Pier Oddone, the director of the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois, announced today that he would be stepping down from the post he has held since 2005. He will stay on until July 2013. “It’s time for the new generation,” says Oddone. “I don’t believe in old war horses.”
Oddone says that he would like to be remembered for putting in place a transition plan for the lab, which lost its signature machine with the retirement of the Tevatron in 2011. He says that he would have retired earlier this year, but he first had to deal with a difficult presidential budget request, and he also wanted to develop a phased plan for the embattled Long-Baseline Neutrino Experiment, which is key in the lab’s shift from the energy frontier to the intensity frontier.
But with the centre of gravity having shifted to the Large Hadron Collider in Europe, will the lab ever host the world’s biggest energy-frontier machine again? “Technically there’s no question, but financially something will have to change in the US,” he says. The lab has tentatively begun to look at possibilities for a muon collider, but those machines are still decades away. Right now, Oddone says, the nation’s budget priorities are concentrated on research areas that have more near-term potential for applications: biology, advanced manufacturing and energy. “There is no question that particle physics in our country has declined in terms of the ambition of building the largest project or biggest machine at the energy frontier,” he says.
Oddone plans to retire to Sonoma County, California, where he will work on writing and advocacy. He says he will also pursue wine-making with the vineyard he owns.