Electrical engineering department head Stephen Horan retires

By Linda Fresques

Klipsch School of Electrical and Computer Engineering Head Stephen Horan is retiring and will join NASA to conduct spacecraft communications for climate change research.

Dr. Stephen Horan

Dr. Stephen Horan

Steve Horan, professor and head of the Klipsch School of Electrical and Computer Engineering has retired after 23 years of service to NMSU and its students. He joined NASA at Langley Research Center in Hampton, VA. on Aug. 3.

Horan will be a spacecraft communications engineer on the Climate Absolute Radiance and Refractivity Observatory (CLARREO) team. The CLARREO mission is being developed by NASA and partner organizations to monitor the pulse of the atmosphere to better understand climate change. The foundation for CLARREO is the ability to produce irrefutable climate records through the use of exacting onboard traceability of the instrument accuracy.

“Engineering has greatly benefited from the many contributions of Dr. Horan.  He provided great expertise and insights through his research and has given his students the benefit of leading-edge experience through his research and real-world experiences.  We will miss his leadership as an administrator, researcher and most of all, a great professor,” said Kenneth R. White, interim dean of the College of Engineering.

Horan began his academic career at NMSU in 1986 as an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering and distinguished himself as a teacher, leader and researcher.

He was named head of the Klipsch School of Electrical and Computer Engineering in 2005.  He founded and served as director of the New Mexico Space Grant Consortium (1990-1998). Under his leadership (1996-2009), NMSU’s Center for Excellence in Telemetering, the first in the nation, built on the programs developed earlier with Drs. Carden and Osborne and the Klipsch School faculty to have an outstanding academic and research program for advancing the state-of-the-art in space telecommunications.

“Dr. Horan is one of those unique individuals whose talents are a blend of the practical and the theoretical with more emphasis on the practical.  He is what we call a ‘rainmaker,’ with an uncanny knack for finding funds for whatever strikes his interest,” said Jay Jordan, associate vice president of research programs and former Klipsch School department head.

Among many research projects, Horan led the development of the space and ground communications for one nanosatellite program and led the first NMSU nanosatellite design that resulted in a balloon-borne test satellite over the course of nine years. The projects, funded by the Air Force, NASA, and industry, involved more than 100 electrical and mechanical engineering students in their senior design courses.  He also involved his students in developing a payload for the first rocket launched from New Mexico’s Spaceport—instruments that were a subsystem of one of the nanosatellites. Another payload developed by Horan and his students was launched from the Spaceport this past May.

Horan has long been involved with the International Foundation for Telemetering (IFT). Along with furthering the professional and technical interests in the telemetering community, IFT provides an educational support program.

“Dr. Horan implemented many successful programs within the department leveraging IFT funds to enhance the curriculum and research in the field of telemetry.  Because of the success of the program at NMSU, the IFT used it as a model to develop similar programs with four other universities,” said Vickie Reynolds, U.S. Army liaison at White Sands Missile Range and on the board of directors of IFT. “He has been an extremely valuable member of the team working to ensure the success of the educational support program for nearly two decades. We will surely miss working with him, but we are confident that he has laid a strong foundation for the telemetry program at NMSU that will continue to prosper.”

In 2003, Horan received the El Paso Corporation Foundation Faculty Achievement Award and in 2005, he received a NMSU University Research Council Award for Exceptional Achievements in Creative Scholarly Activity.  He received a NASA Tech Briefs Article Award in 2007. He held the Frank Carden Endowed Chair in Telemetering and Telecommunications.

Horan received his doctoral and master’s degrees in electrical engineering, and a master’s degree in astronomy all from NMSU. He earned an A.B. in physics from Franklin & Marshall College, in Lancaster, Penn.

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