2017 Committee Chairs

Les Johnson: General Conference Chair

Les is a physicist, a science and science fiction author, and a NASA technologist.  His science fiction books include On to the Asteroid, Back to the Moon, Going Interstellar, and Rescue Mode (all for Baen) and popular science / non-fiction books such as Living Off the Land in Space, Solar Sails, Paradise Regained and Sky Alert: When Satellites Fail (Springer Books).  Les is the Technical Assistant for NASA’s Advanced Concepts Office at the George C. Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama where he serves as the Principal Investigator for the Near Earth Asteroid Scout solar sail mission that will launch in 2018.

While at NASA, Les managed the Interstellar Propulsion Research Project, the In-Space Propulsion Technology Program, and the Science Programs & Projects Office.  He was the co-investigator on the T-Rex space tether experiment that flew in August 2010, the Principal Investigator for the ProSEDS space experiment, thrice received NASA’s Exceptional Achievement Medal, and holds 3 space technology patents.

He was the technical consultant for the movies Lost in Space and Europa Report.  NPR, CNN, Fox News, The Science Channel and The Discovery Channel have all interviewed Les about space and space exploration.  He was the featured Interstellar Explorer in the January 2013 issue of National Geographic magazine.  He speaks regularly at science fiction conventions and has been a Science or Author Guest of Honor at MidSouthCon, LibertyCon, DeepSouthCon, Constellation, and others.  He is a frequent guest at DragonCon.

Les has numerous peer-reviewed journal publications and was published in Analog.  He is a member of the National Space Society, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, The British Interplanetary Society, The World Future Society, and MENSA.  He has a Master’s Degree in Physics from Vanderbilt University and a Bachelor’s Degree in Physics and Chemistry from Transylvania University.

You can learn more about Les by visiting his website: www.lesjohnsonauthor.com or by following him on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/LesJohnsonAuthor) or LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/lesjohnson1).

Robert E. Hampson, Ph.D.: Chair of Working Tracks
Dr. Hampson received his B.S. in Biology from the University of Texas at San Antonio in 1979, M.S. in Biology from Lehigh University in 1981, and Ph.D. in Physiology and Pharmacology from Wake Forest University in 1988.  His primary research interest is in how the brain processes information involved in memory, and how that information can be decoded by means of neurophysiological recording and brain-to-computer interfaces.

Research in Dr. Hampson’s laboratory is centered around a framework of understanding the essential substrates of neural information processing:  learning and memory, neuropharmacology, neurodegenerative disorders – using in vivo recording, EEG, and noninvasive imaging (PET, MEG and fMRI) – in the context of neural disruption by drugs, radiation, head injury, degenerative diseases and aging.  He is active in the development of “replacement parts for the brain” in the form of a neural prosthetic to restore memory function in humans.

Dr. Hampson is currently a Professor in the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology at Wake Forest School of Medicine, an Associate Editor for the Journal of Neuroscience Methods, and a regular reviewer for NIH and NASA.

Doug Loss: Chair of Registration
Doug is originally from central Pennsylvania; he has worked in the IT field, principally in network administration and security, for the past 30 years.  He organized and ran an international internet organization called SEUL/edu, which fostered and promoted the development and use of Open Source software in schools around the world.  He handed operation of that organization off when its focus became less IT and more education (this change in focus was intended and encouraged from the beginning), as he wasn’t an educator.

From 1977 until the early 2000s he attended and eventually organized The Asimov Seminar, a yearly, four-day-long retreat at a conference center in upstate New York.  Isaac Asimov, the noted science fiction author, was the star of the Seminar and its main draw until his death in 1992.  Each year the Seminar would explore a different topic, always with some (sometimes vague) connection to science fiction. The topics were always approached interactively, with the Seminar attendees assuming roles that would allow them to examine the questions associated with that year’s topic on a personal basis.

