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Michael Witherell

Michael Witherell became Berkeley Lab’s new director on March 1, 2016. Mike is a leading physicist with a highly distinguished career in teaching, research and managing complex organizations. He has received numerous honors and recognitions for his scientific contributions and achievements. Mike is the former director of the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) in northern Illinois and last held the Presidential Chair in Physics at UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) where he was also vice chancellor for research. He was named director of Berkeley Lab by the UC Board of Regents in January, 2016.

Mike first came to UCSB in 1981 as an assistant professor of physics from Princeton University. Soon after joining UCSB, he led a Fermilab experiment that collected and studied the first large sample of charmed particles observed with a silicon microstrip vertex detector. As a result of that experiment, Mike was awarded the W. K. H. Panofsky Prize in Experimental Particle Physics from the American Physical Society in 1990.

In 1999 Mike was appointed director of Fermilab, the DOE laboratory dedicated to high-energy physics. During his six years as director, Fermilab upgraded the Tevatron accelerator complex, the highest-energy collider then operating. The laboratory also completed a $150 million project to build a long-baseline neutrino facility, which sent a beam of neutrinos 450 miles underground to a detector built at the Soudan Underground Laboratory in northern Minnesota.

In 2005 Mike rejoined the UC Santa Barbara faculty as vice chancellor for research, where he managed research administration and technology commercialization. He also supervised interdisciplinary research institutes in marine science, earth science, neuroscience, social sciences and ethnic studies in addition to the California Nanosystems Institute and six sites of the UC Natural Reserve System.

In 2010, while continuing as UCSB vice chancellor for research, Mike returned to conducting research on the nature of dark matter. He joined the LUX collaboration, which completed the most sensitive search for interactions of dark matter particles with normal matter.

Mike is also part of an international research team that designed the LUX-Zeplin (LZ) project, an experiment that will be three orders of magnitude more sensitive than LUX. In 2014 the LZ project was selected as the largest next-generation dark matter experiment in the DOE’s High Energy Physics program.

Mike is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a fellow of the American Physical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He currently chairs the Board on Physics and Astronomy at the National Academies; sits on the Committee on Science, Engineering and Public Policy at the National Academies; is a member of the American Physical Society’s Physics Policy Committee; and, serves on the Board of Directors for Science for Nature and People. Mike is the 2004 recipient of the Energy Secretary’s Gold Award.

Mike received his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in 1973 and his B.S. from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, in 1968.