Alumni Profile

Ron Turner

By: Don Mock

January 2016


Dr. Ron Turner (BS ’77, MS ’78) is definitely a product of the space age. His father was a NASA technician during the Apollo program. Growing up near Cocoa Beach, Ron witnessed most of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo launches either from his backyard or at the Cape. He always knew he wanted a career in physics, so the University of Florida, with its large campus and varied degree programs, was the perfect choice of college. Now, almost 40 years later, he is Senior Science Advisor to the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts Program and an internationally recognized expert on radiation risk management and the hazards that affect physical and biological systems out in space.


As an undergraduate at UF, Ron was active in the Society of Physics Students and became president of the campus-wide tutoring program. While attending movie night at the Beaty Towers honors dorm, he introduced himself to Julia, a chemistry major who would become his wife. Together they would eventually pursue their doctorates at Ohio State University, but Julia was set to graduate from UF one year later than Ron. Ron put his extra year in Gainesville to good use by earning a master’s degree advised by Dr. Henri Van Rinsvelt, using the Physics Department’s 4MeV Van de Graaff accelerator to adapt an external beam for proton-induced x-ray emission analysis.


After receiving his doctorate from Ohio State for a combination of experimental and theoretical physics, Ron was contemplating a career in academia when he received an attractive job offer from ANSER, a DC-area think tank that supported the Air Force’s space programs. He has been with ANSER ever since, and in 2011 was made a Fellow. Energetic particles emanating from deep space or streaming out from the sun, especially during coronal mass ejections, are a major threat to everything from manned spaceflight to ground-based power grids. Ron has provided key technical and scientific guidance to the agencies that must deal with these threats – including NASA and the Department of Homeland Security. The International Space Station and Mars Odyssey are just two projects that have benefited from his expertise. In 2015, he was awarded an Exceptional Public Service Medal by NASA for “sustained, exceptional service, and meritorious leadership contributing to the success of the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts program.”


Ron credits the UF Physics Department with preparing him well for his doctorate and enabling him to pursue a career that fulfilled his dreams while watching Apollo launches during his youth. His and Julia’s fond memories for Florida seem to have rubbed off on the rest of the family, as their son decided to attend UF for a degree in business (even with out-of-state tuition!). And to this day, for endeavors both on and off the field, Ron roots for the Gators.