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Oddone to retire; Fermilab readies 'international search'

Published: Friday, Aug. 3, 2012 5:30 a.m. CDT

BATAVIA – Fermilab has begun the search for someone to fill the top spot at the particle physics laboratory.

Thursday, Pier Oddone, director of the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, announced he will retire July 1.

Oddone had served in that post since 2005.

“Eight years is a good long time to serve in a job like this,” Oddone said. “It’s time for the next generation to take over.”

Oddone’s tenure was marked by scientific successes amid financial difficulties.

Fermilab scientists claimed major advances in particle physics, including leading the search for the recently discovered Higgs boson and launching projects to study neutrinos, dark matter and high-energy cosmic particles.

Oddone’s tenure also marked a time of transition at Fermilab as the lab shut down its Tevatron collider, partnered with the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland, and shifted local scientific efforts to other pursuits.

And Oddone also presided over staff cuts and other cost-cutting measures in response to decreased federal funding for Fermilab.

“Things have been topsy-turvy, certainly,” he said. “But I believe we have gotten things back on a more stable track. I think the lab is strong and will do very well.”

Oddone said he intends to relocate to California, where he owns and operates a vineyard. He wants to pursue several ventures he has been postponing, including writing.

In a statement released Thursday, Fermilab said a committee will conduct “an international search” for Oddone’s successor.

Oddone’s leadership was recognized by those in leadership positions at Fermilab.

“Pier’s leadership has ensured that Fermilab remains the centerpiece of particle physics research in the United States, and that the laboratory’s facilities and resources are focused on groundbreaking discoveries,” said Robert Zimmer, president of the University of Chicago and chairman of the Fermi Research Alliance board of directors, in a statement.

U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren, R-Winfield, who represents Kane County in Congress, also praised Oddone in a statement.

“Pier has been an extraordinary leader for Fermilab,” Hultgren said. “When incredible discoveries are made ... we have to recognize that those discoveries are made possible by people like him and places like Fermilab.”

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