This past Thursday evening I received the sad news that Prof. David Axon had died suddenly that morning. He was a professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology and the University of Sussex. I had a lot of interaction with him over much of the past decade, particularly during my 5 years at RIT.
Despite being busy with his duties as department head of Physics at RIT, Dave liked to take on transfer students for academic advising. As I switched to physics from electrical engineering, he was assigned as my academic advisor. In this role, he was not only important in my success in the physics program, but he was also instrumental in my astronomy career. RIT has a well developed co-op program and though it usually is not taken advantage of by physics students, I decided to take two 6-month co-ops to figure out what I wanted to do after I graduated. The first would be a pure research project, and the second would be working in industry. Dave set me up with another RIT physics professor, Chris O’Dea to work on a project using data from the Hubble Space Telescope. I had such a great time with the project that I decided to forgo the industry co-op and apply to grad school. I credit Dave with starting me along that path.
I also appreciated and greatly benefited from his mentorship over the years. For some time I had trouble getting advising appointments with him (the former department secretary didn’t think undergraduates were worthy!). When I mentioned this to him, he told me to just come knock on the side door to his office whenever I wanted to chat. It was very characteristic of him — no matter how busy he was with running the department, he was always happy to meet with students and give them a few minutes of his time.
After I left RIT for UVa, Dave continued to be an active collaborator in my research. We had a couple ongoing projects and I’m happy to say that one month ago, a project we worked on together was published in the Astrophysical Journal.
He was a great mentor, collaborator, and friend.
Farewell Dave, you will be greatly missed.