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04/17/2009 07:00:00

Secretary of Energy Steven Chu to Be Caltech Commencement Speaker

Pasadena, Calif.--Renowned physicist, recently appointed U.S. Secretary of Energy, and Nobel Laureate Steven Chu will be the featured speaker at the California Institute of Technology's (Caltech's) 115th annual commencement ceremony this year. The event will take place at 10 a.m. on June 12.

Chu is a distinguished scientist and cowinner of the Nobel Prize in Physics (1997). He was appointed by President Obama as the 12th U.S. secretary of energy and sworn into office on January 21 of this year.

Chu has devoted his recent scientific career to the search for new solutions to energy challenges and to stopping global climate change--a mission he continues as secretary of energy.  He is charged with helping implement President Obama's ambitious agenda to invest in alternative and renewable energy, end the United States' dependence on foreign oil, address the global climate crisis, and create new jobs.

"We are excited that Secretary Chu will speak to our graduating class this year," says Caltech president Jean-Lou Chameau. "As an eminent scientist leading the national debate on energy policy, he reflects our commitment to game-changing energy science and serves as a role model for the future scientific leaders of our country."

Chu's focus on energy research makes him an ideal speaker for Caltech. "Chu shares Caltech's vision that our long-term energy needs must be clean and sustainable," says Caltech graduate student Andrew Downard, a member of the commencement selection committee. "He will undoubtedly be impressed by our cutting-edge solar, biofuel, and fuel-cell work.  As for us, we could not be more ecstatic about having a renowned scientist guiding our nation's energy policy."

"As we graduating seniors begin to take on our future, we hope to positively contribute to our society," says Calyani Ganesan, a senior studying biology and also a member of the commencement selection committee. "Steven Chu is a reminder to us all of the great power science has to change and improve the world in which we live."

Prior to his appointment at the Department of Energy, Chu was director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and professor of physics and molecular and cell biology at the University of California, Berkeley.  He successfully applied the techniques he developed in atomic physics to molecular biology. Motivated by his deep interest in climate change, he led the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab in pursuit of new alternative and renewable energies. Previously, he held positions at Stanford University and AT&T Bell Laboratories.

His research in atomic physics, quantum electronics, and polymer physics included tests of fundamental theories in physics, the development of methods to cool and trap atoms with lasers, atom interferometry, and the manipulation and study of polymers and biological systems at the single-molecule level.

Chu is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Academia Sinica, the Korean Academy of Sciences and Technology, and numerous other civic and professional organizations. 

He received a BA degree in mathematics and a BS degree in physics from the University of Rochester, and a PhD in physics from the University of California, Berkeley. 

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Written by Jon Weiner