Berkeley Lab News Center Feature Story

June 27, 2008

Tony Spadafora: A New Kind of Director's Chief of Staff

Contact:Paul Preuss, 486-6249

Tony Spadafora started his professional life as a high-energy physicist, made a transition to astrophysics, and along the way discovered a gift for managing complex scientific projects. When he assumes his duties as Director Steve Chu's Chief of Staff on July 1, Spadafora will be the first Berkeley Lab Chief of Staff with hands-on scientific experience.

"Tony's experience as an extremely capable executive and administrator with some of Berkeley Lab's most significant astrophysics and cosmology projects, and his hands-on involvement with high-energy physics at particle physics labs here and abroad, attest to the qualities that will allow him to play a key role in managing the competing demands on the office of the Director of this leading national laboratory," says Chu. 

Spadafora grew up in Philadelphia, where an innovative physics course for high school freshmen triggered his enthusiasm for science. "From the first week in high school I was hooked by the idea that you could take a complex phenomenon and by analyzing quantitatively come up with a simple model to explain it."  

He got his BA in physics and philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania and his MA and PhD in physics, in 1984, from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. As a graduate student he worked on the Mark III experiment at SLAC's SPEAR ring and then, as a postdoc based at the Laboratoire de l'Accelerateur Linèaire in Orsay, France, did experimental work at the PETRA storage ring at DESY in Hamburg, Germany.

In 1986 he made the transition from electron-positron accelerators to proton colliders when he joined Berkeley Lab to work on the DØ experiment at Fermilab. In 1993 he transferred to the Superconducting Super Collider Laboratory in Waxahachie, Texas — shortly before Congress pulled the plug on that giant proton machine.

"I was very fortunate to be able to come back to Berkeley Lab, which was a new start in several ways," Spadafora says. Bernard Sadoulet asked Spadafora to be Associate Director of the Center for Particle Astrophysics, a job that entailed administrative duties from hiring to budgeting to overseeing computation and the Center's web presence, plus experimental work on the dark matter experiment as well. 

"I always liked the administrative side of science, even as a grad student," Spadafora says. "In science there's a stated goal that orients the work, but it takes a lot of steps to get there, a continuum of tasks that enable the science."

Beginning in 2001 Spadafora applied his experiences on both sides of the science equation, working as Program Manager for the Supernova Cosmology Project, led by Saul Perlmutter, and related astrophysics projects. Most recently Spadafora has been Acting Executive Director of the Berkeley Center for Cosmological Physics founded by George Smoot and colleagues.

Says Perlmutter, "Steve Chu is in luck in finding such a wonderful Chief of Staff — this is great news for the Lab. Our group's great pleasure in hearing this news is only slightly alloyed by the realization that we won't easily fill Tony's shoes!"

Spadafora, while striving to leave his current projects in good shape, looks forward to his new role. "One of the most exciting things is the wide range of challenges and opportunities that are focused on the Director's office. Steve Chu is incredibly energetic, a tremendous asset to the Lab and to DOE; his vision resonates with the scientific community, and he has sparked a raft of new, far-reaching proposals. Berkeley Lab can play an important role in attacking the many cutting-edge scientific questions that face this country and the world."


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