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SIMS21, Poland 2017 - John C Vickerman abstract

John C Vickerman oral presentation (B&N-Tue1-2)

Nick and Barbara - a wonderful partnership in science and much else! - Tribute

John C Vickerman

University of Manchester, Princess Street, M13 9PL Manchester, United Kingdom


This session has been organised to recognise and honour the immense contribution Barbara and Nick have made to the science and the instrumental and application development of SIMS. Successful husband and wife scientific collaboration is rare, and in the SIMS area Barbara and Nick are certainly unique. Unique and enormously successful because of the synergistic partnership they together brought between theory and experiment over a period of 40 years.

We can all be thankful that after completing a PhD thesis at Berkeley in 1975 on “Cooling of Interstellar Formaldehyde by Collision with Helium: an Accurate Quantum Mechanical Calculation”, Barbara decided she wanted to do something different! She decided to take on a post-doc at Purdue in Surface Science. There she met a young Assistant Professor, Nicholas Winograd. Science talk led to romance and romance led fortunately to more science. Apparently a good deal of food and drink with colleagues and friends also contributed. One could say the rest is history! Fortunately for our community the context of that history was SIMS. In 1976 Nick, along with Graham Cooks and Nick Delgass, decided to obtain a SIMS instrument. We had started surface analysis focused SIMS research in Manchester in 1974 inspired by Alfred Benninghoven’s early work, and I like to think our work may have had something to do with Nick’s decision to get into SIMS from his early work in electrochemistry. In 1977 as a consequence of an interaction with Drew Evans, Nick and Barbara were introduced to Don Harrison who was modelling the sputtering event with molecular dynamics simulations and was instrumental in stimulating Barbara’s move into the field. Nick says of that time, ‘Don was a bit of a curmudgeon. Barbara was a stickler for high standards, so the two of them made quite a pair. My role was to keep them thinking about the right calculations, and to stop any violence.’ They started looking at the yield of sputtered clusters from single crystal surfaces by experiment and MD simulations. From that time until now they have never looked back.

In the early years they studied simple molecules adsorbed on to single crystals. As Ion beams have developed from argon, through gallium, gold, bismuth to metal clusters, C60 and now giant atomic and molecular clusters and as computers and have become ever more powerful, analysis and simulation of ever more realistic materials has gone forward hand in hand. The fact that to a large extent theory has kept up with experiment is remarkable. The confident application of SIMS in complex materials’ analysis today owes an enormous debt to the accomplishments of this remarkable couple. It has been a privilege and joy to know them and be part of their journey.