November 19, 2004  


New Investigator Award Established at SSRL to Honor W. E. Spicer (1929-2004), Co-Founder of SSRL and Photoemission Spectroscopy Pioneer

By Cathy Knotts

On June 6, 2004, while vacationing in London, William E. (Bill) Spicer died of heart failure. Overcoming a series of obstacles as a youth, Spicer went on to become an esteemed member of the international scientific community as a teacher and researcher in electrical engineering, applied physics and materials science. He spent the past 40 years as a professor at Stanford where he pioneered the technique of ultraviolet photoemission spectroscopy and its subsequent expansion into the use of synchrotron radiation.

William E. Spicer (left) and Sebastian Doniach (Photo by Diana Rogers)

In 1972, Spicer together with Sebastian Doniach founded the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Project which evolved into today’s SSRL. He was a prolific author with over 700 works and the recipient of many honors and awards including the Lifetime Mentor Award by the AAAS in 2000, reflecting his tireless effort on the behalf of under-represented minorities and women. Though retired for some years, Spicer continued to actively advise students at SSRL up until his death. 

In honor of his many contributions to our community, both professional and personal, SSRL established the W.E. Spicer Award for Scientific Excellence to be awarded annually to a young scientist. The Spicer Award will be presented at the annual SSRL users’ meeting to a young investigator who has made important technical or scientific contributions that benefit from or are beneficial to SSRL or the synchrotron community.

On October 21, the first Annual W.E. Spicer Award was presented to N. Peter Armitage, a former graduate sudent who worked with Z.-X. Shen in the Stanford Department of Applied Physics.

The award, which is open to senior graduate students and those within seven years of entry into their professional scientific field at the time of nomination, will consist of a certificate and $1,000.


Nominations in the form of a letter or email summarizing the technical or scientific contributions of the candidate should be sent by the August 1, 2005, deadline to Cathy Knotts, SSRL MS 99, 2575 Sand Hill Road, Menlo Park, CA 94025. Nomination packages should include the candidate’s curriculum vitae and a list of publications; supporting letters are encouraged.

Nominations received by the deadline will be reviewed by the selection committee. The next award will be presented at the 32nd Annual SSRL Users’ Meeting (October 17-18, 2005).

Anyone interested in making a donation towards the W.E. Spicer Award can do so by sending a check made out to ‘Stanford University’ to SSRL c/o Dave Dungan, SSRL MS69, 2575 Sand Hill Rd., Menlo Park, CA 94025. Please note ‘Spicer Award’ on the memo line.

For more information on Bill Spicer, see:

For more information on SSRL, see: 



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Last update Wednesday November 17, 2004 by Emily Ball