Doon Gibbs, BS’63

Doon Gibbs is currently the Director of Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, New York. Brookhaven is a multi-program U.S. Department of Energy laboratory with nearly 3,000 employees, more than 4,000 facility users each year, and an annual budget of about $600 million.

Brookhaven Lab’s largest facilities include the National Synchrotron Light Source II, the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider, and the Center for Functional Nanomaterials – some of the finest research instruments in the world.

Doon was born in Illinois, where his father was a post doc, but grew up in Salt Lake City near the University of Utah. His father, Peter Gibbs, was a prominent physics professor at the U, and his mother, Miriam, was a school teacher at Wasatch Elementary in the Avenues district. The family home was just off First Avenue and Virginia Street, only a few blocks from campus.

Doon and his younger siblings, Victoria and Nicholas, attended East High School. Upon graduation, Doon moved to Portland to attend Reed College, a private liberal arts school. After two years, he returned to Utah and enrolled at the U. He worked on campus as a writer and reporter with The Daily Utah Chronicle, the University’s student newspaper.

“I tried just about everything else except physics in school,” says Gibbs. “But, there was one physics course that sounded intriguing. It was Gale Dick’s entry-level class, ‘Physics for Poets.’ I signed up for summer semester 1974. Despite my best efforts to not do exactly what my dad did, I found that physics was totally compelling.”

Additional physics and math classes soon followed. He changed his major to Mathematics in 1975, added a Physics major in 1976 and graduated with both degrees in 1977. He was a member of the Phi Beta Kappa and Phi Kappa Phi honor societies.

Although his father was a well known professor of physics at the U, and chairman of the department from 1967-1976, Doon didn’t take a single class from his dad.

“Well, I got physics lessons from my dad every day, but it was usually at home on the front porch or in the kitchen,” says Gibbs. “I didn’t get any college credit.” He chuckles.

Doon pursued a Master’s degree in physics at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, ironically, the same school at which his father had been a post doc. He stayed at Illinois to complete a doctorate degree in condensed matter physics in 1982 – the same field as his dad, although Doon is an experimenter and his father is a theorist. During this time, his research interests focused on the utilization of synchrotron radiation to perform spectroscopy of surfaces.

After graduate school, Doon found an entry-level job as an assistant physicist. The place was Brookhaven National Laboratory. The year was 1983.

At Brookhaven, he specialized in condensed matter physics and X-ray magnetic scattering and was promoted to a senior physicist in 2000.

In 2003, Gibbs was honored with the Advanced Photon Source Arthur H. Compton Award “for pioneering theoretical and experimental work in resonant X-ray magnetic scattering, which has led to many important applications in condensed matter physics.”

He was named Deputy Laboratory Director for Science and Technology in 2007.

By 2010, Gibbs’ management experiences at Brookhaven included the positions of Group Leader of X-ray Scattering, Associate and Deputy Chair of Physics, Head of Condensed Matter Physics, Interim Director of the Center for Functional Nanomaterials, and Associate Laboratory Director for Basic Energy Sciences.

“A science background is a great preparation for an increasingly complex world. The ability to analyze and creatively solve complicated problems is a wonderful advantage,” says Gibbs.

Gibbs was instrumental in overseeing the design and construction of Brookhaven’s Center for Functional Nanomaterials, and has played a significant role in advancing other major Lab projects including the National Synchrotron Light Source II and the Interdisciplinary Science Building. He has also overseen the growth of Brookhaven’s basic energy sciences programs in chemistry, materials science, nanoscience, and condensed matter physics.

“Brookhaven is moving in new and exciting directions,” says Gibbs. “In the next decade, we hope to expand our nuclear and particle physics efforts to build a next-generation electron-ion collider, among other projects. In general, national labs develop and use science and technology to address critical issues such as energy security, national and nuclear security and environmental clean-up.”

Doon met his wife, Teri Barbero, on a blind date in New York City. “We went to a cool Indian restaurant in midtown,” recalls Gibbs. “We were inseparable after that, and were married about a year later.”

The couple lives in Setauket, New York. They have two sons, Theo, 20, and Alex, 18. The family enjoys skiing, soccer, and backyard barbecues.

Doon visits Utah on occasion to visit friends and family. His father is always ready with a physics lesson for the youngster.

