took a post-doc position at the University of Maryland, College Park, researching magnetically
confined hot ion plasmas under the mentorship of Professor Rick Ellis. After a year, the
opportunity arose to join an exciting new research project under Professor Vic Granatstein,
studying sheet-electron-beam free electron lasers as sources of high power millimeter waves.
Three years on this project combined with my prior experience left me looking more like a blend
of applied physics and electrical engineering, and in 1990, I accepted an offer to join the UW-
Madison ECE Department. Currently I am Chair of that Department and the Duane H. and
Dorothy M. Bluemke Professor of Engineering.

     My research interests are fairly broad. The common thread between them is that somewhere
you’ll find an electric, magnetic, or electromagnetic field. Over the past 30+ years I’ve enjoyed
experimental and theoretical research of rf sources and their applications, where I use the
term “rf” loosely (spanning 0.001 – 1,000 GHz in frequency). And I still enjoy research in basic
and applied plasma science. Meanwhile, during the past 10 years I have developed an interest
in bio-electrics and bio-electromagnetics (applications of electric and electromagnetic fields in
biology and biomedicine). I enjoy working on problems in materials as well. Although I am not
a deep expert in biology, medicine, or materials, I have enjoyed fruitful partnerships with other
scientists and engineers whose expertise in such areas complements mine.

     One of the things driving my passion for research is the thrill I derive from those “aha” moments
of sudden new understanding. I equally enjoy helping students experience those moments.
(I enjoy helping others thrive, in general, but I suspect I’m more effective at helping as a
professor than I would be through other professional options). In short, I love my job as both
a teacher and a student. I derive great satisfaction from experimenting with new approaches
to teaching and learning, and am especially gratified for the generosity of Duane and Dorothy
Bluemke for their support of my Professorship which recognizes success and commitment in
teaching as well as research. I am extremely enthused to be Director of a brand new venture, the
Wisconsin Collaboratory for Enhanced Learning (WisCEL). WisCEL is a combination of new
pedagogies, learning space design and instructional technology deployment that will result in
more personalized and humanized learning experiences, will improve learning outcomes and will
better prepare students for a globally-competitive, 21st century knowledge economy. Keep an eye
out for more information to come in the near future!

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