The Office
One professor invites us in.

Rich Messner
Lisa Nugent/UNH Photographic Services

Rich Messner has a small museum crammed inside his Kingsbury Hall office. Actually, his collection only begins here. His eclectic mix of historical and whimsical objects spills over into his lab and has taken over the basement of his home. "People just give me stuff," says the associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, who is an enthusiastic tour guide. A hand-pumped 1800s blowtorch, mini-sculptures crafted from computer chips, a couple of 1920s vacuum tubes, a bank in the shape of Edison's head—every object has a story.

When neighbors and friends clean out their attics, they call Messner, who has a good eye for things worth saving. "I've found some salvageable computers in the trash, too," says Messner, who has done his share of dumpster diving. And when the old Kingsbury Hall building was being renovated, he went rummaging in the basement, where he rescued a brass telegraph key, a high-power circuit breaker, and an 1898 meter once used in the lab to measure large voltages and currents from motors and generators.

Some of his favorite things to show off are the work of his students, who get to design and fabricate their own circuits. "That's one of the reasons I came to UNH," says Messner, who has turned down offers from other schools. "Our labs are directly tied to courses—theory and practice go hand in hand here."

Visitors to Messner's office often stop and stare—and then start rotating, trying to take it all in. Messner admits that even he could be easily distracted. At his desk, four computer monitors are winking with information, and his shelves, packed full of cool stuff, are within arm's reach. Instead, he shifts his focus to his desktop Zen garden, filled with tiny circuit chips and crystals, picks up the tiny rake and traces a pattern in the sand. Then he gets back to work, a man at peace in his natural habitat.

Click the photo for a larger version of the printed feature.

Rick Messner's Office
Lisa Nugent/UNH Photographic Services

Click the photo for an interactive glimpse of Messner's office museum.

Rick Messner's Office

blog comments powered by Disqus