United States Secretary of Energy Dr. Steven Chu

24 03 2013


As United States Secretary of Energy, Dr. Steven Chu is charged with helping implement President Obama’s ambitious agenda to invest in clean energy, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, address the global climate crisis, and create millions of new jobs.

Dr. Chu is the co-recipient of the Nobel Prize for Physics (1997) and received numerous other awards. He has devoted his recent scientific career to the search for new solutions to our energy and climate challenges – a mission he continues with even greater urgency as Secretary of Energy.

Prior to his appointment, Dr. Chu was the Director of the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, where he led the lab in pursuit of alternative and renewable energy technologies. He also taught at the University of California as a Professor of Physics and Professor of Molecular and Cell Biology. Previously, he held positions at Stanford University and AT&T Bell Laboratories.

Dr. Chu’s research in atomic physics, quantum electronics, polymer and biophysics includes tests of fundamental theories in physics, the development of methods to laser cool and trap atoms, atom interferometry, and the study of polymers and biological systems at the single molecule level. While at Stanford, he helped start Bio-X, a multi-disciplinary initiative that brings together the physical and biological sciences with engineering and medicine.

The holder of 10 patents, Dr. Chu has published ~250 scientific and technical papers. He remains active with his research group and has recently published work on general relativity, single molecule biology, biophysics and biomedicine, and on scientific challenges and opportunities in clean energy. Over 30 alumni of his research group have gone on to become distinguished professors and have been recognized by dozens of prizes and awards.

As a young child, Steven Chu loved to build things—from model airplanes to metal girders. As he grew older, Chu even hoarded his lunch money to pay for the parts of his homemade rockets. As a senior at Garden City High School in New York, he discovered the thrill of experimentation once again. In physics lab, the Chinese American teen built an instrument to measure gravity. After studying physics in college and graduate school, Chu worked as a scientist at Bell Laboratories for nine years. In 1997, all of Chu’s years in the lab paid off when he received the Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on cooling atoms. Why is this important? Chu explains to Scholastic.com, “The ability to cool atoms down to very low temperatures allows us to hold onto and move them with incredible control. This control has allowed us to make new measurement tools such as precise atomic clocks and sensors that can measure gravity and rotation with extraordinary precision.”