The University of California Board of Regents today (June 17) named Steven Chu, professor in the physics and applied physics departments at Stanford University and a co-winner of the Nobel Prize in physics, as director of the UC-managed Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
Acting on the recommendation of UC President Robert C. Dynes and approval of Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham, the regents appointed Chu the sixth director of the Berkeley laboratory during a special meeting conducted by telephone conference call. Chu will take office August 1, replacing departing director Charles V. Shank. Shank will take a sabbatical and then return to the UC Berkeley campus to continue teaching and research.
"Steve Chu brings to this position outstanding leadership qualities and a record of superior achievement in science," Dynes said. "His combination of skills is precisely what we need to keep the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory at the forefront of scientific excellence and to guide the lab wisely through the upcoming potential contract competition."
Chu, who earned his doctorate from UC Berkeley, is currently the Theodore and Francis Geballe Professor of Physics and Applied Physics at Stanford, where he has been on the faculty since 1987.
In 1997, Chu, 55, was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics with Claude Cohen-Tannoudji and William D. Phillips "for development of methods to cool and trap atoms with laser light." Beginning in 1989, Chu expanded his research scope to include polymer physics and biophysics at the single-molecule level.
"We are delighted that Dr. Steven Chu, a Nobel laureate, is returning to the University of California to become the next director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory," said Raymond L. Orbach, director of the federal Department of Energy's Office of Science. "He is a world-class scientist and an inspiring leader and manager who is wonderfully qualified to guide Berkeley Lab into the future.
"From the outset of this process, identifying and recruiting a worthy successor to longtime LBNL director Chuck Shank was widely recognized as extraordinarily difficult, but by selecting Steven Chu, the University of California has served all of us -- Berkeley Lab, the local community and our nation -- very well indeed."
While at Stanford, Chu chaired the physics department from 1990-1993 and again from 1999-2001. More than 20 of his students and postdoctoral fellows have become professors at top research universities around the world.
Chu was a member of the ad-hoc cabinet committee on budget and strategic planning, formed in 1991-92 during a critical period for Stanford, and was a member of the presidential search committee that brought Gerhard Casper to Stanford in 1992.
With three other professors, Chu initiated Bio-X, a campuswide initiative that brings together researchers from the physical and biological sciences with those from engineering and medicine. He went on to help plan the Bio-X program and its central laboratory, the recently constructed James H. Clark Center. He also played a key role in establishing and funding the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology, another independent laboratory at Stanford.
From 1978-1987, Chu worked at AT&T Bell Laboratories in New Jersey. From 1983-1987, he became head of the quantum electronics research department within the Electronics Research Laboratory of AT&T Bell Labs. His director then was Charles Shank.
"The opportunity to lead Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory at this time is an exciting prospect and a tremendous honor," said Chu.
"Ironically, I succeed my former boss at Bell Laboratories, Charles Shank. Carrying on in the tradition of Ernest Lawrence, Chuck had the vision to see great opportunities and the energy and managerial skills to realize those visions.
"I look forward to following in that proud tradition. The Berkeley Lab is a leader in scientific and technological discovery, and I look forward to working with the men and women at the laboratory who are committed to preserving and enhancing that scientific excellence."
At Bell Laboratories, Chu and Allen Mills performed the first laser spectroscopy of positronium, an atom consisting of an electron and its anti-particle. They went on to make the most precise test of the quantum description of any two-body atom. In 1985, Chu led the group that showed how to cool and trap atoms with light. This so-called "optical tweezers" trap is now widely used in biology.
Since joining Stanford in 1987, Chu and colleagues have constructed the first atomic fountain, which is becoming the time standard of the world. They developed a device that spatially separated and recombined atomic matter waves, and then used this device to measure the acceleration due to gravity with unprecedented accuracy.
Using the optical tweezers, Chu pioneered methods to simultaneously visualize and manipulate individual bio-molecules in 1990. His group used this technique to test the fundamental theories of polymer dynamics. His group is also applying methods such as ultra-sensitive fluorescence microscopy, optical tweezers and the atomic force microscope to study biology at the single-molecule level.
In nominating Chu for the directorship of the Berkeley Laboratory, Dynes was advised by a committee of regents, research scientists and research administrators, which in turn was advised by an application screening committee consisting largely of the scientific leadership of the Berkeley Lab and of several UC campuses.
Chu received his A.B. degree in mathematics and his B.S. degree in physics in 1970 from the University of Rochester, NY. He received his Ph.D. in physics from UC Berkeley in 1976 as a Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory employee. He was a postdoctoral fellow at UC Berkeley in 1976. Chu has been a visiting lecturer at Harvard, Collége de France, Oxford and Cambridge universities. He is currently the 2004 Hitchcock Lecturer at UC Berkeley.
Chu has won dozens of awards in addition to the Nobel Prize, including the Science for Art Prize, Herbert Broida Prize for Spectroscopy, Richtmeyer Memorial Prize Lecturer, King Faisal International Prize for Science (co-winner), Arthur Schawlow Prize for Laser Science, and William Meggers Award for Laser Spectroscopy. Additionally, he was a Humboldt Senior Scientist and a Guggenheim Fellow.
Chu is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, American Philosophical Society, American Academy of Arts and Sciences and Academica Sinica. He is a foreign member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Korean Academy of Sciences and Technology.
Chu serves as a director of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and on the Board of Trustees of the University of Rochester. He has served on the advisory committee to the director of National Institutes of Health and on the inaugural advisory committee of the National Nuclear Security Administration. He was an executive committee member of the National Academy of Sciences' board on physics and astronomy and chair of the division of laser science of the American Physical Society. He has published more than 160 articles and professional papers.
Chu is married to Jean Chu, an Oxford-trained physicist and former physics professor at San Jose State University in CA. She served at Stanford University in a number of capacities that included dean of admissions and assistant to the president under both Richard Lyman and Gerhard Casper.
In his spare time, Chu enjoys bicycling, swimming and cooking.
As director of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Chu will earn $350,000 annually and oversee an operation with a $521-million budget and a work force of approximately 4,000. The director's salary, like that of all other UC employees at the laboratory, is paid from funds derived from the federal DOE contract. No general funds from the state are used to pay the director's salary.
The University of California has managed Berkeley Lab since its inception in 1931, when it was one of the first laboratories of its kind showing the extraordinary value of multidisciplinary research, which ultimately led to the creation of the national laboratory system. Founded by Ernest O. Lawrence, who won the Nobel Prize in physics in 1939 for his invention of the cyclotron, Berkeley Lab has evolved into a multidisciplinary research facility advancing the forefront of scientific knowledge and addressing problems of national and global concern.
The DOE's Office of Science is the steward of 10 laboratories in the national laboratory system, including Berkeley Lab.
Today, Berkeley Lab performs research in nanoscience and advanced materials, the life sciences, computing, energy and earth sciences, physics, and cosmology. It also operates a homeland security office dedicated to leveraging fundamental scientific research to develop methods for ensuring the safety of our country. Researchers at the laboratory have won nine Nobel Prizes and 12 National Medals of Science. More than 250 Berkeley Lab faculty and scientists hold joint appointments with UC Berkeley and other UC campuses.
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