McKay Hyde, BS’97

McKay Hyde (Honors B.A. Mathematics, B.A. Physics ’97) always enjoyed math and science, but it was taking a series of physics classes at the U, between his junior and senior year in high school, that changed his life. “I always enjoyed mathematics,” he said. “But physics showed me how mathematics could be used to solve real-world problems. That was tremendously exciting to me and still is.”

The Hyde Family

Today Hyde is managing director in Equities Engineering for the New York office of Goldman Sachs and is responsible for building systems to manage securities inventory and collateral, working closely with teams across Engineering, as well as the Finance, Operations and Securities divisions. “I like being part of a cross-functional team, building relationships and working together to find solutions that impact the organization and the clients we serve,” he said. “The combination of using mathematics and computer science applied to practical problems is very rewarding.”

He joined Goldman Sachs in 2006 and was named managing director in 2010. At Goldman Sachs, Hyde has had a range of responsibilities. He was head of the global Market Risk Technology team within Finance and Risk Engineering. Before that, Hyde led the Trading Strats team for Interest Rate Products in New York as well as the Core Quant Strats team, which developed models, algorithmic trading methods, and pricing infrastructure used by a number of trading desks. (“Strat” is a term that originated with Goldman Sachs to describe individuals that use tools from mathematics and computer science to build financial models In his Core Quant Strat role, Hyde led the build out of the Strat teams in Bengaluru (formerly Bangalore), India, known as “The Silicon Valley of India.”

McKay Hyde, BS'97

Roots in Utah and at the U

Hyde grew up in Salt Lake City and North Salt Lake, graduating from Woods Cross High School. He met his wife, Marie, in an “outstanding” honors class taught by Professor Emeritus Jack Newell (“Education and Identity”), who served as dean and principal architect of the U’s Liberal Education Program. In his first two years at the U Hyde was also active in the U’s music program, playing the trumpet in several university bands—Concert, Marching, Pep, and Jazz.

Hyde gives credit to the education he received at the U with helping prepare him for a career in the financial sector. “I received a tremendous education in physics and mathematics, including research experience working in the Cosmic Ray group and in probability theory. The U provides great value as an institution—a quality education at a reasonable cost,” he said.

He also has great memories of three professors who made a difference for him during his undergraduate years: Davar Khoshnevisan (professor and current chair of the Math Department), Hyde’s undergraduate research advisor in mathematics; Martha Bradley, former dean of the Honors College, and the late Professor Gale Dick, whose “physics lectures were a work of art,” said Hyde.

Using Agile Principles in Undergraduate Research

Hyde believes students should be encouraged to participate in research opportunities early in their undergraduate years, and he applauds the decision of the College of Science to focus on a new program called the Undergraduate Research Initiative. “Research is very different from coursework—it’s really a separate skill,” said Hyde. “Engaging and encouraging undergrads to work together in research opportunities provides a far richer educational experience that really pays off in preparing students for demanding careers.”

To that end, Hyde thinks the same concepts and principles that teams use in Agile software development can effectively be applied to something like the Undergraduate Research Initiative program. “Creating an Agile environment—whether in software development or research—is essentially the same,” said Hyde.

“It involves developing and supporting a culture that encourages a team of people to work toward a common goal. To that end, a large project or research problem can be broken down into smaller tasks. A scrum master or team leader evaluates the special skills and talents of each individual on the team, assigns them to specific tasks, and the team comes together frequently—typically during a daily stand up —over focused sprints—typically 2-3 weeks long—to complete those tasks yielding demonstrable progress at the end of each sprint. By repeating this process, the team improves while building confidence and trust through repeated accomplishment of its goals.”

Previous Academic Career

After earning degrees at the U in 1997 Hyde completed a Ph.D. in Applied and Computational Mathematics from the California Institute of Technology in 2003. Hyde worked as a postdoc in the School of Mathematics at the University of Minnesota and later joined Rice University as an assistant professor of computational and applied mathematics.

When Hyde first left academia to work at Goldman Sachs, he wondered if he would need to dress and act like a “stereotypical banker.” But he discovered it was a much easier transition. “I found smart people from technical fields applying their skills in the area of finance,” he said. “It made me realize the importance of being open to new opportunities—taking the skills and talents you have and using them in different fields or industries to build relationships with others and do meaningful work. That’s really what it’s all about.”

Hyde and his wife, Marie, enjoy living in New Jersey and are the parents of four children: a son studying music at Berklee College of Music; a daughter at Brigham Young University (currently serving a church mission in Peru); and a son and daughter in high school.

 - First Published in Discover Magazine, Fall 2019