Recently, Professor Melvin Daybell has begun a phased retirement, which will end in 1999,
after 31 years of service in the USC Department of Physics and Astronomy. Until his
retirement is official, he plans to fulfill his obligations to three NASA grants at the Space
Born in May of 1935, Professor Daybell spent most of his formative years in California. Just
before high school, his family moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where his father began
supervising the construction of several laboratories at Los Alamos National Laboratory. After
high school, he studied Physics at New Mexico State University. In 1956, following the
receipt of an NSF Graduate Fellowship, he left New Mexico for Pasadena, California, to
earn his Ph.D. in Physics at the California Institute of Technology.
Following his graduation from Caltech, he went back to NMSU in 1961 to work for Otto
Theimer who was setting up a low temperature lab to investigate the temperature dependence
of light scattering from impurity decorated dislocations in alkali halide crystals. About this
same time, Professor Daybell spent two years at Los Alamos working in their low
temperature group. At Los Alamos, he worked on the project to build the first dilution
refrigerator which was used to discover many of the experimental properties of the newly
predicted Kondo effect expected for localized magnetic moments in very dilute magnetic
alloys such as iron impurities in copper.
In 1968, Professor Daybell began work in the USC Department of Physics and Astronomy,
along with Professor Young B. Kim. Together, they built a highly successful low temperature
group with a dilution refrigerator capable of reaching 30 millidegrees Kelvin on a regular
basis. Continuing their work on diluted magnetic alloys over the years, Professors Daybell
and Kim began to recruit faculty into the group that has evolved into the one we have today.
In 1992, Professor Daybell began working with the Space Sciences Center on the
development of a novel spectrometer for the extreme ultraviolet region of the solar spectrum.
Ultimately, he became one of two principal investigators for this project in which he has
designed, built, and, repeatedly, flown the spectrometer on sounding rockets launched from
New Mexico's White Sands Missile Range.
Over the span of his career here at USC, he has had the opportunity to work with
outstanding former students, such as Ty Buxman, our present Director of Undergraduate
Affairs; Michael Banks, the USC 1995 Valedictorian; and Alex Small, the USC 1998
Co-Salutatorian. Ty Buxman remembers, "Working with Professor Daybell was a great
learning experience. He entrusts his students with a lot of responsibility and allows them to
learn to work independently and confidently."
As a teacher, Professor Daybell was dearly loved by his students. His teaching experiences
have allowed him the opportunity to work with, both, undergraduate and graduate students.
Over the last ten years, he has, also, led the department in the development of the Senior Lab
as a counterbalance to the mostly theoretical curriculum of our undergraduate program.
Professor Daybell and his wife, Dorothy, plan to spend their retirement in their newly
purchased house near Shaver Lake, California. Professor Daybell plans to take this
opportunity to pursue some long neglected hobbies, such as sailing, skiing, amateur radio
(KM6M), model railroading, square dancing, and maybe even some new ideas for Senior
Department of Physics & Astronomy / USC Physics & Astronomy Newsletters /