Oral History Center - UC Berkeley Library

Joseph Cerny: A Career in Nuclear Chemistry and University Administration

Cerny, Joseph
Burnett, Paul
Joseph Cerny: A Career in Nuclear Chemistry and University Administration
Joseph Cerny is a nuclear chemist who spent his career at UC Berkeley. A graduate of Berkeley chemistry, Cerny went on to an illustrious career in both science and university administration. Along with his colleagues, he is the discoverer of direct two-proton emission, the fourth type of radioactive decay after the known alpha, beta, and gamma radiation. As Associate Director of Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory (LBL) and head of the Nuclear Science Division, he helped facilitate the opening of that institution to a wider range of research beyond physics and chemistry, including the life sciences and materials science. Beginning with his time as chair of the chemistry department, Cerny developed an interest in the needs and professional outcomes of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows that would become the fulcrum of his administrative career at UC Berkeley. From 1985 until 2000, Cerny was the Dean of the Graduate Division and Vice Chancellor of Research at UC Berkeley, where he oversaw the consolidation of research units and helped the university retain a high standard of research in a time of budgetary challenges. Most importantly, he spearheaded long-run data-gathering and analysis of the career outcomes of students and postdoctoral researchers that have been emulated around the world. During the latter part of his time in these positions, Cerny and his team at LBL developed a fruitful method of joining the beams from two particle accelerators to produce new research in the light elements. In 1999, BEARS (Berkeley Experiments in Accelerated Radioactive Species) inaugurated its first experiments. In addition to numerous awards in science, honorary degrees, and membership in elite academies of science, Cerny received the Berkeley Citation in 2013 for his contributions to the university.
Subject area(s):
Education and University of California
Science, Technology, and Health
Interview date(s):
Education and University of California - Individual Interviews
Oskicat record:
Cerny, Joseph. "Joseph Cerny: A Career in Nuclear Chemistry and University Administration." Interview by Paul Burnett in 2014. Oral History Center, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, 2016.