Physics Professor Remembered for Contributions to Space Missions
Feb. 19, 2014
Dr. Roy Chaney
Chaney joined the University faculty in 1970 and retired from active research and teaching after a 40-year career. He was a solid-state physicist and specialized in computer software development, computer interfaces and data analysis. In addition to his own projects, his work contributed significantly to his colleagues’ experiments, particularly those in the space sciences research group.
Chaney’s expertise in computer hardware interfacing was key to the successful completion of several space missions in which UT Dallas was involved. Among his many accomplishments, Chaney wrote the communications software that linked UT Dallas space science computers to the Goddard Space Flight Center in support of data acquisition from the Dynamics Explorer satellite, which launched in 1981 to study Earth’s upper atmosphere. He also wrote software to collect data from a UT Dallas-built instrument deployed on the Giotto mission to study Haley’s Comet in 1986.
Dr. John Hoffman, professor of physics and a member of UT Dallas’ William B. Hanson Center for Space Sciences, said Chaney played a pivotal role in the success of a mass spectrometer instrument that Hoffman designed and that was included on board NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander in 2008. The experiment analyzed gases from soil samples and helped prove the existence of water on the red planet.
Visitation will be from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church, 1201 Alma Drive in Plano.
A funeral mass is scheduled for 2 p.m. Thursday at Saint Patrick Cathedral, 1206 Throckmorton St. in Fort Worth.
Burial will be at Greenwood Cemetery, 3100 White Settlement Road in Fort Worth.
“Roy was very instrumental in the Phoenix mission and an integral member of our team,” Hoffman said. “He was in charge of developing software and data analysis for the mass spectrometer and integrating it with other parts of the mission. He was a great guy, and very highly thought of.”
More recently, Chaney collaborated with researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center on several biomedical instrumentation projects.
“Complementary to his work with software development, Dr. Chaney contributed several seminal theoretical papers that provided an insight into the electronic behavior in a number of materials,” said Dr. Robert Glosser, head of the physics department. “This was very helpful to experimentalists, including myself, in investigating their properties.”
Chaney was influential among UT Dallas students as well, teaching courses that included quantum mechanics, modern physics and computer data acquisition techniques. He also developed simulation software for undergraduate laboratories. Over the course of his career, Chaney was a graduate advisor for the Department of Physics and oversaw many doctoral students.
Chaney was born in 1943 in Beaumont. He earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering physics from the University of Oklahoma in 1965, and master’s and doctoral degrees in physics from the same institution in 1967 and 1971, respectively. He is survived by his wife, Judy; sons William Chaney and his wife, Lori; Robert Chaney and his wife, Lisa; Thomas Chaney; David Hood; Blake Hood and his wife, Susan; and nine grandchildren.