Dr. Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, was sworn in as Secretary of Energy on January 21, 2009. Prior to being selected by President Obama to head a department with a $23 billion budget and over 100,000 federal employees, Chu was head of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Chu was recognized by the Nobel committee for developing methods to cool and trap atoms.
In his confirmation hearing, Chu, 60, backpedaled on previous criticisms that he had made of the coal industry and support for hiking gas prices. During his hearing, Chu said he supported the development of "clean coal" and believed that rising fuel prices imperiled the economy. Chu has stated that climate change will be one of his chief concerns as secretary, and also voiced his support for the development of nuclear power and U.S. oil and gas drilling.
At Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, an Energy Department research lab, Chu was credited with shifting the lab's focus to the development of renewable energies. He also served as professor of physics and molecular and cell biology at the University of California, Berkeley. Chu also chaired the physics department at Stanford University from 1990 to 1993 and 1999 to 2001; and headed the quantum electronics research department at AT&T Bell Laboratories from 1983 to 1987.Chu received an undergraduate degree in physics and mathematics from the University of Rochester and a Ph.D in physics from the University of California, Berkeley.