Doug currently lives in Maryville, TN with his wife Ruby.  He’s been heard to say, “I live in the foothills of the Smokies; some days it’s all I can do just to decide to go to work.”

Joseph E. Meany, Ph. D.: Chair of IT
Although originally from Keene, NH, Joe started with TVIW in 2014 while still a graduate student at The University of Alabama. Since joining at TVIW 3, he has been active on the organizing committee for both TVIW 4 and 5.

While at UA, his research focused on the development and manufacture of conductive carbon-based molecules in electrical circuits, a quickly developing field within nanotechnology. In addition to academic publications, he has written articles for Baen Books with particular focus for nanotechnological applications in space.

Joe also travels to conferences and conventions as The Crimson Alkemist to inform and excite people about the promises and potential behind the latest discoveries in chemistry and material science. As he currently calls Atlanta, GA home, his favorite convention to present at is DragonCon over Labor Day weekend each year.

Abigail Sherriff: Chair of Publications
Abigail Sherriff
Abigail is an aerospace engineer with a M.Sc. in Space Studies from the International Space University in 2015 and a B.S in Aerospace Engineering and minor in Computer Science from Mississippi State University in 2014. She has been focused on the endeavor of human spaceflight from a young age; which led her to several NASA internships at the Ames Research Center and the Johnson Space Center.

After graduating from undergrad, she went on to attend the one year masters course for Space Studies at the International Space University in Strasbourg, France. At ISU, she participated in team project Interstellar, which had the goal of outlining a nominal 100-year roadmap for launch of a slower-than-light, multi-generational worldship. This project introduced her to the intrigues of interstellar travel, and she went on to attend the 2016 TVIW. She has been active on the organizing committee for the 2017 TVIW and is Editor of the TVIW Newsletter: Have Starship, Will Travel.

These days, she works as a Junior Systems Engineer at the NASA Independent Validation and Verification program in West Virginia. She is on the team working to ensure the safety and functionality of the flight software for the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle.

Rhonda Stevenson: Chair of Publicity
Rhonda Stevenson is an experienced serial entrepreneur, with several successful businesses under her belt, including franchise, agriculture and youth leadership endeavors.  With a background in aviation and working experience as an environmental chemist, she brings copious amounts of knowledge and experience with regards to business operations, production efficiency, due diligence, quality control, executive management and leadership. Forging successful relationships that would typically not be possible, Ms. Stevenson excels at establishing symbiotic systems, and incorporating density and efficiency within those systems.

Robert Freeland: Chair of Sagan Tracks
Robert Freeland is a graduate of the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics (NCSSM), where his instructors sparked a lifelong fascination with astrophysics and relativity. He completed his Bachelor’s degree in Physics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH) as both a James M. Johnson and National Merit Scholar.

Robert promptly entered the field of computers, with stints at IBM, Alex Brown & Sons, and Express Scripts. In 1995, he co-founded Interactive Financial Services, which produced the first website to sell insurance online (InsureMarket). He and his partners sold that company to Intuit to become Quicken Insurance, where Freeland served as CTO and Vice President of Strategic Planning for several years. In 2005 — after leaving Intuit — Robert co-founded Podtrac, the first and still leading company offering measurement and advertising in podcasts and other serialized online content.

Freeland joined Project Icarus in March 2010 shortly after its inception, serving on the Icarus Interstellar Board of Directors for several years while developing detailed models for the historical Daedalus vessel, his Firefly fusion vessel, and the Zeus PJMIF vessel designed by the Drexel team. He has published five papers spanning fusion fuels, an Alpha Centauri exploration plan, mag-sail mathematics, a complete Firefly (Z-pinch) vessel design, and high-capacity interstellar communications.

Robert currently resides in Tampa, where he serves as Podtrac’s CTO, Deputy Project Leader for Project Icarus, Chair of the TVIW Sagan Meetings, Board member on a handful of other ventures, owner of an ocean-racing sailboat, captain of a local A-level beach volleyball team, and coach of his boys’ soccer team.