NSCL Directory Profile

Ron Fox
Senior Computer Physicist
MS, Physics, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign 1981
Joined NSCL in September 1981
Phone(517) 908-7349
Fax(517) 353-5967
Photograph of Ron Fox

My research interests are applied rather than pure since my job is to provide the experimentalists with the tools they need to do good physics. Experiments are complex, and each experiment can be very different from all other experiments. My job is to generate pieces of software which serve the needs shared by all experiments. This software must be a flexible enough framework so that experiment-specific pieces can be fit in. My approach of "long-term laziness" has pushed me towards scriptable software. Scriptable software includes an embedded language that allows a tool to be programmed by (in my case) unsophisticated programmers. Microsoft uses Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) as a scripting language for the Web and for MS Office. We use a simpler language: Tcl/Tk (see http://www.scriptics.com) for scripting. For performance critical components, we use simple frameworks that have plug-in slots for application specific C++ software. A representative example of one of the programs I have developed is NSCL's SpecTcl data analysis package. This program is used by several other laboratories around the world, and it has been placed in the open source domain at http://www.sourceforge.net/projects/nsclspectcl.