March 19, 2009
Vol. 28 No. 12

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    Prominent physicist will lead Argonne lab

    By Steve Koppes
    News Office

    Eric Isaacs

    Eric Isaacs, a prominent University physicist and senior administrator at Argonne National Laboratory, has been selected to become the next director of Argonne. The appointment will be effective Friday, May 1.

    President Zimmer made the announcement in his capacity as Chairman of the Board of Directors of UChicago Argonne LLC, which operates Argonne for the United States Department of Energy. The University has managed Argonne for the federal government since 1946. Energy Secretary Steven Chu met Tuesday, March 10 with Isaacs and Zimmer in his office in Washington, D.C., and supported Isaacs’ candidacy.

    “Dr. Isaacs’ scientific expertise, leadership ability and strategic perspective on Argonne’s future will serve him well in his new role. This is an excellent choice for the laboratory, for DOE and for the nation,” said Secretary Chu.

    Isaacs’ selection was made following a national search for a replacement for current Argonne Director Robert Rosner, who previously indicated that he planned to step down at the end of his current term. Rosner will return to his duties as the William E. Wrather Distinguished Service Professor in Astronomy and Astrophysics.

    Isaacs currently serves as Argonne’s deputy laboratory director for programs, with responsibility for leading the laboratory’s strategic planning process and overseeing the laboratory-directed research and development program as well as its educational programs. Prior to that, he was director of the Center for Nanoscale Materials at Argonne.

    “Argonne is an extraordinary national resource for advancing understanding of fundamental science and how that science leads to innovation in addressing pressing national issues of our time,” Zimmer said. “Eric’s experience and record of achievement, as a scientist, as director of the Center for Nanoscale Materials and as the leader of strategic planning at Argonne, demonstrates that he has a compelling vision for the Laboratory and the leadership skills to realize it. He understands Argonne’s important role in the DOE national laboratory system and the importance of the laboratory’s connection to the University of Chicago and our partner universities. We look forward to working with Eric and supporting him in his important work.”

    Since assuming responsibility for strategic planning in May 2008, Isaacs has led a comprehensive review of the laboratory’s mission and identified future opportunities for growth in capabilities and funding. In his new role he will guide implementation of the strategic plan, leading Argonne in strengthening science research and development efforts that underlie key national imperatives: energy security, environmental sustainability, economic competitiveness and national security.

    In addition to his roles at Argonne, Isaacs is a professor in Physics and the James Franck Institute.

    “I am deeply honored to be chosen to lead one of the top scientific research facilities in the world,” Isaacs said. “This is a unique and promising time in Argonne’s 62-year history. Argonne has embarked on a new path, in effect re-inventing and re-invigorating itself, and positioning the laboratory to be a leader in solving the grand scientific and engineering challenges of our time. I am particularly excited to lead Argonne in developing transformational energy research and technologies.”

    In 1988 Isaacs received a Ph.D. in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the field of magnetic semiconductors and was a postdoctoral fellow at Bell Laboratories, studying magnetism and correlated electronic systems, mostly with synchrotron-based X-ray techniques. He worked at Bell Laboratories for 13 years as a member of the technical staff, director of the Materials Physics Research Department and director of the Semiconductor Physics Department.

    He is a fellow of the American Physical Society and has served on a number of national scientific advisory committees, including the Department of Energy’s Basic Energy Sciences Advisory Committee.

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