Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

Steven Chu (2009-2013): Secretary of Energy

Steven Chu was born on February 28, 1948, in St. Louis, Missouri, while his father was teaching at Washington University. In 1950, his family settled in Garden City, New York, where Chu attended public high school. In 1970, Chu graduated from the University of Rochester with a double major in mathematics and physics. He later earned his doctorate degree at the University of California, Berkeley. Chu continued working at Berkeley as a professor of physics and molecular and cell biology.

In 1978, Chu left Berkeley to become part of the AT&T Bell Laboratories. He then moved to Stanford University as a professor of physics and applied physics. In 1997, Chu shared a Noble Prize in Physics for using laser lights to trap and cool atoms. In August 2004, he became the director of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, which is part of the Energy Department and operated by the University of California. As director, he focused on biofuels and solar energy and advocated researching ways to reduce greenhouse emissions that are connected to global climate change.

On January 21, 2009, Chu was sworn in as the secretary of energy in the administration of President Barack Obama. Secretary Chu focused on combating global climate change and finding alternatives to fossil fuel such as wind and solar energy. He resigned as secretary in 2013.