Physicist Stephen Streiffer has been announced as the next director of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. Currently interim director of the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in California, Streiffer will replace Thomas Zacharia, who retired last year after five years as head of Oak Ridge.

With a PhD in materials science and engineering from Stanford University, Streiffer, 57, has long experience in national labs. He spent 24 years at the Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois in several positions including leader of the physical sciences and engineering divisions, director of its Advanced Photon Source as well as deputy director for science and technology.

“I was fortunate to work closely with Stephen at Argonne,” recalls Mark Peters, executive vice president of laboratory management and operations for Battelle, which operates Oak Ridge with the University of Tennessee. “So I’ve seen his commitment to teamwork and his ability to build support first hand.”

In 2020, Streiffer took up the role of co-director of the Department of Energy’s National Virtual Biotechnology Laboratory – a consortium of national labs that focusses on testing, treatment, epidemiological modelling, and supply chains during the COVID-19 pandemic.  In 2022, Streiffer was appointed vice president at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and earlier this year became the lab’s interim director following the retirement of Chi-Chang Kao.

Asmeret Asefaw Berhe, director of the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, notes that Streiffer “has been a key leader in the development of [the national labs’] capabilities”. Indeed, when Streiffer takes up the directorship of Oak Ridge in October, he will oversee several facilities such as the Spallation Neutron Source and the High Flux Isotope Reactor.

A proven leader

Meanwhile, John Sarrao, who is currently deputy director for science, technology & engineering at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, will take over from Streiffer as SLAC director.

Sarrao, 56, has a Ph.D. in physics from University of California, Los Angeles, and specializes in the synthesis and characterization of correlated electron systems, especially in actinide materials. In 2013 he won the Department of Energy’s Ernest Orlando Lawrence award for discovering and studying novel superconductors.

“John brings proven leadership and scientific excellence to this important role,” Berhe says. “His leadership will advance SLAC’s mission and amplify its scientific impact.” Sarrao adds that he is “excited and humbled” by the position.

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