AVS Historical Persons | J. Lyn Provo - 1999

J. Lyn Provo - 1999

Oral History Interview with J. Lyn Provo

October 27, 1999
provo.JPGPROVO: This is James Lyn Provo. I think most people know me by Lyn. We are here in Seattle, Washington today. Today is October 27, 1999. I wanted to talk a little bit about my involvement with the American Vacuum Society over the past 28 years of which I have been a member. 

When I first started with the American Vacuum Society I was involved with the founding of the Florida chapter of the American Vacuum Society. That was back in 1972, was when we founded the Florida chapter. I became a member in '71. At that time, I was involved with the local publicity for our very first symposium. We've had like 28 symposia of the Florida chapter to date, so we've carried that on for quite a long time.

My involvement with the first symposium that we had in Florida, as I mentioned, involved publicity. We were fortunate enough to invite our Board of Directors of the national AVS to attend that meeting. One of the things I arranged, because we had an astronaut at the time involved with our local symposium, I was able to get some local TV time. We had the actual Board of Directors make comments on our local TV in Florida, in the St. Petersburg-Clearwater-Tampa area. I guess they were impressed enough that somebody was able to make that happen that they asked me to get involved with the national AVS. 

My first involvement with the national occurred in '74 when I became the Newsletter Editor, which I was for many years. In fact, I was Editor of the American Vacuum Society Newsletter from 1974-1986. And then from '86 to probably 1990 I was associate editor. That's the time Donna Bacall took over the newsletter and I got involved in other things. At the same time that I was involved with the American Vacuum Society Newsletter, I was also involved with the International Union for Vacuum Science Techniques and Applications news bulletin. At that time, the 1Chairman was Jim Lafferty. The one who asked me to get involved was John Vossen, one of our past presidents of the Society. I carried that on for many years as well. So I was doing dual duty in the newsletter area worldwide and nationally for quite a few years.

Also during that time, I was involved with many of the divisions of the Society. I was elected to the boards of the Thin Film Division, Plasma Science and Technology Division, and also the Vacuum Technology Division, which is sort of my home division. I also have been involved in many other AVS committees, such as the Education Committee and the Membership Committee, for many years. I became the Membership Chair in 1992, and I chaired, for six years, that committee. 

I was involved with many activities of the Society. The highlight was in 1986 when we had the international meeting in Baltimore. I was in charge of publicity of that meeting. We had some good publicity in the way of TV interviews. We had local highlights. I should say we had highlights of a lot of the main papers that we had for that meeting where we asked the speakers to give a sort of talk and present their paper in layman's language to the local press. That went over very well. We videotaped a lot of the activities of that meeting. Even today, those tapes are available to look at if anybody wanted to.

My involvement in the Florida Chapter involved many areas there. I think I held every office in the chapter, from being Director to Secretary Treasurer, Vice Chair, and I was Chair of the Florida Chapter twice, in 1986 and 1990. 

I think the roots of the Society basically come from the chapters and people that get involved. I think I'm a classic example of a volunteer that started at the chapter level and ended up at the national level, and I've enjoyed every second of this for the past 28 years now. AVS is a wonderful society. You have opportunities for being part of it, participating in it, and to your desired degree of participation you can run for any offices, national or the divisions, volunteer to be members of the committees, etc. Obviously, if you do something worthwhile, it's very possible the president will appoint you as chair to one of the committees, which happened to me. I say the AVS is one of the highlights of my life, being involved with them and the opportunities I've had to meet many colleagues, not only nationally but worldwide. I'm still involved with the AVS. 

I started out in Ohio and then Florida, which at the time was the General Electric Company, which very much supported my activities involving the AVS. I worked at GE in Florida, and it was called the Neutron Devices Department of General Electric. After being there for 32 years, they decided not to renew their contract. At the time, Martin Marietta, which then became Lockheed Martin, took over that facility, and we worked for Lockheed Martin for, I believe it was three years, before they decided to close that facility and move those who wanted to work to Albuquerque, New Mexico and start up a new neutron generator facility. 

