Howell, 50, succeeds Werner Tornow, TUNL's director for the past decade, Duke said Thursday.
Howell has been TUNL's deputy director and a researcher there since 1979. He has spent much of his career on research to precisely describe interactions among the fundamental particles that make up the centers of atoms.
Seventeen faculty members from the three universities, several dozen graduate students, and nonfaculty research scientists study nuclear physics at TUNL.
Howell is black and chairman of the American Physical Society's Committee on Minorities in Physics, a member of the National Society of Black Physicists and an adjunct physics professor at North Carolina Central University.
Howell traces his comfort with technology to growing up on a farm near South Hill, Va. He said his father's view was that "if you observed someone doing something once or twice, then you should be able to do it yourself."
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