Physicist Robert Birgeneau announced today that he will step down at the end of 2012 from his post as chancellor of the University of California (UC), Berkeley. Birgeneau took the job in September 2004 and initially planned to serve for 7 years, according to a statement released by the university. He extended his stay due to California's economic crisis, which led to the state slashing funding for the entire UC system. These cuts have been keenly felt on the flagship Berkeley campus during what Birgeneau described as "one of the most challenging periods in its 144-year history."
During Birgeneau's tenure, the campus launched several interdisciplinary initiatives in the sciences, including the Berkeley Energy and Climate Institute and the Li Ka Shing Center for Biomedical and Health Sciences. In the face of rising student fees forced by the cuts to state funding, Birgeneau fought to maintain access to higher education for lower- and middle-income students, including those lacking immigration documents. He plans to remain on campus to teach and conduct research.