WFIRST Telescope
Jill Rennicke, Alumni Coordinator

Like many Conserve School alums, Eric Frater (class of 2007) spent his share of time staring up at the stars from the Sledding Hill. Little did he know at the time that his career path would take him from just staring questioningly at the heavens to designing a new space telescope that could illuminate clues to the origins of life on this planet and beyond.

In the eleven years since he graduated from Conserve School, Eric attended Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin where his quest for truth and answers turned again to the skies. It was at Lawrence, he says that he “began to appreciate the … rational scientific studies” turning towards a major in physics. “This chapter,” in his life, he says, “invigorated my interest in light, for ‘veritas est lux.’ (the truth is the light).” He would go on to the University of Arizona where he obtained a Ph.D. in Optical Science.

Today, he is still looking up, now with a position as Optical Engineer at Ball Aerospace in Boulder, Colorado where he works on projects involved with space instruments. “My first exciting project,” he says, is “called the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope or WFIRST.” Similar in size to the Hubble Telescope, WFIRST will offer astronomers a dramatically larger field of view and collect a wider array of detailed photographs and data. Single images from WFIRST could show nearly a million galaxies in one frame offering scientists a wide-eyed view of space. From those findings, scientists hope to unravel clues to a wide range of big questions into such things as the origins of exoplanets that have only recently been discovered, the make-up of Dark Energy, and could, Eric says, “offer the human race substantial evidence to determine the origin of our universe.

Lofty ambitions for the young man who began it all staring up at the stars from the campus of Conserve School.  “It has given me great satisfaction to elevate my pursuits into the heavens,” Eric says. “I am forever grateful to those who first set me on this path of passionate investigation.”

For more on this exciting project including a video explaining the WFIRST mission, go to NASA’s website at https://wfirst.gsfc.nasa.gov/.

Climbing in Boulder, CO