David Kilcoyne was a longtime member of the ALS community, working on a number of different beamlines starting in 1999. He passed away in June 2022 and will be missed dearly.
We have collected memories from the ALS community to share with each other and with David’s family. To share a message and/or photos on this page, please fill out this form. Questions? Contact email@example.com
Matthew Marcus, ALS staff scientist:
While I had met him earlier in my career at ALS, it was only when I was put in charge of the 126.96.36.199 STXM that I really had the honor of working with him. He built that instrument, and I came to appreciate what a marvelous job he did of it. He taught me much of what I know about how to operate and maintain it. Since he was working on another STXM in the same hutch, I probably had more interaction with him than most people and came to appreciate the depth of his knowledge. Like everybody else here, I was shocked and dismayed when the news came through of his death. He was a private man, not given to revealing much about himself, so I suppose it was fitting that none of us knew he was ill until too late.
Mary Gilles, Berkeley Lab staff scientist:
I first met David almost exactly 20 years ago. David generously provided absolutely essential assistance and guidance for me getting started with soft x-ray microscopy. In addition, he helped numerous postdocs and students that worked with me over the years. Although he didn’t use it much in his daily work, David was an exquisite writer. This was unknown to me for most of the time I overlapped with him. We shared numerous meals, and occasionally a drink together over the years. David was generous in countless ways over the years. His personality often reminded me of the cactus fruit – prickly on the outside and soft and mushy on the inside. I am deeply saddened by his passing and remain grateful for having known him. OMG he helped so many people over the years.
Ryan Moffet, Sonoma Technology group manager:
That is very sad indeed. He was such a big part of my time at LBL – learned a lot from him. He will be missed.
Terry McAfee, ALS senior scientific engineering associate:
To David, and those that loved him,
You were such a special person. You gave your all for the ALS community. You were my first and most influential mentor at the Lab. I learned not only science from you, but life skills. You were a master of tough love, and to be frank, you were often just the asshole I needed to set me back on a good course. You expected the best from me, and brought it out of me when I couldn’t find it. I miss you greatly. You will be remembered. With love, Terry McAfee.
Bruce Rude, retired ALS senior scientific engineering associate:
David was hired at the ALS by John Bozek to be a Beamline Scientist on Beamline 10. I was the Associate Beamline Scientist on Beamline 10, so David and I first met as coworkers. My first impressions of David – that he was impatient, anxious and perhaps should switch to decaf – were totally wrong and belied the fact that he had the patient tenacity, mechanical intuition, steady hand and skills to take the scanning transmission microscopy effort at the ALS from a possibility to the highly successful program that it is. In time I came to realize that my first impressions stemmed from a youthful exuberance that David maintained for the entire time that I knew him. David enjoyed the technical side of science and I think he found plenty of work here to engage that and thereby reap the rewards of happiness and satisfaction that a place like the ALS can provide.
I will always appreciate our relationship and the help he gave me over the many years I knew him.
George Cody, Carnegie Institution for Science staff scientist:
I first met David on my first visit to Beamline 5.3.2 back in the early 2000s. I was aware that David was the beamline scientist to the STXM then and had heard very promising things from Harald Ade about David, but I was quite unaware about his incredibly broad passion for science and, as it turns out, the analysis of extraterrestrial solids- which is what I came to ALS to analyze. Within our first beamtime cycle, David evolved from a beamline scientist enabling us to get the data we needed to a long term contributing collaborator and, quickly thereafter, a very dear friend.
I have never met anyone like David. I recall early on as he described his incredibly complicated and rich personal history, I was compelled to ask him, “Exactly what did you do your degree in?” to which he responded, “computational chemistry.” I recall thinking to myself, “How in the world does one go from computational chemistry to the design of an extraordinary piece of analytical instrumentation?” Starting from his degree, David moved around the world, embracing science, but also architecture (in Berlin) and art (throughout his life)- like the masters of the past, David could integrate all of his myriad of life experiences into an unprecedented skill set replicated by very few.
I most recently was working with David (even four weeks ago) analyzing samples returned from the Japanese Space mission to the asteroid Ryugu. As I was working remotely on the east coast (and preferred early morning shifts) and David preferred evening shifts, he and I would overlap for hours. What a treat! Working with David was first and foremost about getting the best data and second discussing every other subject worth considering while waiting between acquisitions. Such conversations I will cherish!
