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Fermilab director Oddone announces plan to retire next year

Pier Oddone director Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory will retire 2013 lab announced Thursday. | Sun-Times MediFile

Pier Oddone, director of Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, will retire in 2013, the lab announced Thursday. | Sun-Times Media File

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The Fermilab Five

Pier Oddone is Fermilab’s fifth director since the laboratory opened on the farmland east of Batavia in 1967.

Robert Rathbun Wilson (1967-1978). Wilson worked on the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos before being selected to break ground on the National Accelerator Laboratory, later dubbed Fermilab. Wilson, a sculptor in his spare time, is responsible for giving Fermilab its Western frontier aesthetic.

Leon Lederman (1979-1989). Lederman is credited with first proposing the idea of the National Accelerator Laboratory, and in 1977 led the team that discovered the bottom quark. As director, he led the facility in the construction of the Tevatron, and in 1988 was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on the discovery of the muon neutrino. He is widely regarded for his sense of humor, and for his devotion to education, founding both the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy and Fermilab’s Saturday Morning Physics program.

John Peoples (1989-1999). Peoples led the Accelerator and Research divisions at Fermilab before becoming director in 1989. During his tenure, he built support for an upgrade to the Tevatron, beating out competition as the world’s foremost particle accelerator lab. He served on the committee that built support for the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, and following his term as director pursued experimental astrophysics research.

Michael S. Witherell (1999-2005). Witherell was a professor at the University of California Santa Barbara before being named Fermilab’s fourth director. At Fermilab, he oversaw significant advances, from breaking ground for the MINOS experiment on neutrinos to establishing the lab as the favored U.S. site for the proposed International Linear Collider. He now serves as the vice chancellor of research at UC Santa Barbara.

Pier Oddone (2005-2013) Oddone worked at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory before his appointment as director in 2005. Since then, Fermilab has begun construction on NOvA, the world’s most advanced neutrino experiment, broken ground on the Illinois Accelerator Research Center, and contributed to the search for the Higgs boson, and worked to repurpose the laboratory in the wake of the Tevatron shutdown.

— Jenette Sturges

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Updated: September 4, 2012 6:14AM

BATAVIA — Pier Oddone will retire next year after eight years as executive director of Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, the lab announced Thursday.

Oddone will continue to serve as Fermilab director until July 1, 2013, while a committee conducts an international search for his successor.

Oddone was named in 2005 as Fermilab’s fifth director after serving as deputy director of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Oddone led Fermilab during a period of remarkable scientific achievement, with major discoveries announced during his tenure from every aspect of Fermilab’s scientific program, including the experiments at the Tevatron collider, the laboratory’s neutrino experiments and its programs to study dark matter and high-energy cosmic particles.

“During Pier’s eight years as director, Fermilab has made remarkable contributions to the world’s understanding of particle physics,” said University of Chicago President Robert J. Zimmer, who serves as chairman of the board of the Fermi Research Alliance, which manages and operates Fermilab.

“Pier’s leadership has ensured that Fermilab remains the centerpiece of particle physics research in the United States, and that the laboratory’s facilities and resources are focused on groundbreaking discoveries.”

Under Oddone’s direction, Fermilab’s Tevatron experiments zeroed in on the hiding place of the long-sought Higgs boson, discovered a number of exotic particles and shed new light on the relationship between matter and antimatter. Fermilab completed significant contributions to the accelerator and CMS detector at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland, opened a remote operations center for the LHC on the Fermilab site, and played a leading role in the analysis of data leading to the July 4 discovery of a new particle likely to be the Higgs boson.

In a letter in Thursday’s edition of Fermilab Today, Oddone wrote to the Fermilab staff: “Working with Fermilab’s employees and users from across the country and around the world is a wonderful experience. It has been an honor to partner with you over the past seven years to achieve significant milestones in the performance of our accelerators and detectors and in our contributions to the Large Hadron Collider, and to work with you to achieve the many discoveries from the Tevatron, the LHC, and our neutrino and cosmic frontier experiments.

“With your help and support over the coming year, we will continue on the path we have laid to a long-term future of scientific discovery at Fermilab...”

Fermilab’s neutrino experiments made major contributions to the worldwide quest to understand these elusive particles, including the most precise measurements of the transformations of some types of neutrinos into each other. Laboratory-led projects and programs identified possible sources of the highest-energy cosmic rays to hit Earth’s atmosphere, and led the world in the search for particles of dark matter.

“The scientific discoveries that Pier has overseen, and the new projects now under construction on Fermilab site, are testament to Pier’s vision for advancing particle physics research in the United States,” said Bill Brinkman, science director for the U.S. Department of Energy. “We commend Pier’s unwavering commitment to excellence in scientific research and laboratory operations.”

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