The European Spallation Source (ESS) has named John Womersley, chief executive officer of the UK’s Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), its new director general.
He joins the ESS project on November 1, taking over from current head, Jim Yeck.
"I’m excited to join ESS. It’s one of Europe’s largest and most visible new research projects. Scientists, staff, partner institutions and countries across Europe have come together to build what will be the world's leading neutron source for research on materials and life sciences," said Womersley in a statement.
In his role as CEO of the STFC since 2011, Womersley leads one of Europe’s largest research organisations. He’s also the current chair of the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures, the forum for prioritising investment in research infrastructure in Europe.
Womersley is a professor and a scientist, and has a PhD in experimental physics. He worked at the American particle physics laboratory Fermilab and later became a scientific adviser to the US Department of Energy. In 2005 he become director of the particle physics department at the STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory.
Yeck announced last January he would step down to return to the US. Yeck joined ESS at the beginning of 2013, and led ESS into construction. Yeck and Womersley are expected to transition the role as Womersley joins later in autumn.
The change in leadership comes at as the ESS project is more than one-fifth complete. The powerful new neutron source is expected to come on line at the end of the decade.
The €1.8 billion bill for the facility is being split among 17 partners, with almost half being footed by Sweden and Denmark. The UK will cover 10 per cent and Spain 5 per cent. The EU is chipping in €20 million from its Horizon 2020 research programme.
The US currently has the brightest source of neutrons in the world at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. When completed, ESS is expected to be five times as powerful.