DOM: Mike Capraro

Welcome to Stardust@home’s Duster of the Month! Each month we will highlight one of the many Stardust@home volunteers (or “Dusters”) in our blog. The questions asked are designed to enlighten us about the very important human aspects and motivations of the project’s most valuable asset. Each month there will also be a new question from a random member of the science team. If you would like to be a featured Duster of the Month, please send an email to

This Month’s Featured Duster is

Mike Capraro

Please tell us a little bit about yourself (but please also note questions to come):

I’m a retired chemical engineer, having worked over 36 years at BASF Corporation where I managed an R&D group involved with new product and process development, small scale specialty production, experimental safety, and plant support. I was also on our chemical emergency response team. I’m a competitive runner, at least between hamstring injuries. I’ve had more success on the trails than on the roads of late, but did win my Division at the Chicago Urbanathlon (running and obstacle courses) the last two years (did not compete this year). I tutor at Asher School in Southgate, MI, usually geometry or algebra, but also financial management or in the GED program. I’m active in church, serving as executive secretary for our Justice & Peace Committee, as an RCIA (Right of Christian Initiation for Adults) team member, catechist for fifth grade religious formation, unloading food trucks for the pantry, and singing bass in the choir. Recently I was elected as president of our St. Vincent de Paul Conference. Myrna & I have been married 494 months (we’ve always tried to celebrate monthly, waiting a year seems too long). We have three children. Only the youngest is currently married, but we are getting ready to fly to Jakarta, Indonesia, where I’ll be singing at our son’s wedding. His bride is a Chinese-Indonesian Christian living in a 90% Muslim country, so I’m learning a little about the culture and language (I speak a bit of German, but very little Indonesian). Oh yes, I’m also learning piano and drum (sort of).

What part of the world do you currently live?
Riverview, Michigan – about 20 miles or less downriver from Detroit.

Have you always had an interest in science?
I’d say so. The earliest I can recall from my youth, I had a yen to become an archaeologist or an astronomer (or maybe a forest ranger). Although back then I might have been confusing archeology with paleontology.

Why do you dust?
I was intrigued when I first read about the project before it launched, both by the general concept of “citizen science,” and by the opportunity to perhaps make a real contribution toward new scientific discovery. I missed the beginning of Phase I, but joined while it was underway and quickly became “hooked.” Before running the 2009 Big Sur International Marathon, I had the opportunity with my wife to visit the project team and labs at the University of Berkeley. Andrew (Westphal, project PI) was a terrific and gracious host. We had a great time and I was hooked all the more.

How do you connect to the internet (e.g., DSL, Cable, modem, Satellite)?

Are you involved in any other “citizen science” projects?
Not at present. Dabbled in one, “Foldit,” between Stardust Phases for a bit, but too many other balls in the air right now.

What is your overall life philosophy, or are there words you like to live by?
Wow, that’s deep, and I don’t have the time or personal insight to do the question justice. Certainly I’ve always been driven to be true to any commitments I make. We also have always lived well within our means. For many years, I did have a sense that all our life experiences, good or bad, exciting or tedious, were preparing/enabling us to be of future service. Now I’m old enough to see that premonition actually falling into place. Neat stuff. I might take a philosophy course some time.

What have you seen, heard, or done that has most amazed you?
Running through the Garden of the Gods in Colorado was memorable. Singing at Carnegie Hall (no, not as a headliner; in a choir) was amazing. God’s creation is just full of wonder, not least of which His people, including my fellow dusters, who impress, inspire and awe with their gifts and talents.

What about you surprises people the most?
Myrna says it’s when people find out how old I am. In the past I would have agreed, but I think I’m showing my age (64) more now. Some of my former work colleagues are surprised when they ask me what I’m doing to keep busy in retirement, and I tell them. Some are surprised that I actually own a car. For over 30 years I always ran and bicycled to work, regardless of the weather (plenty of good stories from that!). So, they never saw me drive. Last month, a friend apparently misconstrued our frugality for poverty, and offered me some money. I’m pretty sure we’re quite a bit wealthier than his household, which would undoubtedly surprise him. Perhaps it’s time to donate some of my 40-year-old clothes.

If you could get there safely and immediately, where in the Universe would you want to go right now and why? (the Stardust@home team question of the month)
Oh, not that far – touring the moons of Jupiter and Saturn would be phenomenal! Such variable morphological and environmental conditions and the attendant possibilities for discovery – why go any farther?