John Wood takes over as chief executive of the Council for the Central Laboratory of the Research Councils at one of the most turbulent times in its 35-year history.
The government's decision last year to locate the next-generation synchrotron at the CCLRC's Rutherford Laboratory was followed by months of uncertainty at its Daresbury site. Last week, trade and industry secretary Stephen Byers promised a £150 million project at Daresbury. But the first stage of a quinquennial review described the CCLRC's relationship with other research councils as "sub-optimal" and recommended it should be reconstituted as a limited company.
Professor Wood visited Daresbury earlier this month. Staff there described him as positive about the way the CCLRC is moving forward. He will begin his four-year appointment on the portentous date of April 1.
Professor Wood has chaired the Office of Science and Technology's Foresight panel on materials since 1997. He is a fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering and has been awarded the Grunfeld and Ivor Jenkins prizes of the Institute of Materials. He is also citizen of honour of Cluj-Napaca, Romania for "help in restructuring materials engineering education".
Born in London and educated at St Lawrence College, Kent, Professor Wood had trouble deciding between science and arts at A level. A vacation course at the then International Nickel Laboratory in Birmingham convinced him to study metallurgy, although he has retained his love of music and reading. His first degree at Sheffield University was followed by a PhD at Cambridge University in materials science.
He lectured at the Open University for 11 years before joining Nottingham University, where he is dean of engineering. Professor Wood became a Freeman of the City of London in 1995 and is also a trainee lay reader for the Church of England.