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I Thermally Resolve to… (Part 2)

Another one of my resolutions was “to learn more from my professional colleagues.” I’ve been fortunate in the 28 years I’ve been using thermal imaging to have worked with, and learned from, some of the most remarkable and brilliant people. The foundation on which I’ve built my career is solid because of these relationships I’ve fostered and the knowledge that others have passed along to me in the process.

Learning seems so easy nowadays! When I search the web for “infrared thermography” I find nearly 200,000 results! While my “web” of professional contacts is extensive, I doubt it’s close to that number. The challenge with learning, however, is filtering information, regardless of the source. Invariably, not all of what you find has the same value and some of it may, in fact, be inaccurate. One of the benefits of learning directly from people is that you can question or even challenge their findings, a process which, when done professionally, improves the results for all of us.

The “Pyroscan” system, the first documented thermal imager, was developed in 1942. Making an image required ten minutes and no movement!

Inflammation of an arthritic knee is shown in this 1962 thermal image taken by the noted thermologist, Professor Francis Ring.

Images courtesy Prof. Francis Ring

As I mentioned in a recent blog post (Happy Birthday Sir William Herschel!), my friend, Professor Francis Ring, is one such professional that I have learned a lot from. He is someone that I rely on when I have a question about medical imaging, or as it is often called, thermology.  He has personally used one of the earliest thermal imagers in existence (1942) and was the first person to capture and interpret a thermal image showing an arthritic knee (1962). What Francis has learned in his own work is vast enough, but add that to all he has learned in his roles at universities, in professional societies, at conferences, as a researcher/prolific author, and I suspect that a search of his “web” would yield 200,000 results or more!

We’ve also been very fortunate to assemble a team of experts in our own company, and I use them as resources whenever I can. I count on Roy Huff and Dave Sirmans whenever I have a question regarding anything electrical. When questions related to mechanical systems arise, I turn to a couple of our senior instructors, Van Van De Ven and Don Thurmond. For buildings, I reach out to Rob Spring, and for anything related to imagers and most other infrared related topics, Greg McIntosh always seems to shed light on my questions. Each of my colleagues often contribute their expertise to our online community of infrared professionals, IR Talk, another great resource I’d encourage all readers to bookmark and visit regularly. While together we may not always find the answer, we always head in the right direction and steer clear of making serious mistakes—because isn’t that what learning is all about!?

I have, of course, also learned so much from our students both in the classroom and afterward when they are practicing. I’ve come to rely on a number of them as members of my own personal “web” of experts. Add to that a reference library assembled over the years with many of the articles or papers authored by people I know or feel comfortable calling. More often than not, I feel that I am a conduit rather than an expert, but in the end, either role allows others to learn from my experience.

I’d invite you to begin assembling your own personal “web” so that you too can accelerate your learning. If you are already well underway in this career-long process, refine and improve your web. Sort out the junk and reach out to the real experts. And by all means, make a contribution of your own so that others (myself included) can learn from your work. That is the only way we can all make forward progress–it makes learning much more enjoyable and powerful. Besides, 2011 is a great year to learn more from each other!

Thinking Thermally,

John Snell—The Snell Group, a Fluke Thermal Imaging Blog content partner

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