By Luigi Napoli, Senior Tech Solutions Specialist, IEEE Standards Association
Today we’re going to talk with Professor Zappy, famous squirrel scientist, engineer, and adventurer. Prof. Zappy recently launched his Twitter and Instagram account. He has appeared in several videos on standards, and is hoping to complete a video game soon.
Luigi: Welcome Professor Zappy.
Prof. Zappy: Thank you, nice to be here.
Luigi: Professor, before we get to the scientist and engineer, tell us about Zappy the adventurer. What else do you enjoy?
Prof. Zappy: Sure, I enjoy teaching, science fiction, travel and extreme sports. I enjoy going to places around the world and my work also takes me to many unusual locations – some of them quite remote.
Luigi: Ah yes. But extreme sports? Where does that come from?
Prof. Zappy: Um…I’m a squirrel, we live it. Squirrels are very agile and athletic – not to brag, just saying. We’re always jumping and climbing – trees, power lines – actually, any wires, poles and anything else that’s in our way. We’re talking sometimes hundreds of feet high. I also have a flying squirrel uncle up north and on visits when I was young, he would take me way up to the tops of trees and we’d glide from treetop to treetop. He had a moose friend as I recall.
Luigi: Interesting, any other outside interests?
Prof. Zappy: Well…let’s see…I like art and mostly listen to classical music and hard rock.
Luigi: Hmmm, o..k… let’s talk about engineering. What got you interested?
Prof. Zappy: Well, growing up, sometimes I’d sit on a tree outside a window of a home that would watch episodes of Star Trek, the original series, so science fiction was my first interest. Then I would routinely wander by an electronics repair shop and watch and learn. I guess electronics got me interested and I knew what I wanted to do.
Luigi: How about math and science?
Prof. Zappy: Well, math and science is the path to engineering – you can’t get there without them. But they are just so fascinating in themselves, I was tempted to possibly stay in either pure mathematics or perhaps physics. But math, science, engineering – there is harmony there, much like mind, body, and spirit. And when you put them together—a few equations here, some physics principles there, mix in a bit of engineering and…BAM…you have a smartphone, an electric car, or a drone that delivers pizza.
Luigi: Ok. I like pizza.
Prof. Zappy: Who doesn’t?
Luigi: Tell us about your early studies, say undergrad, what did you like most?
Prof. Zappy: Electronics design was always a favorite, but I found electromagnetic field theory and semiconductor physics quite fascinating.
Luigi: How so?
Prof. Zappy: Well, electromagnetic field theory is kind of like magic. I recall learning Maxwell’s equations, I felt like I was acting in a Star Wars episode as a young Padawan to a Jedi master.
Master: …to solve you must choose a Gaussian surface…
Padawan: How does one choose Master? What if I’m wrong?
Master: Fear not, believe in the force of the equations – great power have they. The choice of surfaces matters not. The right answer will the equations provide.
That is way oversimplified of course, but that’s what it felt like at the time.
Luigi: Well, I’ve never heard it expressed that way. What about semiconductor physics.
Prof. Zappy: All modern electronics, is based on semiconductor physics – so far.