DOE Science Head Steps Down

The Department of Energy (DOE) will be needing a new science chief. Physicist Martha Krebs last week announced that she will leave her post as director of the Office of Science in December after 6 years on the job. Krebs isn't saying what she'll do next, and DOE officials have not yet decided who will take over the $3 billion research budget, which includes major physics, genetics, and computing projects.

Krebs spent a decade as an administrator of the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory in California before arriving at DOE in 1993. Her tenure began during a period of turmoil, as Congress had just cancelled the $12 billion Superconducting Super Collider, a giant particle accelerator--an embarrassing setback for the agency. Krebs helped establish new plans for DOE-funded research and oversaw the successful completion of other large research facilities, including the Main Injector at Fermilab in Batavia, Illinois.

This year, however, her office has been dogged by budget problems involving another particle accelerator, the $1.4 billion Spallation Neutron Source (SNS) to be built at DOE's Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee (Science, 4 June, p. 1594). Indeed, Krebs told ScienceNow that completing the SNS should be one of her successor's highest priorities, along with figuring out the next step for DOE's human genome sequencing program.

Krebs said that while she would like to see many of the projects she started through to completion, she realized "I wasn't going to be able to finish them within the next year," after which a new administration could replace her with another appointee. "It seemed like it's the right time for me to start thinking about what I'm going to do with the rest of my life," she said.

"She's done a good job," says physicist James Lyons of the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, who has served as an advisor to DOE. "She came in with less of an agenda and more enthusiasm for science than many who've held the job," he adds. In a statement, Energy Secretary Bill Richardson said Krebs's "expertise, energy, vision, professionalism, and leadership will sorely be missed."

--DAVID MALAKOFF