Oddone, who was born in Peru, received his first degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his PhD from Princeton University, and has spent most of his career at Berkeley. He has been deputy director of the laboratory since 1989, and was also director of the physics division between 1987 and 1991. At present he is responsible for scientific programmes at Berkeley and oversees major laboratory initiatives and strategic planning.

Oddone, who is 60, is best known for proposing an asymmetric electron-positron collider as a way to study the difference between matter and antimatter in B mesons -- a proposal that earned him the 2005 Panofsky Prize of the American Physical Society. The collider is called asymmetric because the electron and positron beams have different energies; it is also known as a B factory because it produces enormous numbers of B mesons. The B factories currently operating at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) in the US and the KEK particle physics lab in Japan are both based on Oddone's approach.

Oddone, who will take up his position on 1 July next year, succeeds Michael Witherell, who is moving to the University of California at Santa Barbara to become vice-chancellor for research. Fermilab is owned by the US Department of Energy and operated by Universities Research Association, a consortium of 90 universities.