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Brookhaven Lab Names New Nuclear and Particle Physics Directorate Lead

Haiyan Gao, a nuclear physicist and professor, will join the Lab as Associate Laboratory Director for Nuclear and Particle Physics

Photo of Haiyan Gao

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UPTON, NY–Haiyan Gao, currently the Henry W. Newson Distinguished Professor of Physics at Duke University, will join the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory as Associate Laboratory Director (ALD) for Nuclear & Particle Physics (NPP) starting on or about June 1, 2021.

Gao, who has a long history in nuclear physics, will help develop Brookhaven’s collective long-term vision for the next 10 years.  She’ll also work across the Laboratory and beyond to craft its emerging expertise at the future Electron-Ion Collider (EIC), a one-of-kind nuclear physics research facility that will be built at the Lab over the next decade, after Brookhaven’s flagship nuclear physics facility, the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider, completes its research mission.

“The Nuclear & Particle Physics Directorate is well-known internationally in accelerator science, high-energy physics, and nuclear physics,” Gao said. “I am very excited by the opportunity and the impact I will be able to make in collaboration with many people at the Lab.”

Gao will replace Deputy ALD for High Energy Physics Dmitri Denisov, who became Interim NPP ALD after Berndt Mueller stepped down from the role last year to return to teaching and full-time research at Duke.

“We are delighted to welcome Haiyan to Brookhaven during such an exciting time for nuclear and particle physics,” said Brookhaven Lab Director Doon Gibbs. “Her perspective and experience will be instrumental in advancing science here at the Lab and beyond.”

Gao joins Brookhaven Lab as it develops the EIC in collaboration with scientists from DOE’s Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility. The EIC will offer scientists a deeper look at the building blocks of visible matter and the strongest force in nature.

“What is important at the end is that we truly deliver the science,” she said.

The facility is one that the nuclear physics community has campaigned for many years, to work toward a more complete understanding of nucleons and atomic nuclei in quantum chromodynamics, the physics theory that describes strong interactions, Gao noted. It will also allow scientists opportunities to discover new physics beyond the Standard Model of particle physics, Gao said.

“This facility also gives us a wonderful opportunity to educate a highly motivated scientific and technical workforce in this country,” she added.

In addition to her nuclear physics expertise, Gao brings a keen interest in promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in the sciences.

Gao earned her Ph.D. in physics from the California Institute of Technology in 1994. Since then, she has held a number of positions within the field including as an assistant physicist at Argonne National Laboratory, and assistant and associate professor of physics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

During her time at Duke, Gao also served as the chair of physics and as the founding vice chancellor for academic affairs at the Duke Kunshan University in Kunshan, China, where she spent a few years of her childhood.  

Gao’s research interests at Duke have included the structure of the nucleon, search for quantum chromodynamics exotic states, fundamental symmetry studies at low energy to search for new physics beyond the Standard Model of electroweak interactions, and the development of polarized targets.

She was elected an American Physical Society fellow in 2007 and won the U.S. Department of Energy’s Outstanding Junior Investigator Award in 2000.

Brookhaven National Laboratory is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science. The Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit

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