Vernon Beck has been interviewing applicants for the Fannie and John Hertz Foundation for the past thirty years. His background is electron optics, which Vernon studied at the University of Chicago (BA '71, MS '71, PhD '77) under Albert Crewe. As an undergrad, he won the physics department's Telegdi Prize for the highest score on the PhD qualifying exam. During a fourteen year career at IBM he worked ten years on the Multi Beam CRT display project in the Research Division and several years on electron beam lithography. While at IBM Research he completed work on a new method to correct spherical aberration using hexapoles, drawing on work he did with Crewe and Harald Rose. In 2011, Harald Rose, Maximilian Haider, and Knut Urban won the Wolf Prize for physics for achieving sub angstrom resolution in an aberration corrected electron microscope using an improved version of the hexapole corrector. As of 2014, approximately 450 electron microscopes utilize aberration correctors, the overwhelming majority of which are based on hexapole combination aberrations.
Vernon's other interests include history, railroads, and Japan. He has been researching his grandmother's service as an Army nurse during World War I. Additionally, he has been working with the Union Depot Railroad Museum in Mendota, Illinois on their collection from the Chicago Burlington and Quincy Railroad. Vernon has served many years as the president of the Japan Society of Fairfield County, and was involved in the 3/11 Earthquake Tsunami relief effort. Connecticut appointed the Japan Society of Fairfield County to lead its 3/11 relief effort.