My career at GE and Lockheed Martin and Sandia Labs, which is run by Lockheed Martin, has involved work in the neutron generator area. Those of you who may not know, neutron generators are initiators for nuclear weapons, and there are many spin-offs to that. I've been involved with many of the spin-offs. We've tried to commercialize our neutron generators. My expertise is basically in hydride thin film preparation and bulk hydride preparations, including all forms of hydrides, which are hydrogen, deuterium, and tritium sample preparations. 

In this area, we've had many weapons applications, and peaceful applications such as cancer research. We've made neutron generators for neutron therapy. We've been involved with neutron generators for oil well logging with Western Atlas in Houston, Texas. We've been involved with neutron generators associated with the FAA activities for explosives and contraband detection at airports. There are several other applications as well, such as finding mines and that sort of thing that we used neutron generators for. It also involved such things as fusion energy, where we made diagnostic targets for some of the big fusion machines that they can essentially define how well they can focus their laser beams and come up with fusion energy as such. This was mostly involved with Livermore and Sandia National Labs.

I've been involved in - back to some of the AVS activities - in 1993 I was Local Arrangements co-Chairman for the 40th National Meeting of the American Vacuum Society. That was a wonderful opportunity. We had our international group meet at that same time. Being in charge of the local arrangements is one of the bigger jobs the Society asks volunteers to do. That was a wonderful experience. We had a very good meeting then. 

I'm still involved in our local chapter. I, four years ago, moved from Florida to Albuquerque, New Mexico to work with Sandia National Labs and of course transferred to the New Mexico chapter. Currently I've been elected Treasurer of the New Mexico chapter. So I'm very involved with that group at the moment. I continue to be involved with several of the committees. I'm past chair of the national Membership Committee and I'm still involved in that committee and continue to look for ways that I can help the AVS in any way I can. I hope to for as long as I can. 

I don't know too much else I can say. A lot of the work I've done over the years has been in a classified area. So I may not have published papers at national meetings like many people have, but I certainly have contributed to my technical areas that I do have expertise in. And I do have over 300 publications, mostly classified that I can't talk too much about. I've been involved in my work areas and my career publishing many things. 

We've done a few unique things over the years. Many people don't want to be involved with tritium sample preparations. Tritium is a radioactive isotope of hydrogen. I was able to make many special samples for people over the years at some of the national labs and elsewhere where we were able to get some very fundamental data concerning tritium and how it affects the properties of different materials and things. 

One of the things I was involved with at Livermore involved the rotating target neutron source, which is a very large target the size of a garbage can lid that had many curies of tritium in it. This was a target that spun at very high speeds - 5000 rpm - was water-cooled and was on a cam that moved up and down so the accelerator ion (deuterium beam, in this case) didn't hit any one spot and overheat it. It just swept it. That was a mechanical engineering wonder to see that target in operation. I was the one that put the films on that target so that it would generate neutrons. And those neutrons were used for materials to study the effects of radiation-damage studies and those kinds of things. That was one of the highlights, I think, being involved with that, fusion energy. I'm particularly proud of the work involved in many of the peaceful applications and spin-offs from our neutron generator technology, which will benefit - and already has - many people in the world, worldwide. 

As I continue my career, which probably will last another year or two since I'm reaching the age of retirement or close to it, we are continuing to work in the neutron generator area, looking at many applications, again, for peaceful - and also, unfortunately, the weapons applications still continue, and we are increasing some activity in that area now to keep up our national defense, which is very important to the United States. 

It's been a wonderful career working in these areas and activities, and of course, the many wonderful people that I've met over the years and been involved with. I literally have colleagues that are very close friends worldwide, in countries all over the world and nationally as well. Most of my AVS comrades or associates are very good friends, dear friends, that we appreciate and we get together many times over the years, not only at our national meetings such as we're at now here in Seattle, but other times as well. It's just been a wonderful opportunity to be involved with the AVS and have a career that allowed me to do that, and have the management that allowed me to be involved. That just helped myself just have a wonderful opportunity to contribute to not only national defense, but many peaceful applications of our technology that we have developed over the years. It's nice, too, to feel that you're an expert too in some areas. People contact you, and they literally do call me all the time from all over the world if they have problems or are involved with hydrided thin films and production of hydrides or working with tritium on all those kinds of activities, since I've been involved with them. Thank you.

1. Jim Lafferty was President of IUVSTA

return to top