ECE ILLINOIS alums are some of the most interesting people we know. To celebrate them, we’ve decided to ask them questions both serious and fun. Here, you’ll find their Ten Answers.

Elaine Chapin (MSEE ’92, PhD ’96) is Radar Systems Integration and Test Engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. Chapin’s work has focused on radar interferometry, ionospheric impacts on low frequency radar, and SAR calibration. She was the integration and test lead for the radar used to land NASA’s Curiosity rover on Mars.

Favorite ECE class?

I enjoyed ECE 358 “Wave Propagation” taught by K. C. Yeh. It was the first of many classes I took on that subject and the first to mention the ionosphere.

How would your classmates remember you?

As the girl who organized the water slide trips. Several summers I rented the water slide in Champaign for an evening and would split the cost with whichever friends and friends of friends showed up. Lots of ECE graduate students would show up.

What was the happiest moment?

The day that we delivered the landing radar for the Curiosity rover to be integrated to the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft. Because of difficulties scheduling an x-ray of the radar’s connectors, delivery day also happened to fall on my birthday.

What chore do you absolutely hate doing?

The chore that I always push off on Mike Fitzsimmons (BSEE ‘83, MSEE ‘85) is catching rattlesnakes in the garage. Because our black cat, Dark Matter, will attack any snake he finds, Mike catches them, and then animal control relocates them.

What frightens you?

Snakes. Especially rattlesnakes. The bear eating our garbage, the bobcats in our back yard, the tarantula climbing our window, the scorpion in the sink, etc., were all less frightening visitors to our home. Yes, our home is really only 11 miles from Los Angeles.

Where would you like to visit?

The Southwest, including the Grand Canyon, Bryce, and Zion National Parks.

Glass half-empty or half-full?

I am the smiling, cheerful, enthusiastic, optimistic, half-full type.

Are you a morning or night person?

Definitely morning. I still remember how awful I felt watching the foggy sunrises after midnight-to-dawn shifts at the Jicamarca Radio Observatory on data collection trips during graduate school.

Ninjas or pirates?

Pirates. I have been boating all my life and was secretary of the U of I Sailing Club. I currently own two dinghies and one canoe.

If you had only one project for the next year, what would it be?

A long wavelength radar to penetrate through the icy shell of Europa down to its ocean -- one of the most probable locations to find extraterrestrial life. Both NASA and European Space Agnecy (ESA) are planning missions to the Jovian moons. The high radiation levels at Jupiter and the constraints on the radar’s size, weight, and power make it very challenging.

Do you have answers? Email us at ece@illinois.edu, and we may feature you in the future.