New Jefferson Lab director Stuart Henderson in a photo from 2011.

Stuart Henderson in 2011.

Michael Kappel/Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Stuart Henderson appointed director of DOE's Jefferson Lab

Stuart Henderson, an accelerator physicist who has worked at numerous Department of Energy (DOE) national labs, has been appointed director of the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility in Newport News, Virginia, the lab announced Friday. Specializing in nuclear physics, Jefferson Lab has a staff of 700 and an annual budget of $150 million. Physicists there use their electron accelerator, the Continuous Electron Beam Accelerator Facility (CEBAF), to probe the structure of protons, neutrons, and small nuclei.

Jefferson Lab physicists are just completing a $338 million upgrade to the CEBAF that doubled its energy to 12 giga-electron volts (GeV), and that makes it a particularly exciting time to join the lab, Henderson says. "There's been a tremendous investment in the 12-GeV upgrade and job one is getting the machine working smoothly and getting the science out," he says. "Fortunately, we have a very enthusiastic community of users."

Henderson, 53, has a long track record both at DOE's national labs and on large accelerator projects. He currently works at Argonne National Laboratory in Lemont, Illinois, where he leads development of a proposed $734 million rebuild of the lab's x-ray synchrotron, the Advanced Photon Source. From 2010 to 2014 he worked at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) in Batavia, Illinois, and before that, at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, where he led commissioning of the lab's $1.4 billion Spallation Neutron Source. Prior to joining Oak Ridge he worked at Cornell University on its Cornell Electron Storage Ring.

As a leader, Henderson is honest, yet considerate, says Michael Lindgren, chief project officer at Fermilab. "He leads by example and is always very positive," Lindgren says. "He looks for ways to succeed that bring everybody along."

Having an accelerator physicist at the helm may also help Jefferson Lab as it looks to its longer term future. Although Jefferson Lab's clear priority is making the most of the 12-GeV upgrade, nuclear physicists want to build a high-energy electron-proton collider and set that as their long-term priority in a long-range plan formulated in 2015. That project likely couldn't be completed until the late 2020s at the earliest, but Henderson says he's eager to help pursue the long-range plan. "The attraction [of the directorship] is to be able to have an impact at a higher level," he says.

Henderson takes the helm of Jefferson Lab on 3 April. Current director Hugh Montgomery will step down to become director emeritus.