Siegfried S. Hecker, former director of Los Alamos National Laboratory, and Robert Cowan, a laboratory fellow, have been awarded the 2008 Los Alamos Medal, the institution's most prestigious award.
Established in 2001, the medal is the highest honor the laboratory can bestow upon an individual or small group. Laboratory Director Michael Anastasio will present the medals to Hecker and Cowan during a formal awards ceremony and reception.
Recipients of the award are selected by a review committee on the basis of whether they have "made a contribution that changed the course of science, facilitated a major enhancement to the laboratory's ability to accomplish its mission, had a significant impact on lab sustainability, and established a major direction for the institution or the nation."
Hecker was selected "based on his many important and signature contributions to scientific research as a technical staff member, to the management of science at Los Alamos during his brief but critical leadership of the emergent Center for Materials Science and later as laboratory director, and to national policy, including stockpile stewardship and plutonium aging, engaging Russian nuclear weapons scientists after the collapse of the Soviet Union, promoting the importance of the study of terrorism as an emerging threat, and acting as a senior representative of the nuclear weapons complex in the North Korea nuclear weapons situation," the committee wrote.
Hecker's contributions to the science of plutonium metallurgy and his scientific leadership have been recognized by election to the National Academy of Engineering, as a member of the American Physical Society, as a foreign member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and as a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Hecker also has received the U.S. Department of Energy's E.O. Lawrence Award.
As laboratory director, Hecker helped transition the laboratory to a post-Cold-War environment and promoted collaboration with Russian nuclear laboratories to secure and safeguard the ex-Soviet stockpile of fissile materials. "As both a scientist and as a manager, Hecker was a passionate and eloquent spokesman for science, a legacy that will continue to be felt at Los Alamos for many years," the committee wrote.
Hecker and Cowan join a distinguished coterie of past Los Alamos Medal winners, including Nobel Laureate Hans Bethe, former laboratory Director Harold Agnew and Louis Rosen, father of the Los Alamos Neutron Science Center.