Q&A with Dr. Daniel Raible, who teaches aerospace systems engineering


Raible was the recipient of the 2019-20 Outstanding Adjuct Faculty Member Award.


Dr. Daniel Raible

Name: Dr. Daniel Raible

Title: Adjunct Professor

Department: Aerospace Systems Engineering Program within the Department of Mechanical Engineering

What does the 2019-20 Outstanding Adjunct Faculty Member Award mean to you and how will it affect your work going forward?

In the classroom I take a lot of chances, and honestly not all of them work out as planned. For every lecture that might go well, another might fall flat. Ultimately it doesn’t matter what my opinion is going into a class, but rather if the students learned from the way the subjects were presented, and that is difficult for me to predict. I am constantly throwing material away, reassessing my methods, polling the students, second guessing myself, and seeking better ways to teach concepts. I guess I’m never really satisfied with a result, but content to pursue a moving target. It is extremely humbling to receive such an award, and it helps to inform me that I must be somewhere along the right path. Hopefully someday, I’ll get there!

What brought you to The University of Akron?

During the day I work locally at the NASA John H. Glenn Research Center, and several colleagues teach part time at the University. One of them strongly encouraged me to consider teaching, and I am very fortunate that I listened to and followed their guidance. It has been a great privilege to be a part of student growth and success.

How did you come to choose your career?

Ultimately, my career chose me, in a way. I’ve always pursued general areas where I was interested and tried to identify unaddressed gaps where I could contribute. Although at any given time that might not involve me working on exactly what I prefer, this method has kept me active in making useful contributions to larger efforts, and it has opened several doors to further opportunities which were previously beyond my horizon.

Talk about your research and what problem do you most hope to solve?

The majority of my research involves developing laser communication systems to enable faster data rates from spacecraft. This capability will soon enable streaming of high definition video from space back to earth.

What does the next 10 years hold for your field?

There are several upcoming missions that will use lasers to transmit data, so it is an exciting time to be in the field.

What books are on your nightstand?

“Stormy Seas, Triumphs and Tragedies of Great Lakes Ships” I am in awe of how the pearl of our region, the Great Lakes, has provided so much fortune in the way of fresh water, food supply and transportation for many generations, but has also claimed so many brave sailors. There are an estimated 8,000 shipwrecks in the Great Lakes, with only a small fraction located.

“Nickel Plate Road Passenger Service, The Postwar Years" It is hard to appreciate how well connected the United States used to be by a web of competing railroad companies running premier high-speed passenger train service. All of that was given up for the promise of automobile autonomy and the jet-age, which is turning out to not be as fast or efficient as promised.

Is there one book you recommend to everyone?

Yes, “The Little Prince” by pioneer aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. It holds many timeless and valuable ideas—notably the things we love most in life can be very difficult to care for, but are worth the trouble.

Students in my aerospace class would do well to read another of Saint-Exupéry's works, “Airman’s Odyssey,” which eloquently captures the valor of French fliers against the Luftwaffe. Saint-Exupéry famously disappeared flying his P-38 Lightning on a reconnaissance mission in 1944.

Outside the classroom, what do you enjoy doing for fun?

Restoring vintage technology, industrial archaeology, playing music and enjoying the outdoors.

Looking back on your own time in college, what advice do you have for UA students?

For the students: definitely go out of your way to connect with others who are further along in their academic path. There needs to be more freshman talking to seniors, undergraduates talking with graduates and all in-between. They can offer invaluable perspective to help you make better choices about your immediate future - be it class selection, getting more out of a class and providing support for job market options. Lastly, your time at UA will be the most concentrated part of your life to be surrounded by like-minded people, so aside from obviously studying hard, please try to make time to cultivate meaningful relationships with others, because they can be the most valuable outcome of your educational pursuit. Shared knowledge is the only knowledge.