Michael Witherell is Lab Director, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. He was named to this position by the University of California Regents with the concurrence of the Dept. of Energy in January 2016.
Witherell has had a distinguished career in science, academia, and the National Lab system prior to coming to the Lab. He spent six years as the director of DOE’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) in northern Illinois, which is dedicated to high-energy physics. There, he led an upgrade to the Tevatron accelerator, the highest-energy collider then operating, and also completed a $150 million project to build a long-baseline neutrino facility, which sent a beam of neutrinos 450 miles underground to a detector built at the Soudan Underground Laboratory in northern Minnesota.
He was the Presidential Chair in Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), where he was also vice chancellor for research. His responsibilities included supervising interdisciplinary research institutes in marine science, earth science, neuroscience, social sciences, and ethnic studies, in addition to the California Nanosystems Institute and six sites of the UC Natural Reserve System.
Witherell’s primary research interest is in studying the nature of dark matter. He was a contributor to the LUX experiment, which in 2016 published the most sensitive search for interactions of dark matter particles with normal matter. He is now part of an international research team that is building a successor to LUX, known as LZ, which will be three orders of magnitude more sensitive. The experiment is expected to start taking data in 2020.
He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a fellow of the American Physical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He sits on the Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy at the National Academies and serves on the board of directors for the University of California Berkeley Lawrence Hall of Science.
Witherell has been awarded the W.K.H. Panofsky Prize in Experimental Particle Physics from the American Physical Society for his work with charmed particles observed with a silicon microstrip vertex detector. Witherell is the 2004 recipient of the Energy Secretary’s Gold Award.
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.