A Hertz Fellow for 41 years, Dan Goodman has now spent more than half that time giving back to the Hertz Foundation.
Goodman has been a valuable volunteer for the fellowship selection process since 2002. Steadily increasing his engagement over the years, he has participated in every Summer Workshop since its inception in 2009 and served as a member of the Board of Directors and on the Fellowships and Programs Council since 2013. He was an integral member of the Diversity Task Force of the recently unveiled Strategic Plan, helping shape the foundation’s strategy to attract a broader range of prospective applicants and partners. His book Find Your Path: Unconventional Lessons from 36 Leading Scientists and Engineers (The MIT Press, 2019) features the career advice of 18 Hertz Fellows, gleaned from Goodman’s personal interviews with them. He is a consistent donor and gives his book’s proceeds to the Foundation.
Goodman’s motivation is simple. “It’s about the people,” he said. “It always makes me smile to spend time with Hertz Fellows, whether they’re candidates, students, alumni fellows, or members of the board. It’s just fun.”
It also feeds his need to make a tangible impact, a motivation he discovered almost by accident as a Hertz Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Expecting to be a government-sponsored researcher at a university or national lab, Goodman was a fourth-year graduate student working with a large research group on a magnetic fusion experiment when the government pulled its funding, prompting him to apply his training to the more financially stable commercial sector. While not the career he had planned on, it was a good fit.
“It turns out that I wanted to make a difference in the world that you could actually see, that you could point to,” said Goodman, who is senior director for advanced technology development at ASMPT NEXX Inc., a global supplier of hardware and software for the manufacture of semiconductors and electronics, where he has worked for the past 19 years.
“I think that’s a characteristic of a lot of Hertz Fellows, they want to make a difference. It’s one of the reasons I joined the Hertz Foundation Board. In my role as a Board member, I want the organization to be better off when I leave it than when I started.”
One of his goals as a Board member is to help expand the reach of the Hertz Fellowships by creating partnerships with organizations for underrepresented scientists, such as the National Society of Black Physicists. “A lot of it is about personal relationships,” he said. “It’s through personal relationships that we can make progress in getting organizations aligned with the Hertz Foundation.”
Establishing personal relationships is a hallmark of Goodman’s work with the Hertz Foundation. As an interviewer, he has met with well over 100 candidates in the past two decades. If he deems someone a good fit, he will advocate for them. “Over the years I’ve championed a number of candidates who were awarded fellowships. I’ve continued to be in touch with those fellows and feel a special connection with them,” he said.
Goodman serves as a mentor to many of those fellows, helping young scientists navigate their careers. “We talk about choices, how saying no to one thing means saying yes to something else,” a concept at the core of Find Your Path, he said.
“I think that’s a characteristic of a lot of Hertz Fellows, they want to make a difference. It’s one of the reasons I joined the Hertz Foundation Board.”
Senior Director of Advanced Technology, ASMPT-NEXX Inc.
He continues to build relationships, too, through the Summer Workshop, where in 2022 he led the Engineering Challenge, a much-enjoyed activity at the event.
“The number one reason for the Engineering Challenge is to have fun,” Goodman said. “Two memorable challenges both involved flight. I remember the glider challenge where Nobel Prize–winner John Mather stood on a table to launch his team’s design. And also the year when flying drones engaged in aerial combat.”
A second reason, he said, “is to get to know other Hertz Fellows in situations that show them absolutely at their best.”
The third and perhaps most important reason is that it is an opportunity to build relationships. “It’s about creating the collaborations that are going to lead to amazing stuff,” he said.
As an example, Goodman referenced clean energy start-up Modern Hydrogen, which was co-founded by 2012 Hertz Fellow Max Mankin and 2010 Hertz Fellow Tony Pan. The company was launched in 2015 at Intellectual Ventures, the innovation hub created by 1979 Hertz Fellow Nathan Myhrvold, who was honored by an anonymous donor in 2022 with a Hertz Fellowship in his name.
“Their company is going to lead a key energy revolution. Did it come out of the engineering challenge? Probably not. Did it come out of the collaborations formed? I think so,” he said.
Engaging with and contributing to the Hertz Foundation will be a part of Goodman’s life “as long as I still have compos mentis,” he said. “Much of my life is mundane. The stuff I do with Hertz doesn’t feel that way. It doesn’t feel ordinary. It feels special. My goal is to increase the fraction of my life where I’m doing things that have more ‘special’ in them.”