Nigel Lockyer, director of Canada’s TRIUMF laboratory for particle and nuclear physics and a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of British Columbia, has been selected to become the next director of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. A suite of new projects awaits Lockyer at Fermilab, which is America’s premier laboratory for particle physics research.
University of Chicago President Robert J. Zimmer made the announcement today in his capacity as Chairman of the Board of Directors of Fermi Research Alliance, LLC. The appointment was approved by the University of Chicago and Universities Research Association, Inc., partners in Fermi Research Alliance, which operates the laboratory for the U.S. Department of Energy. The appointment concludes a nine-month international search conducted by a 15-member committee led by retired Lockheed Martin CEO and member of the URA Board of Trustees Norman Augustine.
Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz expressed his strong support for Lockyer’s candidacy after meeting with him early this week in Washington, D.C.
"Nigel Lockyer will be a terrific leader to guide the Fermilab in this era," said Secretary Moniz. "He brings to the laboratory a truly impressive record of excellence as both a scientist and an administrator. His significant contributions to high energy physics are widely recognized, and he has also made his mark in other fields, including nuclear medicine. We expect Fermilab to benefit greatly from the depth and breadth of his scientific vision and his long, successful experience leading and managing scientific institutions and collaborations. I very much look forward to working with Nigel."
Said Zimmer, “Nigel Lockyer is an outstanding particle physicist of varied scientific interests that complement and reinforce Fermilab’s own multi-pronged research portfolio. His scientific rigor and accomplishments and his ability to manage large teams make him our choice to lead Fermilab into a new era of scientific research and discovery.
“I also wish to express my gratitude to Pier Oddone for his eight years of tireless, dedicated and outstanding leadership of Fermilab. We will continue to build on the foundation that he leaves us.”
Also approving Lockyer as Fermilab director was the Board of Trustees of the Universities Research Association, Inc.
“We are delighted that Nigel Lockyer will take the reins of America’s particle physics laboratory,” said Steven Beering, executive chair of URA’s Board of Trustees. “Nigel has shown the kind of forward-looking leadership that we are confident will result in a new round of compelling scientific discovery and innovation at Fermilab and advance the interests of the national and global particle physics communities.”
An experimental particle physicist, Lockyer, 60, has directed TRIUMF since May 2007. Under his leadership, TRIUMF formulated a vision for ascending the world stage in nuclear physics using rare-isotope beams to address some of the most fundamental questions in science.
The flagship of the plan is the $100 million Advanced Rare IsotopE Laboratory (ARIEL), built around a world-class electron accelerator that employs next-generation superconducting radio frequency technology.
During Lockyer’s tenure at TRIUMF, the laboratory’s operations expanded by 25 percent, earning him a reputation as a national leader and team-builder. While at TRIUMF he developed a strong working partnership among Canada’s major science laboratories, as well as building international collaborations, securing Canada’s first accelerator-science cooperative research agreements with Japan, India, China and Korea.
Long history with Fermilab
He has become well acquainted with Fermilab while serving in a variety of capacities dating back more than 25 years. Lockyer performed research for many years at the Collider Detector at Fermilab experiment at Fermilab’s Tevatron, serving as the experiment’s co-spokesperson from 2002 through 2004. He also was a Fermilab guest scientist from 2002 until 2005, co-head of CDF operations and guest scientist in 2001 and 2002, and a visiting scientist during the summers of 1987 and 1988.
He was an early leader of efforts to construct a test facility at Fermilab for advanced particle accelerator technology that would be used to power the International Linear Collider. Such a test facility for high-gradient superconducting cavities has since been built at Fermilab in partnership with national and international institutions.
As Fermilab director, Lockyer also will oversee operations of a powerful complex of newly upgraded particle accelerators and sophisticated experiments to study the nature of matter, energy, space and time. Thousands of scientists from around the world use Fermilab facilities for their research. The largest of Fermilab’s new projects is the NOvA Neutrino Experiment under construction at Fermilab and in Ash River, Minn. NOvA will investigate neutrino oscillations, a phenomenon that could hold important clues to the evolution of the early universe. Fermilab is also the U.S. hub for research into the Higgs boson and other phenomena using the Compact Muon Solenoid experiment at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland.
“Nigel emerged as a front-runner for the Fermilab directorship following an intense and broad-based international search process involving the evaluation of dozens of candidates,” said Norman Augustine, the Search Committee Chair. “We believe that FRA has found in him a visionary and experienced leader who will serve Fermilab and the scientific community extremely well in the years to come.”
“I am flattered and sobered in accepting this tremendous honor, following in the footsteps of Wilson, Lederman, and now Oddone,” Lockyer said. “I’ve benefitted enormously from my time at TRIUMF and I know that laboratory is in great hands. There is a tremendous team at Fermilab and we are at a pivotal moment in the progress of particle physics; we will make a tremendous impact.”
Anticipated innovations in medicine, manufacturing, energy
Lockyer has a long-standing interest in medical-physics projects, including proton therapy for cancer patients, which he initially pursued in collaboration with colleagues at Brookhaven National Laboratory and the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. TRIUMF and Fermilab both have strong connections to medical physics.
TRIUMF historically had engaged in nuclear-medicine research and development at a modest level. Building on his personal experience, Lockyer redoubled the laboratory’s efforts in this area even before the global medicine-isotope supply crisis made nuclear medicine a national issue in Canada. With his guidance TRIUMF became synonymous with “isotopes for science and medicine” and secured new support from two Canadian government agencies to develop and deploy a technical solution that is based entirely on particle accelerators.
Lockyer’s medical-physics background meshes well with a new R&D center that Fermilab is building in partnership with the State of Illinois. This center will be dedicated to accelerating the transfer of technologies developed for particle physics research to other sectors of society, including medicine, manufacturing and energy.
Lockyer is a Fellow of the American Physical Society and a recipient of the society’s 2006 Panofsky Prize for his leading research on the bottom quark.
He was born in Scotland, raised in Canada and received his graduate education in the United States. He earned his B.S. in physics from York University and his Ph.D. in physics from the Ohio State University.
Following a postdoctoral fellowship at the Stanford Linear Accelerator, where he was a spokesperson of the Mark II Collaboration, in 1984 he began his 23-year career as a physics faculty member at the University of Pennsylvania.
Lockyer's term as Fermilab director will begin Sept. 3. Fermilab Chief Operating Officer Jack Anderson will serve as interim director starting July 1, following Oddone’s retirement.
Fermilab is America’s premier national laboratory for particle physics research. A U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science laboratory, Fermilab is located near Chicago, Illinois, and operated under contract by the Fermi Research Alliance, LLC. Visit Fermilab’s website at www.fnal.gov and follow us on Twitter at @FermilabToday.
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Fermi Research Alliance, LLC operates Fermilab under contract with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science. FRA is a partnership of the University of Chicago and Universities Research Association, Inc., a consortium of 86 research universities.