My sadness in learning of David’s unexpected passing is balanced by my recognition of my incredible fortune that through the narrowest of circumstances, i.e., our shared interest in soft X-ray microscopy and spectroscopy, I had the chance to meet and befriend an extraordinary person whom has added to my life in so many different ways. My life has been better having known David.
Anna Butterworth, UC Berkeley planetary scientist:
I’m shocked and saddened by this news. David trained me on 5.3.2 on my very first day at ALS, launching 10 years of Stardust STXM work. I enjoyed working and chatting with David, he was always so encouraging to me and technically brilliant, of course. He always had such elegant practical solutions.
Brad De Gregorio, U.S. Naval Research Laboratory staff scientist:
I’ve worked closely with David on Stardust and other NASA samples over the years. He will be sorely missed, and not just because we worked doggedly to ensure we were collecting high quality and accurate STXM data. He was always a pleasure to chat with at the beamline.
Alexei Federov, ALS staff scientist:
I regret I had not worked with David as extensively as many at the ALS did… But I saw David at work and I know who David is…
David is a guardian, a calm guardian of a culture cherished by people wearing the white lab coats and working together advancing science to the benefit of the human kind. They usually call their selves colleagues and measure success not by the money they manage or heads they supervise but by the joy of helping each other. He will be missed. Sorry David, life here was difficult way too often, but it was interesting, for if it was not you would walk away-thanks god you did not and blessed us with the seeds of the culture of comradeship.
Steve Kevan, ALS director:
David was a dear friend and colleague. Before the pandemic I walked the floor regularly, just to see what was up. He was almost always around, doing something interesting and worth talking about. He was very talented in both research and instrumentation, and loved by many users. He loved the ALS and considered our community his “US family.”
I enjoy people who are little quirky, and Dave was a couple of standard deviations toward quirky.
David and I actually collaborated a few times back at the old NSLS, so I am lucky to have known and interacted with him continuously for nearly 40 years. And yes, he wore a tie every day back then, too.
David Osborn, Sandia National Laboratories scientist:
I’m a scientist at Sandia National Laboratories in Livermore, California, a nearby town to Berkeley. I’ve known David since 2005, and like him, I build instruments (although not as many as David did).
When it was time to design my most recent apparatus, I had already known David for a while and decided to ask his advice for a better way to access the inside of my chamber when maintenance was needed. He suggested doors and hinges, similar to ones on a chamber he had just built.
A door with hinges: seems simple. Houses are full of them. But large doors on a vacuum chamber must withstand many thousands of pounds of force when the air is removed from inside the chamber. They must seal very well and yet open easily. The details matter, and a simple hinge, as David explained to me, will simply not fill the simultaneous needs of allowing the door to be opened, and allowing the door to seal properly.
David helped us with the non-obvious parts of this design, and we sent off the drawings to have the doors and the chamber manufactured. They worked perfectly the first time, and are easy to remove and replace. I’ve attached a photo of the chamber so you can see.
There are many, many scientific instruments David influenced—this is but one—and his impact will continue for a long time through these physical objects that push science forward and enable scientists to make discoveries about our world.
Please accept my condolences on the loss of David, and know that he was highly valued as a friend and colleague.
Rajesh Chopdekar, former ALS project scientist
I was saddened to hear the news about David’s passing. When I joined ALS in January 2018 as a project scientist put in charge of the day-to-day operation of an ALS branchline and endstation, it felt a bit overwhelming, but I was able to rely on David’s advice and memory of BL11.0.1’s history and quirks as I got up to speed. As he was working on the neighboring branchline to mine, we would often discuss many topics on the ALS experimental floor as we worked on our respective endstations. He encouraged me not just to think about the day-to-day work, but also to cultivate the kind of long-standing scientific collaborations and relationships that he has carried throughout his career. I know that he was quite proud of his latest instrument, a compact reflectometer added to the existing BL188.8.131.52 endstation. I sincerely hope that its users do great science with it for years to come, just as with his other instruments. My condolences to his family, friends, and the ALS community.
David Vine, former ALS colleague & friend
David was a kind and generous friend and will be sorely missed. I had the good fortune to work with and learn from David at the ALS for two years. In that time he never hesitated to share his considerable talent for instrumentation and science. More than that he had a dry wit and I greatly enjoyed the time we spent together. A truly remarkable man with a unique path through life and always interesting stories to share. He cared about helping people. The ALS users, his colleagues and his friends. He was a good friend to me and I’ll miss him.
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