Siegfried S. Hecker, 2009


For his contributions to plutonium metallurgy, for his broad scientific leadership, and for his energetic and continuing efforts to reduce the danger of nuclear weapons around the globe.


Dr. Siegfried S. Hecker is a metallurgist and materials scientist, with extensive experience in nuclear security, including nonproliferation and counterterrorism. He is known internationally for his work in plutonium science and cooperative threat reduction. In his career at Los Alamos National Laboratory, Dr. Hecker rose to the rank of laboratory director and is recognized for his intense dedication to the quality of science within that institution.

In the area of plutonium metallurgy, Dr. Hecker is credited with solving the long-standing mystery and controversy of significant discrepancies between the plutonium-gallium phase diagram published by U.S. and former Soviet Union researchers, respectively. The results of his studies in this area were published jointly with Russian scientists after the Cold War. Dr. Hecker also has contributed significantly to the understanding of plutonium aging. His research in this area contributed to the most accurate understanding of the science of plutonium aging, to date, and is of pivotal importance in assessing the reliability and performance of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile.

Dr. Hecker became the fifth director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory in 1986 and remained in that position until 1997. During his tenure as director, the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union ended and a moratorium on underground nuclear testing began. These changes had profound effects on the role of nuclear deterrence and on the technical approaches used within the U.S. to assure the President that the nation's nuclear stockpile remains safe and reliable. Dr. Hecker was one of the principal architects of the science-based stockpile stewardship approach, still in use today. Under his leadership, the Laboratory implemented small and large-scale experimental facilities to validate modeling and simulations performed with the world's most powerful supercomputers. This approach established the foundational elements still used today to assure confidence in the U.S. nuclear deterrent. At the same time, recognizing the evolving role of the Laboratory, Dr. Hecker championed non-weapons research to address problems of national security and global humanitarian and social consequence, such as sequencing the human genome, HIV/AIDS research, climate modeling, and energy security.

During the latter part of his tenure at Los Alamos National Laboratory, Dr. Hecker earned international recognition as a pioneer for global nuclear nonproliferation and threat reduction, by establishing collaborative research and mutual cooperation with the nuclear weapons laboratories in Russia and other ex-Soviet Republics. As the Cold War ended in the early 1990s, Dr. Hecker was among the first to recognize and act on the threat posed by the effects of the decline of the former-Soviet weapons on its scientists and the need for adequate accountability of former-Soviet nuclear materials. Through vigorous diplomacy and outreach, Dr. Hecker helped establish cooperative programs between the U.S. and former-Soviet weapons laboratories that helped to stabilize the former-Soviet institutions. He also played an important role in establishing U.S. nuclear nonproliferation programs in materials control and accountability. These activities are credited with reducing the nuclear threats posed by the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

Dr. Hecker's interests in nuclear nonproliferation and cooperative threat reduction continue in his present position as Director of the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University. His current interests include the international nuclear challenges posed by states such as, India, Pakistan, North Korea, and Iran. Since January 2004, Dr. Hecker has visited North Korea five times as part of official and unofficial delegations, to provide expert opinions about the North Korean nuclear program. In part, the success of the negotiations with North Korea derives from the technical credibility of experts, such as Dr. Hecker, who provide a scientific basis for objectively validating the status and scope of foreign nuclear activities.

Dr. Hecker has received numerous prestigious awards and commendations, including the American Nuclear Society's Seaborg Medal and the U.S. Department of Energy E. O. Lawrence Award. He is a fellow of TMS (the Minerals, Metals & Materials Society), a member of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering, and is a Fellow of the American Society for Metals. Recognizing the depth and breadth of his interactions with Russian Scientists, Dr. Hecker was named a foreign member of the Russian Academy of Sciences. He is a member of the Tau Beta Pi Honorary Engineering Fraternity, Alpha Sigma Mu Honorary Metallurgical Fraternity, and the Society of Sigma Xi.

Dr. Hecker received his B.S. in Metallurgy in 1965, his M.S. in Metallurgy in 1967, and his Ph.D. in Metallurgy in 1968, all from Case Western Reserve University. Prior to joining Los Alamos National Laboratory in 1973, he was a senior research metallurgist at General Motors Research Laboratory.

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