Richard Roca, the director of The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) since 2000, informed his 3,400-person staff via e-mail Jan. 7 that he will be stepping down this year.

“APL requires executives in a policy making position … to step down from such a position when they reach a certain age,” Roca wrote. “For me, that comes in 2010.”

He said he expects to be replaced “sometime this summer” when APL’s board of managers appoints his successor.

The Laurel, Md., lab performs research and development work on behalf of the U.S. Defense Department and NASA.