There’s No Place Like Home
When the Los Alamos National Lab started searching for an eminent scientist to lead its Human Genome Center last fall, biology group leader George Bell told The Scientist (Sept. 5, 1988, page 2): “We’re looking for someone of [Charles] Cantor’s stature.” It was a reference to the well-known Columbia University geneticist whom Lawrence Berkeley Lab had just hired to run its own program. Last month Los Alamos named Robert Moyzis, an in-house scientist who has headed the lab’s genetics program for five years, to the job. But although Moyzis recently led the Los Alamos team that discovered the genetic material that marks the ends of human chromosomes, his reputation among academics is not on a par with Cantor’s.
What happened? “We had a person of equal or even higher stature [than Cantor] lined up, but after anguishing over it, he eventually turned us down,” says Bell. One problem, he explains, is that the center has limited lab space. A well-established university scientist would likely want to continue with an extensive research program, and that means creating a new lab and equipping it to accommodate the incoming researcher. “We just don’t have the room,” says Bell. On the other hand, Moyzis and his team were already working at the lab and needed no new facilities.
The Imagemaker Cometh
Everyone agrees that the Lawrence Livermore National Lab has an image problem. What they differ on is what to do about it. Local residents want it to clean up festering environmental hazards, academics want the University of California to tighten up on its oversight of the lab, and Congress wants it to come clean on its role in promoting the Strategic Defense Initiative. The lab thinks it should get a better director of media relations. So this spring it hired one at a salary of $110,000. “We believe the ability to communicate well is imperative, especially in these times,” says lab spokesman Paul Canners. Conners calls the new employee, former General Electric public relations expert Charles Biederman, “a pro. He’s really good.”
Biederman’s salary, however, has raised eyebrows at some of the other national labs. Phone calls to a half-dozen national labs reveal that Biederman is getting twice the going rate for officials with approximately the same title. The salary range for the media relations manager at Brookhaven National Lab, for example, is between $33,200 and $46,600; for Fermilab, it’s $38,200 to $62,200. Do they earn $110,000 at Livermore’s sister lab, Los Alamos? “Not quite,” laughs public affairs office manager Jeffrey Schwartz. He earns about $40,000. His boss, however, director of community and public affairs James Breen, makes twice that.