Dr. Gertrude Rempfer Named Fellow by Microscopy Society of America

September 03 2010

On August 2nd, 2010 at the Microscopy and Microanalysis summer conference, Dr. Gertrude Rempfer of Portland State University was named Fellow by the Microscopy Society of America for her outstanding accomplishments in Electron Microscopy.

Gertrude Fleming Rempfer has enjoyed an extraordinary career that spans more than a half century. During the course of that career she has made distinguished and pioneering contributions to the fields of electron optics and electron microscopy. She has also had impact on the careers of many younger scientists - many of them women - as a mentor and role model.

She is an honorary member of the Student Physics Club at PSU, being the most senior member of the National Student Physics Society.

On February 8, 1933, twelve years after the formation of Sigma Pi Sigma, Gertrude Fleming signed the University of Washington Chapter Book as the 57th member.

When the Sigma Pi Sigma Student Society was established at PSU on December 12, 2008, she became the newest Honorary Member of Sigma Pi Sigma, receiving the society’s highest recognition for accomplishment in physics. “The arc of time between these two milestones circumscribes a life of honor, Encouragement, Service, and Fellowship, the four dimensions of the mission of Sigma Pi Sigma.” (Radiations, Fall, 2009).

Dr. Rempfer began her career in 1939 after receiving her PhD in Physics from the University of Washington, Seattle - one of three women in the program. She began her career as the sole woman among the pioneers in the theory and development of electron microscopes. Wartime offered unusual career opportunities to women. Beginning as a college teacher, Professor Rempfer was called to the Naval Research Lab in Washington, D.C., for the history-making Manhattan Project. After the war, she worked as a project engineer for Farrand Optical Company in New York, developing a successful electron microscope prototype and publishing several patents. During the 1950s, Professor Rempfer left the industry and returned to university teaching.

She came to Portland State University in 1959 and wasted little time in forging industry partnerships. She concentrated during this time on industrial research in electron optics and electron microscopy, consulting extensively for Tektronix and other companies for more than a decade, including a special project for the Night Vision Laboratory at Fort Belvoir.

During the 1970s, an interesting conversation among colleagues grew into a fertile 25-year partnership between Professors Rempfer and O. Hayes Griffith, a chemist at the University of Oregon. The partnership, which has remained active and productive since Professor Rempfer’s retirement in 1978, yielded the world’s first ultra-high vacuum photoemission electron microscope.

The many years that she has been involved in electron optics are paying dividends. Some of her most profound work has been completed after her retirement in 1978. Since that time, Professor Rempfer has been a source of advice to other groups working in electron optics, both through correspondence and through visits to the physics laboratories at PSU. Recent corporate collaborations include Motorola and KLA Instruments Corporation.

This remarkable woman has generated a long list of accomplishments, including patents; key publications laying the theoretical foundation for the emerging area of electron microscopy called photoelectron microscopy; and a leadership role in the engineering of the only photoelectron microscope designed for biological studies, located in the Institute of Molecular Biology at the University of Oregon. Most recently, she published an article in the January/February issue of Microscopy and Microanalysis that has already attracted national and international attention from organizations - corporate as well as government - seeking her expertise in electron optics.

“Retired” for over thirty years, Professor Rempfer works daily in the laboratory in her ongoing ground-breaking research in the theoretical and experimental studies of resolution and aberration correction.

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