A physicist with more than 25 years' experience in nuclear-weapons science and technology has become the 10th director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. Charles McMillan, 56, succeeds physicist Michael Anastasio, who had been lab boss since 2006. Established in 1943, Los Alamos now has an annual budget of about $2bn and employs nearly 10 000 staff.

With a PhD in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, McMillan began his career in 1983 as an experimental physicist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in California. He later moved into computational science and management at the LLNL before joining Los Alamos in 2006 as principal associate director for its weapons programmes. That role involved him overseeing the safety, reliability and performance of the US nuclear deterrent, which is the lab's main mission.

Los Alamos is one of three US nuclear-weapons labs – the other two being the LLNL and Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico. McMillan's responsibilities as head of Los Alamos will, however, go beyond developing and maintaining nuclear weapons. The lab also operates a national high-magnetic-field laboratory and works with other institutions including the Joint Genome Institute, which tackles genome mapping, DNA sequencing and related information science. Los Alamos also runs a research programme in systems-biology modelling.

"The lab is helping prevent pandemics, detecting and disabling improvised explosive devices, and developing alternative energy sources," McMillan told physicsworld.com. "Today it leads research breakthroughs in areas as diverse as contributing to a possible AIDS vaccine and to fuel cell energy storage developments that could cut costs and speed commercialization. One of my goals is to build on these strengths to enhance the lab for the future."

"In excellent hands"

In addition to becoming director, McMillan also becomes president of Los Alamos National Security (LANS), a public–private organization that manages the lab for the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA).

"Having known and worked with Charlie McMillan for more than a decade, I know Los Alamos is in excellent hands," says NNSA administrator Thomas D'Agostino. "As we work to invest in the future and build the modern 21st-century nuclear-security enterprise required to implement the president's nuclear-security agenda, Los Alamos will continue to play a vital role in pushing the frontiers of science and discovery."

Meanwhile, LLNL director George Miller has announced that he will retire in October. Lawrence Livermore National Security, which operates the lab, is seeking his successor.