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Frank Stadermann, 1962-2010

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Frank J. Stadermann, PhD, senior research scientist in physics, member of the Laboratory for Space Sciences, and director of the NanoSIMS and Scanning Auger Nanoprobe laboratories at Washington University in St. Louis, died on Oct. 4, 2010. He was 48.

Born in Germany, Stadermann earned a master's degree in physics from the University of Heidelberg, Germany, for his work on 40Ar-39Ar dating of lunar rocks from the Fra Mauro region. In 1988, as part of his Ph.D. studies at the University of Heidelberg, he began a two-year research visit to Washington University, where he used secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS) to carry out isotopic and trace element analyses of interplanetary dust particles (IDPs). His Ph.D. dissertation included the discovery of widespread nitrogen isotopic variations in IDPs.

After his return to Heidelberg, Stadermann held a postdoctoral appointment in the Cosmochemistry Department of the Max-Planck-Institut für Kernphysik where he studied the sources of micrometeoroids striking satellite surfaces. He continued this line of research after transferring to the Darmstadt University of Technology, where he was in charge of establishing a new SIMS laboratory. During this period, he studied the use of the electron microprobe and SIMS for particle analysis, and worked on the development and application of two- and three-dimensional SIMS imaging techniques for material and space science applications.

Stadermann re-joined Washington University in 1996, initially to participate in development, fund-raising, and the eventual purchase of the very first commercial NanoSIMS, a newly designed high-resolution and high-sensitivity type of ion microprobe. He went on to develop techniques for NanoSIMS measurements in TEM sections, which allowed correlated mineralogical and isotopic studies on a submicrometer scale. This work led to the isotopic analysis of "presolar grains within presolar grains", i.e., of 200-nanometer titanium carbide crystals embedded in low-density supernova graphite spheres. He also discovered presolar corundum and silicon carbide grains in IDPs. The study of cometary particles was an important focus of his research. He served as a sample analysis advisor for the Stardust mission to Comet Wild-2. His analyses during the preliminary examination of dust particles returned by the Stardust space probe led to the discovery of presolar grains among the returned cometary samples.

Stadermann's colleagues describe his delight in research and the application of new technologies to scientific investigation; his brilliance and mastery of even the most temperamental instruments; and his cheerful nature and positive outlook, which were always a boost to the spirit. Tom Bernatowicz says that he never uttered an angry word in all his years at the university, always seeking to use patience, humor and reason to undermine conflict and promote harmony. He was a true friend and beloved colleague.

Frank Stadermann is survived by his wife and long-time scientific collaborator, Christine Floss, a research associate professor of physics at Washington University, and their daughter, and two step-daughters.


The text above quotes material that appeared in the Washington University (St. Louis) Record and in an e-mail from Stephen Mackwell (Lunar and Planetary Institute), with additional comments from Ernst Zinner, Jeff Grossman, and Ed Scott.

Gregory Herzog
Piscataway, NJ
19 October 2010