Director Emerita

Persis S. Drell

Lab Director 2007-2012

Portrait of Persis Drell, SLAC lab director, 2007-2012 (SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, Archives and History Office)

Persis S. Drell was SLAC director from 2007 through October 2012. She came to SLAC in 2002 as a professor and director of research, and in her early years worked on the construction of the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. She was named deputy director of the lab in 2005 and director two years later. 

Persis S. Drell was SLAC director from 2007 through October 2012. She came to SLAC in 2002 as a professor and director of research, and in her early years worked on the construction of the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. She was named deputy director of the lab in 2005 and director two years later. 

Drell helped broaden the focus of the laboratory from primarily high-energy physics research to being a leader in a number of scientific disciplines. She increased collaborations between SLAC and the main Stanford campus and oversaw transformational projects, including the 2010 operational startup of the Linac Coherent Light Source, the world’s most powerful hard X-ray free-electron laser.

She received her bachelor's degree in mathematics and physics from Wellesley College in 1977 and a PhD in atomic physics from the University of California, Berkeley in 1983. Switching to high-energy experimental physics, she worked as a postdoctoral scientist with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Drell joined the physics faculty at Cornell University in 1988, becoming head of the high-energy group in 2000 and deputy director of Cornell's Laboratory of Nuclear Studies in 2001.

After leaving SLAC to focus on research at Stanford, Drell became the Frederick Emmons Terman Dean of the Stanford School of Engineering in 2014 and was appointed provost in 2017. She is also the James and Anna Marie Spilker Professor in the School of Engineering and a professor of materials science and engineering and physics at Stanford. 

Drell has received a Guggenheim Fellowship and a National Science Foundation Presidential Young Investigator Award. She is a fellow of the American Physical Society and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences. She served on the Committee on Science, Engineering, Medicine, and Public Policy for the 2004 publication Setting Priorities for NSF-Sponsored Large Research Facilities for the National Academy of Sciences, and chaired the High Energy Physics Advisory Panel subcommittee that produced the Quantum Universe report in 2004.