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Rick McMaster '72, M'74

Photos: In the top photo, McMaster plays the role of Dr. Kold. Follow his latest antics @DrKold on Twitter. The bottom photo shows McMaster on a visit to campus he made in 1992 to guest lecture as an Alumni Ambassador. 

  Rick McMaster as Dr. Kold

Low-temperature physics? To some, those words are foreign. To Rick McMaster, those words are music to the ears.

McMaster ’72, M’74 plays the role of Dr. Kold, who presents science activities to area kids as part of volunteer community service while he works for IBM. Through this role he gets to use his love of physics to educate Central Texas area students.

 “I love the fact that IBM encourages employees to do volunteer work,” McMaster said. “My job is overall my passion in what we call STEM. It’s great to have that kind of support from a company point of view.”

STEM education, or study in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, gives McMaster the chance to do what he loves—teaching—in a field in which he is highly qualified.

As Dr. Kold, McMaster gets to “do the mad scientist thing,” he said. He had gotten involved in education outreach initially in the late 1980s, working in IBM’s Corporate Development Group. Around this time, Engineering Week was expanded to include Discover Engineering. Discover Engineering was designed to get technical professionals into classrooms and get students excited about science, math, and engineering, he said.

As time went on and McMaster got more involved with E-Week, he realized he needed a catchy pseudonym. He combined his doctorate, the Kelvin scale, and love of low-temperature physics to create “Dr. Kold.”

Over time, he said, he’s expanding the kinds of experiments and demonstrations he presents to kids of all ages during his 15- to 40-minute-long sessions.

His favorite demonstration? Showing the Meissner effect, which he calls the “closest thing to magic.” Rick McMaster '72, M'74

This year alone, he will have made more than 15 visits for his "How Cold is Cold?" demonstrations and another 20 visits to schools with hands-on science and engineering activities for students.

As Dr. Kold, McMaster has created a strong online presence, most prominently on Twitter, offering followers the latest articles from STEM and resources for students.

“It (Twitter) is a way to reach others interested in encouraging students in their students of math, science, and engineering,” McMaster said. “We need to move toward mobile devices. Twitter is just one of the ways to do that.”

In his role as chair of Central Texas Discover Engineering, McMaster received IBM’s 2012 Volunteer Excellence Award. This honor is awarded to employees who demonstrate what IBM’s website calls “exemplary volunteer service” in projects that apply IBM’s Smarter Planet strategies to community service. This year, McMaster was one of 13 who received the honor out of more than 400,000 employees worldwide.

And just how did McMaster become interested in this field? He credits his interest to IUP Professor John Fox.

“He really inspired me in terms of wanting to do low-temperature physics,” he said. Fox, he added, was doing some unusual work that he found interesting.

“I give a lot of credit to John for helping me get interested and keeping me interested in the field.”

McMaster received his doctorate from the University of Connecticut in low temperature experimental physics. In October, 2013, McMaster will have worked with IBM for 33 years in a variety of technical and management positions to his current role as Project Management Thought Leader and STEM Advocate.

McMaster and his wife, Leslie Chick McMaster '74, live in Austin. He received the IUP Distinguished Alumni Award in 1993. 

--Ellen Matis '12

Published May 2013

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