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Stanford's Siegfried S. Hecker receives 2009 Enrico Fermi Award

Stanford Professor Siegfried S. Hecker, who has worked to reduce the danger of nuclear weapons worldwide, has been awarded the 2009 Enrico Fermi Award, one of the U.S. government's most prestigious science and technology prizes. 

Siegfried S. Hecker

Siegfried S. Hecker

Professor Siegfried S. Hecker, co-director of Stanford's Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC) and director emeritus of Los Alamos National Laboratory, has been named a recipient of the 2009 Enrico Fermi Award, one of the U.S. government's oldest and most prestigious science and technology prizes.

U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced the award, which is being shared with Professor John Bannister Goodenough of the University of Texas. The presidential honor carries a $375,000 prize, which will be divided between the recipients. They also will receive a gold medal and a citation.

"The 2009 Enrico Fermi Award will go to two scientists who have selflessly devoted themselves to our nation's energy and national security challenges," Chu said.

The award, which honors 1938 Physics Nobel Laureate Enrico Fermi, will be presented by Chu at an upcoming ceremony in Washington, D.C. Hecker, a research professor in the Department of Management Science and Engineering and senior fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, is being recognized "for his contributions to plutonium metallurgy, his broad scientific leadership and for his energetic and continuing efforts to reduce the danger of nuclear weapons" worldwide.

Hecker, 65, said he is "deeply honored and humbled" to receive the award. "I have been most fortunate to have worked with inspirational people at great institutions such as the Los Alamos National Laboratory and Stanford University," he said. "I have been able to pursue my passion for science and technology, especially in the nuclear arena, and how these affect international security."

Hecker joins a distinguished group of Fermi recipients from Stanford. These include physicist and arms control specialist Sidney D. Drell, a professor emeritus at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory; Wolfgang K. H. "Pief" Panofsky, director emeritus of SLAC; and physicist Edward Teller, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. Panofsky and Teller are deceased.

Hecker, a metallurgist, is a leading expert on plutonium. He has contributed to the understanding of plutonium aging, which is of critical importance in assessing the reliability and performance of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile. In addition, Hecker was one of the principal architects of the science-based stockpile stewardship approach, which is used to certify the safety and reliability of America's nuclear deterrent.

During the latter part of his tenure at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), where he was based until 2005, Hecker was a pioneer in global nuclear nonproliferation and threat reduction, establishing collaborative research and mutual cooperation with the nuclear weapons laboratories in Russia and other former Soviet Republics.

Hecker earned a bachelor's degree in 1965, a master's in 1967 and a doctorate in 1968, all in metallurgy, from Case Western Reserve University. He directed LANL from 1986 to 1997 and remained there as a senior fellow until 2005, when he joined the Stanford faculty.

The Enrico Fermi Award, established in 1956, is administered for the White House by the U.S. Department of Energy. It honors the memory of Enrico Fermi, leader of the group of scientists who on Dec. 2, 1942, achieved the first self-sustained, controlled nuclear reaction at the University of Chicago. Among the first recipients were physicists John von Neumann, Ernest O. Lawrence, Hans Bethe and Robert Oppenheimer, in addition to Teller.

Media Contact

Lisa Trei, Center for International Security and Cooperation: (650) 725-6488, lisatrei@stanford.edu