J. E. Tillman
Prof. Tillman, Jim,
you gave me my first job in research science. At the time I was senior in high school. I held two jobs that summer, one was working daytime for you programming computers for the noble mars meteorology mission. The other was at night selling magazine subscriptions as a member of the up-and-coming telephone solicitor industry. By day I earned minimum wage and by night...well I remember you saying it was more than a professor's salary when I told you. Apparently I did not learn from this experience as I am now a research scientist :-)
I don't think I ever did any work of which I was more proud. The work was challenging and success was thus satisfying. It was the first time I got to put together all my skills, and the first time I had to teach myself something new so I could accomplish something. At the end of the summer I was convinced I had utterly failed since by then I cold see how I could have done it over much better. I had decided to tell you I wanted to give back all the wages i had been paid because I had not earned them. Before I could you came in and told me how much I had accomplished and offered to put my name on the paper. Which was exactly the right word at the right time. And presumably why when you hear my voice on the phone, it's not asking if you are happy with your long distance service. Of course, I foolishly turned down your authorship offer, not appreciating that research is by its nature usually imperfect, and unfinished.
And really there could not have been a better preparation for my later years in graduate school. It was not the work specifically, but the aspect of being challenged by someone you respect. The work was not a defined chore as might be given to a lot of high schoolers, but mostly just a goal. You expected a lot for my age, gave me the right tools, but did not give me a road map a to how to do it. Thus I learned about guiding oneself and answering your own questions.
Over the years, our correspondence has been intermittent: I've tended to get in touch with you after each segment of my career, college, grad school, first "job", and other times when one looks back on the arc of ones life. Obviously, in the back of my mind was how in hindsight so many things traced back to my first experiences in science.
So I have a lot to thank you for. I'm sure there have been many more you have sent on their way too. And of course as I have my own students encountering their first research I try to challenge them yet make them succeed. It's a wonderful gift to pass along. For all the great science you have done, the heroic role you played in the Mars lander, and the discoveries you made, it may very well be your greatest impact is your work with school children. Of course, "retirement" from the U of W just means you now have more time to work on the next lander and the next school kid. Lucky you.
Los Alamos National Laboratory.
To expedite processing, Charlie simultaneously used three terminals, each controlling a different stage of the process!
His Lakeside High School teacher recently said about him:
with which I readily concur. NOW FOR AN UPDATE
Date: Tue, 27 Mar 2001 10:52:17 -0700
From: charlie strauss
Subject: science interns
Just a quick note. I was thinking a lot about you lately because I'm the process of trying to find some funding and work to have a high school summer student work at los alamos this summer. I've had graduate students before but never a high school student. I'm very excited because the kid is sharp and I'm personally more interested in encouraging him in science than anything I will get out of it. I feel like I will be giving him a start and I want it to be as good a one as I got from you. So your efforts with me are now passing on to another generation of (potential) scientists. Its a nice thing to think about, huh?
Charlie E. M. Strauss
Los alamos National Laboratory
Other exceptional employees and volunteers
Many former and current employees have made major contributions to these Mars exploration initiatives and the school weather program. Some of them who are still contributing are: