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Friday, July 16, 2004

















President Introduces Chu to Regents; Chu Introduces Space Issue

Berkeley Lab's incoming Director, Steven Chu, was introduced to the University of California Board of Regents in San Francisco yesterday, and he wasted no time in getting down to business. Taking a few moments to reflect the scientific quality that he said he has found at the Lab, Chu told the Regents that sustained excellence will depend heavily upon adequate space, both on the hill and on campus

"One of the biggest problems with the lab is the space issue," he said. "One division director I spoke to said he has 70 investigators spread out in 14 buildings. You can't build intellectual units this way."

Chu said he saw "great opportunities at this marvelous and diverse laboratory," in particular the prospect of "bringing these parts together in ways that are ripe. As I talk to division directors and leaders, there is excitement about the opportunities to move forward and bring all these pieces together."

But, he cautioned, frustration over space shortcomings can lead to a migration of quality scientists to other locations, including the Berkeley campus, which has its own space challenges. "We want to establish a core of excellence on the hill," Chu said, "and a sane building program on campus and at the lab" is necessary to sustain the excellence of both institutions." He vowed to work with the Regents, the new Berkeley Chancellor, and "the two Bobs" (UC President Robert Dynes and Vice President Robert Foley) to think creatively about how we can solve both problems."

The director-designate's introduction followed a lengthy discussion by the Regents about the latest security issue at Los Alamos, which involved the disappearance of some classified material in the physics directorate. Chu reflected upon his own experience at Stanford, when the university was penalized for environmental safety violations. As a result, he said a committee was formed, on which he served, and a culture change was implemented and directly addressed down to the graduate student and post-doc levels.

"Although there is no classified material at Berkeley Lab, we do have similar management issues, and they need to be taken seriously," he told the Regents. "If the lab isn't managed in a (safe and secure) way, no matter how good the science is, the lab is in serious jeopardy."

He described one incident, in which a post-doc in his lab failed to label a container of dangerous corrosive solution, as "fundamentally antisocial behavior. He put everyone in jeopardy." He also noted that "there is a one-to-one correlation between how neat a person's lab is and how good the research is. If your lab is messy, your result is probably not going to be reasonable."

President Dynes introduced Chu with a summary of his accomplishments, including his description of Chu as "a pioneer in an area of extremely exciting science, the convergence of the physical with the biological sciences."

"This is a critical time in the relationship between the University of California and the federal government," Dynes said. "And the fact that we could attract Steve to this job speaks volumes to me about the strengths of the university and our ability to recruit people of such national stature and quality."

Chu responded by acknowledging outgoing Director Charles Shank, who "in the last 15 years...has done a marvelous job and leaves the lab in great condition."

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