A nuclear physicist will command the legendary division responsible for the discovery of 16 new elements.

Reiner Kruecken, a nuclear physicist and Deputy Director for Research at TRIUMF, Canada’s particle accelerator site, has been named the next Division Director of the Nuclear Science Division at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab). His position is set to begin in May. An worldwide search led to the announcement.

Kruecken’s principal research interests are in the structure and behavior of atomic nuclei in the lab and in space. In 1995, he earned a PhD in nuclear physics from the University of Cologne, where he worked on gamma-ray spectroscopy. From 1995 to 1997, he worked as a postdoctoral researcher at Berkeley Lab, investigating nuclear physics using the Gammasphere detector. Since then, he has worked on unusual nuclei and nuclear astrophysics, neutrinoless double beta decay, heavy-ion collisions, and practical nuclear physics, among other topics. He has taught at Yale, the Technical University of Munich, and the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, where he is presently a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy.

“I’m looking forward to Reiner’s arrival to head the Nuclear Science Division,” said Natalie Roe, Associate Laboratory Director for the Physical Sciences Area at Berkeley Lab. “He is a well-respected scientist whose remarkable record of nuclear physics research is well-aligned with the Nuclear Science Division’s overall direction.” Reiner has also held key executive positions at prestigious institutions in Germany and Canada. Reiner’s combination of expertise in research and scientific management is really unique, therefore we are extremely lucky to have him on board.”


“I’m thrilled to be returning to Berkeley Lab after such a long time and to be offered the chance to head the Nuclear Science Division,” Kruecken stated. “It is one of the world’s finest nuclear physics institutions, with an outstanding staff of skilled individuals across all of its disciplines.” The division is ideally positioned to spearhead big breakthroughs throughout the broad spectrum of nuclear research, pushing discoveries on the structure of nuclei and nuclear matter, as well as using nuclei as laboratories to explore basic forces and applying nuclear science to the benefit of humanity.”

Berkeley Lab has a long history of leadership in nuclear physics, dating back to the lab’s foundation in 1931. Berkeley Lab was the first to generate a completely synthetic element, technetium, in 1937, and has since been engaged in the synthesis and discovery of 15 additional elements and over 630 isotopes. Nuclear structure physics, studies of the heaviest elements, exotic nuclei and light radioactive beams, weak interactions, and nuclear reactions; relativistic heavy ion physics; nuclear theory; nuclear astrophysics and neutrino properties; data evaluation; and advanced instrumentation are all major programs in the Nuclear Science Division today. The 88-Inch Cyclotron is also run by this section. The division is one of four in Berkeley Lab’s Physical Sciences Area, which brings together scientists and engineers to investigate interactions between matter and energy at ranges ranging from the furthest reaches of the universe to the smallest subatomic particles.

Kruecken was named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in 2019. In 2017, he was inducted by the American Physical Society as a Fellow. Prior to becoming the facility’s Deputy Director, he worked as the Science Division Head at TRIUMF. He is a member of the German Excellence Strategy Committee of Experts, as well as various other scientific partnership steering groups, advisory committees, and boards.

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Kruecken was also part of an international team of nuclear and astroparticle physicists who designed and commercialized a new mechanical ventilator design in 2021 in response to COVID-19.

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and its scientists have been honored with 14 Nobel Prizes since its founding in 1931 on the notion that the greatest scientific problems are best solved by teams. Berkeley Lab researchers are working to produce sustainable energy and environmental solutions, develop valuable new materials, push computers forward, and investigate the secrets of life, matter, and the cosmos. For their own discovery work, scientists from all over the globe depend on the Lab’s resources. Berkeley Lab is a multiprogram national laboratory run by the University of California for the Office of Science of the United States Department of Energy.

DOE’s Office of Science is the country’s biggest funder of fundamental research in the physical sciences, and it’s trying to solve some of the world’s most urgent problems. Visit energy.gov/science for additional information.

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