Oral history interview with Kenneth G. Standing

  • 2014-Oct-29

Kenneth Standing grew up in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, the oldest of four children. His father was an accountant, his mother a primary school teacher and housewife. Standing says he ended up in science by process of elimination, by gradually ruling out subjects he did not love. He won a senior scholarship to the University of Manitoba. World War II intervened, and he joined the University Naval Training Division (UNTD), which had him stoking and cleaning boilers in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Shelburne, Ontario, for a year. For his PhD, Standing followed a friend to Princeton University’s physics department, where he worked on scintillation counting in Rubby Sherr’s nuclear physics lab and then on a fast-cycling cloud chamber with Milton White. Both experiments failed, but Standing’s two theses, one on double beta decay; and the other on proton-deuteron (p-d) reactions in nitrogen-14, got him his degree. As a faculty member at the University of Manitoba, Standing was one of the first to study gamma-ray scattering. He spent five years building a cyclotron for Manitoba, tried to help fix the one in Grenoble, France, and then returned to Manitoba to become director of the cyclotron there. A project analyzing protein in wheat for the Grain Research Laboratory, and the arrival of Brian Chait from University of Oxford, pushed Standing toward mass spectrometry. When Chait went to Rockefeller University, Werner Ens and Ronald Beavis became Standing’s first graduate students in mass spectrometry. All of his honors have been bestowed since he left nuclear physics, he says. Standing discusses his many collaborations, pointing out that he needed chemists to provide the raw materials for his work. He explains his collaboration with SCIEX on a hybrid mass spectrometer. He talks about developing and perpetuating the field of time-of-flight mass spec, citing as his most important contribution his 1981 publication of the design of his original time-of-flight mass spectrometer. He also believes that his work on collisional damping was seminal. He talks about his publication record and his patents. When his funding from the National Institutes of Health and Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council came to an end, Standing retired, but he continues to provide analysis for other faculty members and good public relations for the University.

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