Steven E.F. Brown
June 10, 2014
San Francisco Business Times
Peter J.K. “Jeff” Wisoff, a former astronaut, has been named principal associate director at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, overseeing the National Ignition Project and Photon Science.
The NIF seeks to harness fusion as an energy source — it uses lasers to zap pellets of deuterium fuel.
Wisoff, who flew four times on NASA’s space shuttle and walked in space three times before the lab hired him in 2001, has been acting associate director of NIF and Photon Science since October.
Bill Goldstein, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s director, will be Wisoff’s boss.
His job includes overseeing not only the enormous National Ignition Facility project, but also other advanced laser research including target and control systems, as well as work with government agencies that take care of the U.S. nuclear arsenal (“Stockpile Stewardship” in government language). He will also oversee work on other areas of physics and will interact with experts in academia and the private sector.
Wisoff earned his bachelor’s degree in physics from the University of Virginia, and has his master’s and Ph.D. in applied physics from Stanford University.
Started in 1952 as a Cold War atomic weapons research center, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has in the decades since then moved into many other areas of science, including biomedicine, climate studies (using its increasingly powerful supercomputers) and fusion energy. Early work on fusion centered on magnetic “bottles” contained by giant magnets before moving on to the laser fusion project Wisoff will be overseeing.
The lab is managed for the U.S. Department of Energy by a coalition of private businesses and the University of California. Local companies involved in running the lab include San Francisco engineering giants Bechtel Corp. and URS Corp. (NYSE: URS).