Bret Knapp  (Lawrence Livermore Laboratory)
Bret Knapp (Lawrence Livermore Laboratory)

LIVERMORE -- The hunt for the 12th director of Lawrence Livermore Laboratory is reaching a conclusion, with an announcement of a selection expected soon from the University of California.

At a Board of Regents meeting Wednesday in San Francisco, UC President Janet Napolitano called the monthslong search "virtually complete," adding that she and regent Norman Pattiz "participated in the candidate interviews last week, and a new director will be announced shortly."

The pick will be subject to approval by the executive committee of Lawrence Livermore National Security and the Energy Department. The hiring process has involved the participation of a search committee chaired by Pattiz, LLNS board chairman, as well as a screening task force of scientists, administrators and academic leaders. Texas A&M University nuclear engineering professor Marvin Adams led the task force, which came up with a list of about 15 recommended candidates.

While UC's Office of the President wouldn't name the finalists, certain to be absent from the list is the lab's acting director, Bret Knapp.

He revealed, via a March 14 memo to lab workers, that he is battling lymphatic cancer and would be withdrawing his application for the position.

"In the last few days, I have been diagnosed with diffuse large B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma," Knapp wrote in the memo. "While I remain optimistic about a full recovery, I have made the decision to withdraw my application for the LLNL director position. It is disappointing for me to do so, but it was the decision made with my family after evaluating my medical situation."

Knapp, who was unavailable for comment, was hired as an interim replacement for former director Parney Albright, who resigned in October.

Lab spokeswoman Lynda Seaver said despite the health issues, Knapp would remain in his current capacity until a permanent director is hired, adding that the news wouldn't impact lab operations.

"The lab response has been strong," Seaver said in an email. "Everyone has been sending their well wishes and hoping for a speedy recovery."

Speaking for himself and not the union he represents -- the Society of Professionals, Scientists, and Engineers -- lab physicist Jeff Colvin offered up his sympathies.

"It came as a shock to all," Colvin said. "This is a serious matter, and I believe he's making the correct decision regarding his health."

Contact Jeremy Thomas at 925-847-2184. Follow him at Twitter.com/jet_bang.