Mike Runkel

Profile Updated: May 17, 2010
Residing In: Livermore, CA
Spouse/Partner: Terry L. (Stratton) Runkel
Occupation: Laser/Optical Engineer
Children: Annaliese, born 1993
Yes! Attending Reunion
School Story:

Well, of course the tear gas bomb our senior year was the big one. Road trips with cross country and track and FFA. Athletes vs. MS run across the state (hotter than he** in Moses Lake). Got to sit on the edge of the wrestling mat at the Mead vs. Rogers match as annual staff photog. It was so loud that my ears literally buzzed. We won! Jeff Hebberstad jumping off the gym balcony onto high jump pits. A foreshadowing of his career as stuntman. Running sandhills for track and cross country.

What did you want to be as you were growing up? How close did you come?

Always wanted to be a scientist. Once I took Mr. Player's Physics class that was it. Never looked back.

So how did you get where you are today? Whats your story? Everyone has a story

After HS graduation I went to Wazzu. Majored in Physics, minor in Math and German. Took my junior year in Bonn, Germany (I was on the 5 year plan). Interesting time to be in Europe. Took a trip to East Germany and Berlin and saw the massive demonstrations against America and the SS20 missle. Drank a lot of beer too.

After graduation from WSU, couldn't get hired with a BS Phys, even in the midst of Reagan's defense build up (picked the wrong major for that), so stayed around WSU working in the Physics Department. Met my future wife (Terry Stratton, Puyallup, class of '78) there. Got married in the summer of '84. Took our honeymoon on bicycles through Germany, Austria, Holland and England. Stayed in an asylum (that doubled as a youth hostel) in Holland.

Started graduate school in Physics at Montana State University. Did research on Raman scattering in Hydrogen with excimer lasers. Certainly no practical application for that, but it gave me lots of hands on laser experience and taught me to teach myself at a high level. Took a job with Montana Laser Optics in Bozeman, MT for 4.5 years doing optical testing and laser building. In '93 the economy tanked and I was laid off for 6 months. Just at this time we adopted our daughter, so I got to be a stay-at-home dad while looking for work. I had a contact at Lawrence Livermore National Lab and they were starting to build this thing called the National Ignition Facility. It was to be the world's largest laser system and was to cost $2 billion and take 4 years to complete. Well, here it is 15 years later and it was completed last year. The purpose of this thing is to study fusion reactions that power the sun and also our nuclear weapons stockpile. I've had two positions while at the Lab: damage testing giant crystals with lasers and my current position of group leader for NIF optical metrology. Pretty esoteric stuff, but I was always a slightly introverted geeky guy. I'm loving my job and can't believe that 15 years has gone by in the blink of an eye.

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Posted: Dec 17, 2013 at 12:54 AM
Washington DC, Sept 2009. Taken by my wife Terry on her 50th Birthday
Posted: Dec 17, 2013 at 12:54 AM
Hawaii, April,2010 with my wife Terry (Puyallup HS, '78). This was on a family trip to celebrate my sister Wendy's (class of 78) 50th birthday.
Posted: Dec 17, 2013 at 12:54 AM