Michael Witherell has served as Lab Director since 2016. Founded in 1931, Berkeley Lab delivers scientific breakthroughs over a remarkable range of basic and applied science, with special focus on research in clean energy, Earth and ecological systems, and discovery science.
The Lab has an annual budget of more than $1 billion and is home to five national user facilities that serve more than 14,000 researchers annually. Its talented workforce of nearly 4,000 people contributes to its world-renowned expertise in materials, chemistry, physics, biology, Earth and environmental science, mathematics, and computing. The Lab’s operations teams are currently managing approximately $700 million in new capital and infrastructure projects as Director Witherell executes his vision of the Lab of the future.
Berkeley Lab’s close relationship with the nation’s leading public university, the University of California, brings the diverse intellectual capital of UC’s faculty, postdocs, and students to bear on the pursuit of the DOE’s science and energy missions. Witherell has deep ties to the UC; in 1981, he started his career at UC Santa Barbara as an assistant professor of physics from Princeton University. Later in his career, he was appointed UC Santa Barbara’s Vice Chancellor for Research and served in this role from 2005 to 2016.
Under Witherell’s leadership, Berkeley Lab has developed strategic priorities to ensure it has the research expertise, capabilities, and facilities that will be needed to address its mission as a world-leading research laboratory 20 years from now. This effort is reinforced by his vision of stewardship of the Lab’s world-class user facilities and infrastructure and of its outstanding researchers and staff.
Berkeley Lab leads nine active major DOE Office of Science projects and is a partner laboratory for another seven. Witherell has established high-profile programs in diversity, equity, and inclusion, and in early career development. He has also revitalized leadership development programs across the Lab, so that all our leaders are well-equipped to steward the Lab’s people, research, and resources to ensure that the Laboratory remains a critical national asset.
A leading physicist with a distinguished career in teaching, research, and managing complex organizations, Witherell has received numerous honors and recognitions for his scientific contributions and achievements, including the W. K. H. Panofsky Prize in Experimental Particle Physics from the American Physical Society in 1990.
He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and is a fellow of the American Physical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. This is the second national laboratory he has led; he headed Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) from 1999 to 2005. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in 1973 and his B.S. from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, in 1968.