X-ray spectroscopy

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

Interview with Robert Jennings, retired since 2018 from the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, where he was a research physicist. He recounts his childhood in Southern California and the formative influence of Sputnik on his physics education. Jennings discusses his undergraduate experience at Occidental and his master’s work at UCLA, and he describes his postgraduate work at the NASA Ames Research Center where he worked on optical detectors. He explains his decision to pursue a PhD at Dartmouth where he studied under John Merrill and worked on Tonks-Dattner resonances. Jennings describes the circumstances leading to his postdoctoral research in Brazil at the Institute of Atomic Energy, where he worked on medical radiation in the Division of Solid-State Physics. He discusses his subsequent research with John Cameron at the University of Wisconsin’s Medical Physics section to develop spectroscopy systems. Jennings explains that the expertise he developed in radiation and modeling in Wisconsin served as his entrée to the FDA ,which excited him as the place where the most impactful research was happening at the time. He surveys the major projects he was involved with over his career, including human visual signal detection, quality assessment of medical devices, improving mammography diagnostics, tomosynthesis, and CT scanners. At the end of the interview, Jennings surveys the fundamental developments that have advanced over the course of his forty-plus year career at FDA, his major contributions in tissue simulation science, and why he believes AI will become increasingly central to advances in medical imaging. 

Interviewed by
Roger H. Stuewer
Interview date
Location
University of Minnesota
Abstract

Family background, early schooling; undergraduate studies at Case Institute of Technology (B.S. 1917); assistant physicist at National Bureau of Standards (1917-19); research on piezoelectricity of sodium chlorate and bromate; World War I work in pyrometry and optical glass manufacture; graduate studies at University of Minnesota (MA. 1920, teaching assistant 1919-20, Ph.D. 1921, instructor of physics, 1920-21), member of physics faculty; research on ferroelectricity of Rochelle Salt Crystals and location of Curie Points; X-ray spectroscopy research at University of Upsala, Sweden 1928-29; comments on nuclear physics at University of Minnesota.

Interviewed by
David DeVorkin and Allan Needell
Interview date
Location
Los Alamos National Laboratory
Abstract

In this interview, Conner discusses his childhood and early education in rural Texas, and his developing interest in science.  He moves on to discuss his undergraduate and graduate experience at Rice Institute; his enrollment in the U.S. Navy; the rise in war-time and post-war academic interest in nuclear physics; his work at Los Alamos National Laboratory; his impressions of Tom Bonner at Rice Institute and Los Alamos; and his work with Cockcroft-Walton accelerators.  Additional topics discussed include:  nuclear physics, x-ray spectroscopy, the Vela Program, and federally funded artificial satellite programs in general.