President-elect Barack Obama has nominated Steve Chu, Director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), to be Secretary of Energy.
Chu, 60, is a Nobel laureate physicist and a Professor of Physics and Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California (UC), Berkeley. He is also one of the nation’s foremost and outspoken advocates for scientific solutions to the twin problems of global warming and the need for carbon-neutral renewable sources of energy. He has called these problems “the greatest challenge facing science” and has rallied many of the world’s top scientists to address it.
In speeches to organizations around the globe, Chu has delivered a consistent message. “Stronger storms, shrinking glaciers and winter snowpack, prolonged droughts and rising sea levels are raising the specter of global food and water shortages. The ominous signs of climate change we see today are a warning of dire economic and social consequences for us all, but especially for the poor of the world,” Chu has said. “The path to finding solutions is to bring together the finest, most passionate minds to work on the problem in a coordinated effort, and to give these researchers the resources commensurate with the challenge.”
Since assuming the directorship of Berkeley Lab in August, 2004, Chu has put his words into action by focusing the Laboratory’s considerable scientific resources on energy security and global climate change, in particular the production of new fuels and electricity from sunlight through non-food plant materials and artificial photosynthesis. At the same time he has reinforced the Lab’s historic leadership in energy-efficient technologies and climate science.
In addition to the 1997 Nobel Prize in Physics, shared with Claude Cohen-Tannoudji and William D. Phillips for developing methods to cool and trap atoms with laser light, Chu’s numerous awards include the American Physical Society’s Arthur Schawlow Prize for Laser Science, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation’s Senior Scientist Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and membership in the National Academy of Sciences, the Academica Sinica, the American Philosophical Society, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the Korean Academy of Sciences and Technology.
Chu earned undergraduate degrees in mathematics and physics from the University of Rochester in 1970, a Ph.D. in physics from the University of California at Berkeley in 1976, and was a postdoctoral fellow at UC Berkeley from 1976 to 1978, when he joined ATT’s Bell Labs. He moved to Stanford University in 1987, where he was a professor of physics and applied physics, and where he received high academic honors and held a number of administrative posts before joining Berkeley Lab in 2004.
Chu was born in Saint Louis, Missouri on February 28, 1948. He is married to Jean Chu, an Oxford-trained physicist, and has two grown sons, Geoffrey and Michael, by a previous marriage.
Nobel Prize-winning Physicist Steve Chu will be Energy Secretary (Chu clip only)
Nobel Prize-winning Physicist Steve Chu will be Energy Secretary (full press conference)