Steven Chu is a professor of physics at the University of California,
Berkeley, and director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab,
where he has worked for the past four years on developing alternative
energy sources and improving energy efficiency.
The Berkeley physicist has long pushed for energy research and
development and has differed with political leaders on energy
a 2007 speech to last year's National Energy Summit, Chu expressed
his disagreement with former vice president and climate change
activist Al Gore's belief that America has the technology needed
to address the energy crisis but lacks the political will.
"I think political will is absolutely necessary," Chu
said, according to the New York Times. "But we need new technologies."
In 1997, Chu was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics for his work
with two other scientists on ways to cool and trap atoms using
laser light. Chu and his team found that cooling atoms to minus-273
degrees Celsius slowed atom movement to a point that they could
be trapped and manipulated.
After winning the Nobel Prize, Chu returned to teaching at Stanford
University, where he headed the Physics Department from 1990-1993
and again from 1999-2001.
While at Stanford, Chu helped begin the Bio-X program, an unusual
scientific endeavor that brings together researchers from physics,
chemistry, biology and engineering to combine forces for energy
Chu, a second-generation Chinese American, was born to a family
of academics. His father earned a degree in advanced chemical
engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and taught
at Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute when Chu was a child. Chu's
mother studied economics at the same institution.
Mr. Obama took a tough stance on climate change issues during
his presidential campaign, and met with Gore earlier this month
to discuss how to best tackle the issue.
"We all believe what the scientists have been telling us
for years now, that this is a matter of urgency and national security,
and it has to be dealt with in a serious way," Mr. Obama
announced after the meeting with Gore.
As energy secretary, Chu will oversee 14,000 employees and an
estimated $25 million budget, two-thirds of which is budgeted
for research, development and maintenance related to nuclear weapons.
Chu married wife Jean, an Oxford-trained physicist, in 1997.
The two currently live in Berkeley with their two sons.