Baran leads scientific yet creative lifestyle

Colonel, scientist, artist and inventor are among titles that Mike Baran holds.

“Curiosity as to how and why things worked” led him to study engineering, a decision made as a fifth-grader. He had tuned a car and changed brakes before he got his driver’s license.

Baran earned a bachelor’s degree in physics at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y. He completed graduate work at the Air Force Institute of Technology for a master’s degree in nuclear engineering and doctorate degree in aerospace engineering.

Baran retired as colonel from the U.S. Air Force after a award-laden 24-year career. He worked at Mission Research Corporation in Santa Barbara, Calif. In 1989, the Barans moved to Huntsville with Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), where he continues to work as a senior scientist and engineer.

He now works to minimize problems with rapid changes in electronics technologies while sustaining existing defense systems. “The box I’m working on links the ‘digital outside world’ with systems on Army helicopters,” Baran said.

He values friendship with Air Force Lt. Col. Leroy Schroeder at Edward Air Force Base, his counterpart when he was director of test at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. They solved an ‘impossible’ flight test program despite “less than amicable relationships between the cultures at Edwards and Wright-Patterson.”

Woodworking is Baran’s primary hobby, which helps his wife Carol’s folk art painting, true to Western Europe and Russia. The art form fascinates him, “particularly the interplay of technology, techniques, economics, politics and religion … on furniture and ordinary household objects.”

His specialty is the “Tantalus, a device to display a bottle of favorite distilled beverage (yet) secure from those who might choose to imbibe without the owner’s permission.”

The Barans’ library holds more than 2,500 art books from dozens of countries.

He is a member of the Northeast Alabama Craftsmen’s Association (NEACA), Huntsville Association of Technical Societies (HATS) and chairman of HATS Science, Technology, Education and Training Program (STEDTRAIN). The Barans attend Asbury United Methodist Church.

Baran grew up in Weekawken and North Bergen, N.J. “Some would argue that I have yet to grow up,” he said.

Carol Baran teaches art and designs jewelry (jewelryforyouonline.com). The Barans celebrated their fiftieth anniversary with friends on a tour of Spain and Paris.

The Barans’ children are Michael Baran and wife Faye of Huntsville and grandchildren Laura and Zeke; Paul Baran and wife Leesa of Rapid City, S.D. and granddaughters Rachel and Stephanie; Daniel Baran and wife Maryanne of Corona, Calif. and granddaughters Katherine, Madolyn and Jackie; and Matthew Baran and wife Michele of Hazel Green and grandchildren Christopher and Hannah.

Mike Baran believes the Madison area’s challenge is dealing with continued growth while sustaining the qualify of life. “I see a form of metro government evolving to include Madison, Huntsville, Athens and Decatur,” he said.

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