Keith Hodgson, Director of the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory


Keith Hodgson, previously the Deputy Director of the Synchrotron Division of the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center and Professor of Chemistry and SSRL, became Division Director on July 1, 1998. 

According to SLAC Director Burton Richter, "Keith brings with him a strong scientific background, excellent management skills and an awareness of the larger context in which national science laboratories must function" said Richter. "His active research program in synchrotron science and his extensive role in national advisory activities position him well for leading SSRL into the next phase of its development with the implementation of the new third generation synchrotron facility and the x-ray free electron laser (LCLS) based on the SLAC linac." 

Hodgson's appointment is unique in that he will be the first director of a major synchrotron facility who has a background and research interest in chemistry and biology rather than materials sciences or physics. 

Hodgson had been acting director of SSRL since last September 1997 when the former director, Arthur Bienenstock, was appointed to a senior position in Washington, DC with the Office of Science and Technology Policy. 

Hodgson's major research interests are inorganic and structural chemistry, using high-intensity synchrotron radiation for x-ray absorption, diffraction and scattering studies. He joined Stanford's Chemistry department in 1973 and became full professor of chemistry in 1984. In 1992, he became a joint professor of Chemistry and SSRL. In 1980, as principal investigator of an NIH funded grant, he began development on one of the world's first synchrotron-based structural molecular biology research and user programs at SSRL. 

Hodgson noted that shortly after coming to Stanford, "My future was strongly influenced by a discussion with Seb Doniach (SSRL's first Director and Professor of Applied Physics) where I first learned about the remarkable new x-ray source being developed at SLAC." At that time the laboratory was called SSRP and Doniach and Professor Bill Spicer were working closely with Richter and his SLAC colleagues to get the new facility started. 

Hodgson and his students began work at SSRL in 1974 where they quickly made important fundamental discoveries in the utilization of synchrotron x-rays for studies of chemical and biological structure. They carried out the first x-ray absorption and x-ray crystallographic studies of proteins and laid the foundation for the extensive development of a new field which today has broad use worldwide. His work has been recognized by awards and honors that include the Sidhu Award of the American Crystallographic Association in 1976, an Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship in 1976-78, a Robert Welch Foundation Lectureship in 1981 and a World Bank Lectureship in Chemistry in 1984. 

Working closely with his wife Dr. Britt Hedman (who is also at SSRL) and graduate students primarily from Chemistry, his current research focuses on using synchrotron radiation to study the structure and function metallo-enzymes such as those which convert nitrogen to ammonia or methane to methanol and are important in our biosphere. He is a co-author on more than 200 scientific publications and has given numerous invited lectures at national and international conferences. 

In 1983, the Department of Energy asked Hodgson to serve on a seminal committee to define the national need for new synchrotron facilities in the USA. Since then, he has assisted the federal government in a number of review and advisory capacities. He currently chairs the DOE Biological and Environmental Research Advisory Committee (BERAC). He is also a member of the NIH National Center for Research Resources Advisory Council. 

Hodgson is also involved with the Stanford community, for example, recently co-chairing a committee to evaluate and recommend future opportunities in the area of structural molecular biology and playing an instrumental role in the development and implementation of a plan to build a new facility at SSRL jointly between Stanford and The Scripps Research Institute. This facility will provide Stanford and Scripps researchers with access to state-of-the-art tools for protein crystallography research. 

"I look forward to leading SSRL into the next millennium," said Hodgson. "SSRL has a remarkably talented and dedicated staff who have a strong commitment to excellence. This is an important time to build upon the reputation of SSRL as a world class user facility for synchrotron science. Our strengths lie in providing high quality beams and user support to scientists from a wide range of disciplines who come to SSRL, and in continually pushing the scientific frontiers. Our strong coupling to the academic excellence of Stanford and its faculty will remain one of the key elements in our success." 

As a division of SLAC, SSRL is funded by the Department of Energy and Hodgson notes that "Close interaction with and support from the DOE programs in Basic Energy Sciences (which funds SSRL's operations) and the Office of Biological and Environmental Research (which funds the structural biology program together with NIH) are extremely important." 

Born in Virginia, Hodgson received his B.S. degree from the University of Virginia and his Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley. He was a NATO Postdoctoral Fellow in Zürich prior to coming to Stanford. He has been guest professor at Xiamen University in the People's Republic of China and guest lecturer on numerous occasions in Europe and Asia. 

July 7, 1999 
L. Dunn, SSRL