John Womersley to be the next ESS Director General

A prominent figure in European research facilities, John Womersley will take over the European Spallation Source high-profile project at an important time.

Source: ESS


John Womersley speaks at the European Spallation Source Stone Ceremony in 2014. PHOTO: ESS

The European Spallation Source ERIC Council has named John Womersley, CEO of the UK’s Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), the next Director General. He joins the ESS project on November 1, taking over from current DG, Jim Yeck.

In his role as CEO of the STFC since 2011, Womersley leads one of Europe’s largest multidisciplinary research organisations. He is already very familiar with ESS as he was directly involved in the UK’s decision to join in 2014. He’s also a leading figure in European science policy as the current chair of the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI), the leading forum for prioritizing strategic 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 advisor to the US Department of Energy. In 2005 he become Director of the Particle Physics Department at the STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory.

The change in leadership comes at an important time for ESS as the project is more than one-fifth complete and ramping-up activities quickly. Almost 400 staff and hundreds of construction workers are working in Lund, Sweden. More than 40 institutions from 15 countries are participating in the construction.

The ESS facility is of strategic importance for European science and innovation aiming to take further steps in its top global position in material science. Europe has for decades led the world in material science with neutrons, and ESS will significantly outperform new facilities in Asia and North America.

The powerful new neutron source is expected to come on line at the end of the decade. It will enable scientists an unprecedented capability to probe matter with neutrons on the atomic and molecular scale. This research is expected to lead discoveries in drug development, energy and new materials, benefiting Europe’s industry and citizens.

ESS is a member of SINE2020.