Getting to know Terry O'Connor

This story was originally posted on 11/22/2010.Terry O’Connor is an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering technology at the College of Technology at New Albany. He is a graduate of Northern Arizona University where he received a bachelor’s degree in engineering technology. He received his master’s degree in engineering technology from West Texas State University.

His professional interests include cell phone forensics and ultra low frequency/very low frequency wave propagation research. He has served as an expert witness in court on cell phone forensics, which he handles through his company, O’Connor Cell Phone Forensics. This summer, his son, Pat, who is a mechanical engineering major at Purdue, helped Terry with his company’s research.

What I teach: I am in my 19th year at Purdue’s College of Technology at New Albany. It’s been interesting to me because now I’m “senior” everything here. I’ve taught all but one of the courses required for the associate degree in electrical engineering technology. I’ve also taught five of the 300-level courses. I like the Basic Digital and Microcontroller courses. It’s all logic. I’m not creative at all, and I tell my students that all of the time. My favorite part of electronics is communications. This spring, I’m going to teach Applied Electromagnetics; I suspect it will be my favorite.

About cell phone forensics: There are two areas: downloading data from cell phones and analyzing provider’s records. I analyze provider records. For example, if a person becomes a suspect in a crime, the prosecutor will subpoena phone records. The records show what tower and antenna the call came in on. Some show where the call originated and terminated. You can tell the approximate location, and you may be able to determine the approximate speed of travel between one place and another.

On being a court expert: I’ve worked one civil case and maybe seven criminal cases; all but one has been murder. It’s been life-changing, in some ways, to be directly involved in murder cases. I never anticipated that. I was asked by a local prosecutor if I would be available to other prosecutors in the states as an expert witness. I had to think about it for a couple of days because the first trial was so traumatic for me. It was abhorrent. Especially being a father, it made me sick for days after the case. The murder stuff was shocking. I prepare very thoroughly for my testimony. If I make a mistake in the classroom, I can tell the class the next day. In court, it is a matter of life and death. Someone may go to prison for life or get the death penalty, so I can’t be wrong on anything.

On working with his son: I was so busy this summer, that I hired my son, Pat, to help out. Having him work with me was one of the most satisfying things in my life. He learns very fast. He can do my own work faster than I can do it. There’s a very deep satisfaction to that.

What I make time to do: My wife, Becky, and I have a camper trailer, and we save up money all year so we can travel during the summer, especially back to the Rocky Mountains. During the school year, I bicycle with my wife. I’m also a hunter, and I’m very much looking forward to the opening of deer season.