You are here

Introducing TRIUMF’s First Deputy Director

30 September 2015

As TRIUMF embarks upon its latest Five-Year Plan 2015–2020, Director Dr. Jonathan Bagger implemented several changes to TRIUMF’s management structure and leadership team (press release). Dr. Reiner Kruecken, former Head of the Science Division, is TRIUMF’s new Deputy Director.

In this new role, Reiner will be working across divisions to realize the laboratory’s scientific vision as set out in the current Five-Year Plan, and to develop TRIUMF’s long-term science strategy. Reiner has led the Science Division since 2011, during which time he was involved as co-editor of TRIUMF’s Five-Year Plan 2010–2015, initiated the annual ARIEL Science workshop series, and recently created the NSERC CREATE Isotopes for Science and Medicine (IsoSiM) program to expose students to the interdisciplinary nature of isotopes.

We sat down with Reiner to talk about his path to becoming TRIUMF’s Deputy Director.

How did you first become interested in science?

I was extremely lucky to have a brilliant physics teacher in high school that really fostered my talent and got me so interested that I wanted to study physics.

What attracted you to physics specifically?

Everything is ultimately driven by simple physical laws. There are clear rules. That connects extremely well with me. I like that you can understand nature at its most fundamental level and that there is a very simplistic way it may actually work.

What have been some of the highlights of your scientific career?

There are different phases of my career that are quite memorable. As a student and postdoc, I was coming up with nuclear structure experiments, which I found really exciting. Some of the research topics aren’t the focus anymore but, at the time, it was the reason large gamma-ray spectrometers were built.

As a professor at Yale, I was helping to build up a completely new experimental program from scratch. The lab was at a crossroad and with a small team of three faculty, we built up the experimental program again and contributed research that was relevant to the community.

The next big expansion of my career was an eye opener. At Munich, I led a very large and diverse group and was director of a small accelerator laboratory, and for the first time I appreciated the breadth of a broader program. I saw how different areas actually fertilize each other – be it ideas or technologies. I gained appreciation for science outside of my narrow field as well as the applications of nuclear physics research.

If you could go back to school, what subject would you take?

When I was a student in Germany, our classes were focused on core subjects, physics and math. I wasn’t exposed to other subjects. I felt I totally missed any professional skills development.

Students and young researchers need to be made aware early on of the bigger picture and should have an environment where they are exposed to other things. That’s really important. It may generate interest, spur ideas or initiatives. It’s why we brought all the students and postdocs together at TRIUMF.

How does this new position, Deputy Director, fit into the lab?

If you look where TRIUMF is today, we have a very ambitious vision outlined in our Five-Year Plan. We will complete ARIEL, build IAMI [Institute for Advanced Medical Isotopes], and transition AAPS [Advanced Applied Physics Solutions, Inc.] out from the CECR [Centres of Excellence for Commercialization and Research] program and under TRIUMF’s umbrella. There is a master plan for the site that includes growth and new developments. At the same time, there are many cross-divisional projects. A deputy director will support the director and drive these projects, ensuring safety, effective operations and project execution, as well as open communication with our stakeholders.

Five Things About Reiner

  1. Along with his older brother, Reiner was the first in his family to pursue higher education.
  2. As a student, Reiner struggled with expressing what he was studying (physics) to his parents. In turn, his father thought he was an advanced electrician!
  3. According to Reiner, “Running your experiment is the most fun time of your life.
  4. He loves sailing though admits he doesn’t get out on the water enough. He has a picture of sailboats in his office to serve as a reminder, a gift from his wife.
  5. Reiner felt that he missed any kind of professional skills development during his academic training. In part, this inspired him to found the NSERC CREATE Isotopes for Science and Medicine (IsoSiM) program, a joint initiative between TRIUMF and UBC.

What have you been doing to prepare for this role?

A number of things happened, especially over the past two years, that have helped me prepare for this new role.   

First and foremost, in 2013-14, an interim leadership team was charged with leading the laboratory while we were searching for the next laboratory director. That opened up my perspective quite a bit. When Jonathan took the helm, the leadership team continued to discuss laboratory activities and implementation of the Five-Year Plan. As we worked to secure the funding, there was a lot of preparation to understand the interactions of various research programs.

Over the past four years as Head of the Science Division (now referred to as Physical Sciences Division), I’ve been a part of the laboratory and seen how it works. I’ve been integrated into the Canadian scientific community and our member universities, as well.

I do appreciate the perspective this new position brings. I must focus on what’s good for the divisions – beyond physical sciences – and understand the points of view of everyone else. I think I’ve always looked out for the good of the lab overall but now it’s part of the job description!

What are the big plans for next Five-Year Plan, 2020–2025?

We've had some initial discussions in terms of what’s the next step in terms of facility development and research. You could imagine many projects but ultimately it has to be compelling, science-driven, and supported by the community.

It must warrant the investment for Canada and in the international arena. Hopefully the Canadian community can set the priorities in a way that we can support, that keeps our science program and our facilities world leading.

TRIUMF can only be relevant if we contribute top-notch science but also serve our member universities in a way that makes it relevant for them and for Canada. 

–by Melissa Baluk, Communications Coordinator