Today at Berkeley Lab

DOE Site Office’s Joe Krupa Says Goodbye to Lab, Hello to Retirement

By Sabin Russell

Joe Krupa, a program analyst for the Berkeley Site Office (BSO), has been a familiar face at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Since 1985 he has worked for Department of Energy oversight offices — since 1999 at BSO and at predecessor organizations before then. He has been there to monitor and support the science, and as he likes to put it, “to grease the bureaucratic skids.” Yesterday, more than 100 of his friends and colleagues wished him well at a luncheon marking his retirement, at the age of 50. Joe is leaving the Lab earlier than he or anyone would like: He is battling primary lateral sclerosis (PLS), a rare neurodegenerative disease that causes slow, progressive weakening of muscles.

PLS is a motor neuron disease with only symptomatic treatments and no cure. It is more benign than a similar motor neuron disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) — also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease — which is much more common, rapidly progressing, and almost invariably fatal. With a little luck, Joe can anticipate a full life ahead of him. He’ll also remain an advocate in the fight against motor neuron disease, supporting activities such as the October 9 East Bay Walk to Defeat ALS near his home in Walnut Creek.

His retirement plans? Joe talks frankly about his “window of self-mobility,” and he is thinking ahead. “While I can still travel, I want to do at least one more cruise,” he says. “And if I still have another trip left, I want to go to Asia, and see parts of China.” He will spend more time with his college-age daughters, Kasha and Maya, and he remains thoroughly devoted to his wife of 22 years, Annabelle, whom he calls “the one and only true love of his life.” They met when she sat next to him on a plane during a business trip in 1986, and he has been smitten ever since.

Joe has had the travel bug since he graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with degrees in physics and engineering. After college he joined the Peace Corps and taught math and science in a rural Nepalese village about 30 miles from Mount Everest. Over the years, he has cultivated his personal interest in science, politics, and eastern philosophies. “I am a technical generalist,’’ he says. “I’ve always been eager to learn about a wide range of subjects.”

As a generalist with a knack for math and science, Joe has loved his work for the Berkeley Site Office (BSO), the Department of Energy unit that holds and manages the federal contract with the University of California Regents for management of Berkeley Lab. “It gave me a broad window into just about everything the laboratories do,’’ he says. His early jobs were with BSO’s Bay Area-wide predecessor, the former Oakland Operations Office (OAK). He worked on various Department of Energy defense programs, and later was program manager for OAK’s fusion and energy R&D programs at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Berkeley Lab, and for industries and universities.

To carry out these oversight responsibilities at Berkeley Lab, Joe has worked in all corners, getting to know its scientists well and developing a deep appreciation for its mission. “The researchers here really are visionaries and heroes,’’ he says. “And through science, there is always hope.” Yesterday, at Joe’s too-early retirement luncheon, his colleagues had an opportunity to return that enthusiasm.