But Starmer, who joined MUSC seven years ago from Duke University, is making the point that he's succeeded without being a computer whiz of Bill Gatesian proportions, master politician, sports figure, movie star or hip-hop artist.
Thanks in part to the Internet -- which he
sees as a great equalizer -- Starmer
is a known quantity in circles as disparate as India and Pennsylvania.
The Discovery Channel a few years back stumbled onto his
Internet site's digital photo catalog and entertaining descriptions of a banana spider's 12-foot web in the back yard of his
Ashley Avenue home, which is within walking distance of Cannon Place.
The cable network featured his
findings about the unusual spider, which spins silk that is the strongest substance in nature.
Then one August day in 2003, Starmer
took a few pictures of the bridge construction from the S.C. Aquarium to help his
grandkids, ages 7, 5, and 3, keep track of what's happening.
It grew into a regular routine, snapping shots from the same spot at the neighboring IMAX Theatre dock and, more recently, from the "old" bridge -- a practice he
started after jogging over the span while being without a car one week.
"I'm in the science business," said Starmer, who is a professor of biostatistics, bioinformatics, epidemiology and cardiology.
"You look at standardized images and document change.
That's why he
rises at 7 a.m. Sunday to jog across the old bridge, picking a time when there isn't much traffic.
"The Mount Pleasant police stopped me once," he
They weren't concerned with the running or photography, but his
So they offered to trail him.
Not long after Starmer
first bridge photos, his
bridge Web pages were discovered.
The Internet isn't Starmer's
and wife Ellen have traveled extensively.
spent a year in the early 1990s at the Indian Institute of Technology
in Madras, where his
four children kept tabs via the computer.
For six months in 1997, he
lived in Greece on a Fulbright scholarship.
Starmer traveled to the former Soviet Union close to 20 years ago because of the country's interest in drugs that controlled heart rhythms -- a computer-oriented research project he worked on at Duke since pre-PC days.
Despite the "Evil Empire" reputation, the Soviet people were warm and friendly, he
"I saw different cultures had different ways of looking at the same issue," he
has teamed with teachers at E.L. Frierson Elementary School
on Wadmalaw Island to help them pick up tips on how to observe the world.
"I enjoy solving problems as a puzzle," Starmer
said in e-mailed comments that complemented a recent face-to-face interview.
didn't understand something about spiders, the bridge or other things, he
would post a question on his
Invariably, someone would e-mail him.
heard from civil engineers as far away as Malaysia and the Federal Highway Administration
In the past few months, he
added a blog, where he
writes down his
impressions of the bridge.
Sometimes, Google alone would ferret out the answer.
One day, he
photographed conical-shaped objects punched in concrete on the new bridge.
typed in something generic, "concrete testing cones.
Via e-mail and Web posts, Starmer
struck up online ties with officers at the Department of Transportation
, project managers Tidewater Skanska and Palmetto Bridge Constructors, and cable builder Freyssinet
The S.C. Department of Transportation
arranged for him to ride up on the new roadway, tour the bridge and snap hundreds of photos.
"All those companies opened doors," he
A natural extension of Starmer's
online pages has been his
began taking digital images not so much as a hobby but because of their improved ability to preserve moments.
first experiments were on the coast of Mexico photographing octopus and other underwater marine life.
is trained as an electrical engineer.
He joined the Duke faculty after working on campus with the local telephone company.
wife while at Duke
and spent 32 years at the Durham, N.C., university before relocating to MUSC
made the move through indirect connections with school President Dr. Ray Greenberg, whom he
knew through a cancer registry program he
was involved with at Emory University
The associate provost said his precocious nature can be traced to his youth in Greensboro, N.C., in particular the influence of his father, Charles Starmer, an engineer for a company that designed and installed elevators.
put it this way in a recent blog:
was able to return the favor of his
Until recently, Charles Starmer
took care of putting all the photos online, where they were displayed on one long Web page.
"It took forever for Dad to download pictures," he
has since resorted to multiple pages to make it easier to navigate, developed a more streamlined way to load photos and has added text and even explanatory definitions on bridge parts.
"I've redesigned the site four or five times," he
would make his
Web site interactive.
There's no direct two-way communication; he
has to post questions and hope readers will send answers.
Even so, he
is pleased with his
"I think the time has come," he
said, "that good (Internet) skills and searching are (necessary) tools for the academic world."
C. Frank Starmer
BIRTH DATE AND PLACE: Sept. 4, 1941, Greensboro, N.C.
Attribution: C. Frank Starmer from http://ravenelbridge.net