In Memoriam: Richard Michta

Richard Michta, an engineer at Brookhaven Lab’s National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS-II), died on Jan. 13, 2021. He was 67.

Michta joined the lab in 1997, working as an advanced computational analyst at the NSLS-II’s predecessor, the National Synchrotron Light Source. At NSLS-II, he was a member of the detector group, which develops new advanced detectors and provides advice and assistance to beamline scientists on detector issues.

Among the projects Michta is remembered for is an electrometer design that’s dispersed throughout Brookhaven Lab.

“He developed a nice little device that measures very tiny currents very precisely and communicates with a computer to tell you what the current is,” said detector group leader Peter Siddons. “It performed much better than commercial devices, and cost significantly less. There are almost 100 of them installed at NSLS-II, so that was a major project that he did. It worked beautifully, and it still does to this day, after many years.”

Michta also worked on the readout system for a novel multi-element solid-state detector to be used at the diffraction beam, XPD, at NSLS-II—another challenging electronics project he put together, Siddons said.

In all his work, Michta strove for perfection, always looking for ways to improve software or hardware, colleagues said.

“He was always excited about something that was new and that he might be able to impact somehow, always going at 100 miles an hour,” said NSLS-II electrical designer Marc Pfeffer. “He was super bubbly all the time and always inquiring if his latest idea could be done.”

He had a diverse science background— at one time he sought a Ph.D. in biology—and had the ability to understand concepts outside of his own field, Pfeffer said.

Michta was always excited about his children’s accomplishments, Pfeffer recalled. The Lab’s newsroom covered when Michta’s daughter Maria, once a Brookhaven summer intern, was an Intel Science Talent Search finalist and competed in the 2012 Olympics in the 20-kilometer race walk.

“As a family, we share a real interest in astronomy,” Michta said in a 2004 article in the The Bulletin, the Lab’s print newspaper. “We all, including my wife, Susan, and Maria’s brother Ricky and sisters Kristie and Katie, enjoy using telescopes to observe the planets and watch annual meteor showers.”

Tags: personnel

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