Steven Chu, Ph.D.
Co-Winner, Nobel Prize in Physics, 1997

Steve Chu became Berkeley Lab’s sixth Director on August 1, 2004. He is also Professor of Physics and Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology at the University of California, Berkeley.

His distinguished career in laboratory research began as a postdoctoral fellow in physics at the University of California’s Berkeley campus from 1976-78, during which time he also utilized the facilities of Berkeley Lab. His first career appointment was as a member of the technical staff at AT&T Bell Laboratories from 1978-87. He spent many years there as the Head of the Quantum Electronics Department, during which time he began his groundbreaking work in cooling and trapping atoms by using laser light.

In 1987, he became a professor in the Physics and Applied Physics Departments at Stanford University. His work eventually led to the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1997, an honor he shared with Claude Cohen-Tannoudji of France and United States colleague William D. Phillips. Their discoveries, focusing on the so-called “optical tweezers” laser trap, were instrumental in the study of fundamental phenomena and in measuring important physical quantities with unprecedented precision.

Dr. Chu was the Theodore and Francis Geballe Professor of Physics and Applied Physics at Stanford University, where he remained for 17 years as highly decorated scientist, teacher and administrator. At Stanford, he helped start Bio-X, a multi-disciplinary initiative linking the physical and biological sciences with engineering and medicine. He has become active in the energy problem and is co-chairing an international InterAcademy Council (IAC) study, “Transitioning to Sustainable Energy.” The IAC represents over 90 national academics of science around the world.

He has held numerous visiting lectureships that include Harvard University, the JILA Institute, Collège de France, Oxford and Cambridge. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Academia Sinica, and is a foreign member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and of the Korean Academy of Science and Engineering.

He serves on the Boards of the Hewlett Foundation, the University of Rochester, and NVIDIA, and on the scientific boards of the Moore Foundation, NABsys and Helicos. He has served on a number of committees, including the Augustine Committee that produced the report “Rising Above the Gathering Storm” in 2006, advisory committees to the Director of the National Institutes of Health and the National Nuclear Security Agency, and the Executive Committee of the NAS Board on Physics and Astronomy.

Born in St. Louis and raised in New York, Dr. Chu earned an A.B. in mathematics and a B.S. in physics from the University of Rochester, a Ph.D in physics from UC Berkeley, and eight honorary degrees. He maintains a vigorous research program and directly supervises a team of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. He is author or co-author of more than  200 articles and professional papers, and over two dozen former members of his group are now professors at leading research universities around the world.


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