Physics and Astronomy

Peter J. McNulty – faculty member and department chair

Peter J. McNulty, long-time chair and faculty member in Physics and Astronomy at Clemson, passed away on June 6, 2022.  Pete played a major role in making Clemson Physics and Astronomy what it is today. Pete was hired in 1988 to lead the change from a department dedicated mainly to teaching, to one with many faculty members engaged in forefront research. This was not without challenges, but Pete managed the transition quickly and effectively, and the department made many strong hires under his guidance.

He was a caring mentor to young faculty members, and he taught two Colleges and the University about startup funds for new faculty, and the importance of teaching release for active researchers, which we now take for granted. Pete made the transition from the old College of Sciences to the College of Engineering relatively painless for Physics and Astronomy. Pete was wise in his consideration of administrative demands, in those days, mostly for paperwork, coming from the colleges and university. If something was truly important, he knew it would be requested multiple times. He also understood that his faculty would learn this principle from him and take it to heart.

Pete was an outstanding researcher, studying space radiation effects in electronic devices. He maintained a group of up to a dozen researchers for years, and found opportunities to fly experiments on numerous NASA spacecraft. They measured effects, especially single event upsets, in standard electronics, and they designed devices to characterize the particle radiation itself, for both cosmic rays and trapped protons, and constrain models of both. Pete continued this work until very recently, and his former students are leaders in the field.

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