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Physicist Doon Gibbs named BNL director

Physicist Doon Gibbs, interim director of Brookhaven National Laboratory, was named director Friday as the prestigious research institution heads into a period of tight funding.

Gibbs' appointment by the lab's board of directors followed a nine-month search.

"I am absolutely delighted," Gibbs said in an interview Friday afternoon after the announcement. "I'm passionate about Brookhaven National Lab and excited to have this opportunity. We're interested in attacking a whole range of the nation's science and technology problems."

Located in Upton, Brookhaven Lab employs some 3,000 scientists, engineers and technicians and operates on a $700-million annual budget. As director, Gibbs will oversee the lab's general operations and its scientific agenda.

Gibbs, 59, takes the helm as the lab faces growing uncertainty over funding in the face of federal budget cuts.

"I think the tight budget conditions that the federal government is facing are going to be one of the biggest challenges," Gibbs said, "and the impact that it will ultimately have on the science budgets."

Most at risk could be the lab's celebrated heavy ion collider, the nation's only remaining atom smasher, as the Department of Energy evaluates where to delegate funding in the face of a shrinking budget.

Gibbs said he has been working on a funding solution with the scientific community and Long Island's congressional delegation.

Local officials often point to Brookhaven as a foundation for building a high-tech economy on Long Island to grow new companies and jobs.

Gibbs became the interim director of the lab at the beginning of this year after former director Sam Aronson stepped down.

The board's search committee considered candidates from around the globe and unanimously picked Gibbs, said Sam Stanley, co-chairman of the lab's board and president of Stony Brook University.

"He's an outstanding scientist . . . but most impressive was honestly the fantastic job he's done as the interim director," he said.

Gibbs, raised in Utah, joined Brookhaven in 1983 as an assistant physicist after he received his doctorate in physics at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He studies the atomic structure and properties of materials.

Before becoming interim director he was deputy director for science and technology and associate lab director for basic energy sciences.

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