Remembering Professor David Chimino

Former physics professor and Michigan Tech alumnus, David Chimino, passed away on July 5, 2019. Professor Chimino graduated from Michigan Tech in 1948 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering Physics and served as faculty in the Department of Physics for 42 years, teaching physics and astronomy.

During his tenure, Dave received the Distinguished Teaching Award and was appointed the rank of Presidential Professor for his outstanding teaching. As stated by former college dean and provost, Max Seel, “Dave’s endearing claim to fame was that he could draw perfect circles on the chalkboard in physics class. Everyone who went through his introductory physics lectures remembers.”

Sue Hill had an undergraduate class with him and said, “Dave was friends with his students. He always had time to talk to us.”

Professor Chimino built a private optical observatory in Atlantic Mine, named Amjoch after his parents. He was active in community outreach sharing his Cosmic Journey science lectures and after retiring as faculty, mentored Michigan Tech students pursuing their high school teaching certification in science and math. Dave will be remembered for his spirit of generosity and kindness.

What memories do you have of Professor Chimino?

20 responses to “Remembering Professor David Chimino

  1. His physics demonstrations were THE COOLEST and for a visual learner like me, permanently ingrained the lessons in my brain.

  2. Dave Chimino was a definite inspiration to me. In my own career as a physics professor, Electomagnetic Fields was always my favorite course to teach, but I could never draw those perfect circles. I did use a lot of colored chalk though.

  3. Dr. Chimino was the very best instructor I had while a student from 1968-1972. He made physics come alive for me, and took it from a dry, calculation-driven world into a place where I eventually developed a true sense of wonderment. I will never forget when he was drawing a complex system of circular motion, and laughter broke out in Fisher 135. He turned and said, “What, did I make a mistake?” And the answer from someone in the front row was “No, it’s just those perfect circles! How do you do that?” Dr. C answered, without hesitation, “Well, I just keep R constant.” Perfect!

  4. Once when asked how he drew those perfect circles, his reply was “Keep a constant radius.” His demonstration with the spinning bicycle wheel and a stool with a swivel seat is also memorable.

  5. Dave Chimino was a personal friend as well as a mentor. We worked together on his idea of video taped lectures as I had a background in broadcast video when I came to Tech. One summer many years later, when Dave had an internship at Lawrence Livermore Labratories, we met and toured their nuclear fusion project. Dave’s reaction? “That’s what I call mega-buck physics”.
    R.I.P. my friend.

  6. Professor Chimino had that magic gift of teaching, on often difficult to understand principles, to hard-headed physics students like me such that we actually learned the stuff. Yes, he could draw well on the chalk board, and that helped, but he also had that rare ability to explain, even show us, what the “things,” or abstract physics ideas, in his lectures, were all about. We actually learned, thanks to him.

    And, thanks to Professor Chimino, and a few others like him, a lot of us physics types made it and, perhaps, even helped move the science forward a mm or two. Only time will tell. But what is for sure, is that no one was ever better at lecturing Physics than Professor Dave Chimino.

  7. The spinning bicycle wheel was great. We laughed about it for weeks, but we got the message. I also remember him writing on the board with one hand while he erased with the other. Better be quick at taking notes!

  8. I thought of Prof. Chimino often during my career as his Electrical Measurements course was very much like what my early job tasks were like in the nuclear power field. The lab for that course was two credits and was the hardest two credits I ever earned but the lessons were life long. I was also lucky enough to take his general astronomy class. At that time he was in the planning stage of his observatory. People like him made Tech the special place it is.

  9. Prof. Chimino had the knack of turning an equation into a tangible reality, which made it enormously easier for students to grasp the principle embedded in the equation. I’m sure that ping pong balls and strobe lights were never used so effectively in a physics class anywhere else. While I am saddened to hear of his passing, his presence still looms large; in a very beneficial way.

  10. Dave was my adviser 1958 -1962, and gave us an oral final exam in Electricity and Magnetism, which I think he had a photographic memory, because when asked a question during our problem solving lab, replied “go to page 207, and in the middle of the page…….”. This petrified most of us with an oral final pending, No BS gonna happen.

  11. My wife and I both enjoyed a pretty spectacular time in Tech History when we had the one two punch of Chimino for Physics, and Berry for Chemistry. Sadly, both have now passed. While Berry made us all quiver with fear, Chimino’s class was a blast- he always had demo’s- Block sliding down planes, the spinning bicycle wheel, perfect circles, and other oddities that kept our attention and made us remember the concepts. And I remember quivering with fear after waiting in Fisher Hall to see the posting of the exam grades. Ten questions 100 points. And every possible answer you could come up with if you took the wrong direction in your thinking. For instance, the square root of the answer, or the negative, or whatever mistake you were most likely to make. His lessons will always occupy a smiling part of my brain.

  12. Professor Chimino would often draw circles and other curved surfaces in his optics classes. What was really amazing is he would draw a seemingly perfect circle freehand in one motion, then he would check it using a compass.

    One of his best projects was undergraduate physics lab in the basement of Fisher Hall.

  13. I had Dr. Chimino for an optics class. He made learning fun and yes the perfect circles were scary cool. RIP

  14. Taking PH204 and PH205 from Professor Chimino was one of the best experiences I had in my early career at Tech (next to ME223). The ability to draw a perfect circle free-hand was, as others have noted, absolutely legendary. As was the vaporizing screwdriver / capacitor demo. But he was much more than a great lecturer with interesting presentations. He had a reputation of being a ‘tough’ instructor but a very equitable one as well. And a dry sense of humor. I remember an exam where he stood watching me use my LEFT hand to do right hand rule vector cross product directions. I realized what I was doing about the same time I realized he was watching me – with a huge grin. I’m sure he was thinking ‘I got another one of those MEs’!!! He’ll be sorely missed…

  15. Of course the circles and bike wheel. But he was the one who ‘calibrated’ me to prepare for Tech when on day one he said, “Hope you remember your lessons, we start in Chapter 3.” He will be missed. Hope you are circling the stars!

  16. Two memories that pop into my head from time to time: (1) 8 am lecture, middle of the winter, bleary eyed and sitting in the Fisher lecture hall. All of a sudden music comes blaring over the loud speakers (don’t remember exactly what, but that it had a catchy acoustic bass line). Just as suddenly the music stops and Chimino walks in like nothing happened and starts his lecture. (2) discussion about F=ma and units, he pulls out a metric kilogram weight to illustrate inertial mass and then without the slightest change in expression hoists a concrete cinder block out of nowhere to illustrate the imperial slug.

  17. 40 years later and I still remember those perfect circles! Excellent professor. I REALLY learned Physics and it was enjoyable.

  18. An appreciation of physics is at the core of every engineering student’s tasks. Many thanks to Dr. Chimino and happy memories of his guidance.

  19. I was an applied math major with astrophotography as a hobby. I’ll always be grateful to Dave for giving me keys to his observatory during the summer of 1989.

  20. Dave was a Great Professor, So glad that a search for his name found this site. Class of 1962, took a break to work at Los Alamos Scientific Labs and returned to Tech to get BS in Engr Physics & MS in Engineering Mechanics. Taught at GMI and Transferred to GM Proving Grounds. Homes on Lake Fenton, MI and Sebring, FL Winters last 15 years spending 6 months in each. When on to programming Microcomputers and running an Auto Electronics Business for Japanese Company with 3 year stay in Silicon Valley. Married, 2 Daughters and 3 grand children. The joy of my life today is a 2018 Tesla and continue keeping abreast of Technology.

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