10 Things You Didn't Know About Steven Chu

Steven Chu is President-elect Obama's pick for energy secretary.

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Steven Chu

1. Steven Chu was born Feb. 28, 1948, in St. Louis.

2. Chu spent most of his childhood in Garden City, N.Y., where his family was one of very few of Chinese descent. Chu's father had emigrated from China to study at MIT in 1943, and his mother did the same two years later.

3. Chu has said that he was not an outstanding student in high school. While he enjoyed a few subjects like geometry and physics, he found most of his classes "a chore." Although he graduated with an A-minus average, he thought of himself as the "academic black sheep" of his family: Many of his relatives hold graduate degrees from prestigious schools.

4. Chu attended the University of Rochester, where he graduated in 1970 with bachelor's degrees in physics and mathematics.

5. Continuing his education in physics, Chu did graduate work at UC-Berkeley. He received his doctorate from there in 1976.

6. After finishing a postdoctoral fellowship, Chu was offered a position as an assistant professor at Berkeley. He decided to take a leave of absence to work at Bell Laboratories, and he stayed there until 1987, eventually becoming head of the quantum electronics research department.

7. While he worked at Bell Labs, Chu was part of a team that won the Nobel Prize in 1997. The research involved using lasers to trap individual atoms by supercooling them.

8. Chu returned to academia in 1987 to teach physics and applied physics at Stanford University. He later became chair of the physics department there.

9. In 2004, Chu was named director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. (As a national laboratory, its work is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy.) While there, he has made combating global warming and researching renewable energy sources top priorities.

10. Chu's wife, Jean, is also a physicist and a former professor. Chu has two adult sons from an earlier marriage.