Professor Bigelow received a BS degree in Agricultural and Biological Chemistry from the College of Agriculture at the Pennsylvania State College in 1944. For the next two years he served on active duty as an Ensign in the U.S. Navy, doing research on special lubricating oils and rust inhibitors for Naval applications at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Anacostia, D. C. In the fall of 1946 he entered the Graduate School at the University of Michigan, where he received an MS degree in 1948 and a PhD. degree in Physical Chemistry in 1951. From then until 1955 he worked as a Research Associate in the U. of M. Engineering Research Institute studying the development of carbide phases at high temperatures in several alloys then in use in jet aircraft engines. He maintained his association with the U. S. Navy as an active member of the University of Michigan Naval Research Reserve Unit until 1965 when he retired with the rank of Lt. Commander.
In 1955 he joined the faculty of the Department of Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering as an Assistant Professor of Science to assist Prof. R. W. Parry, of the Department of Chemistry, with the teaching of an introductory chemistry course specifically designed for the innovative Science Engineering Degree Program that was then being implemented by Dean G. G. Brown and Prof. R. R. White. He was promoted to Associate Professor of Chemical & Metallurgical Engineering in 1959, to Professor of Materials Engineering in 1971, and attained the ultimate rank of Professor Emeritus upon retirement from active teaching in 1993.
During his tenure Prof. Bigelow has taught courses in electron microscopy, X-ray diffraction, general chemistry, physical chemistry, introductory engineering materials, physical metallurgy, and statistical methods for the design and analysis of complex experiments. In the 1960s he served on College of Engineering Undergraduate Program Committee and the University Educational Program Committee. From 1961 to 1967 he was Chairman of the Science Engineering Program Committee, and from then until his retirement in 1993 was Undergraduate Program Advisor for the students in his department. In collaboration with Prof. Robert Taylor, of the Chemistry Department, he helped initiate the Combined Degree Program between the College of Engineering and the College of Literature, Science and the Arts.
During his graduate studies under Prof. L. O. Brockway, he developed a deep interest in the fields of electron microscopy and electron diffraction. In 1962 and 1963 he acquired two up-to-date transmission electron microscopes and established a departmental electron microscopy laboratory. He served as Faculty Manager of this, and the department’s X-ray diffraction laboratory for the next thirty years. Each year during this period he taught a graduate course on electron microscopy and another on X-ray diffraction and crystallography that were attended by students from several departments across the University. In 1969 he established the Electron Microbeam Analysis Laboratory, a central University research facility that provides access to advanced electron optical Instruments to researchers throughout the University. He served as Director of EMAL until 1987, and during that time was responsible for bringing to the University the first electron microbeam X-ray spectrochemical analyzer, the first scanning electron microscope, the first analytical scanning transmission electron microscope, and the first surface analysis instrument, In 1985 he established the Hanawalt Laboratory for X-ray Diffraction.
Prof. Bigelow’s research activities have included work on surface chemistry, lubrication, scale formation in the conversion of saline to potable water, the distribution of silicon and heavy metals in plant tissue, the precipitation of carbide phases in heat-resistant alloys, and the design of special accessories for electron microscopes. He is a co-author on more than eighty articles in scientific journals, and has written a book on “Vacuum Methods in Electron Microscopy”.