01/14/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Steven Chu: Physicists Cheer New Energy Secretary

Science Insider reports on the major shift that will occur at the Department of Energy when Steven Chu takes over:

Steve Chu could be a groundbreaking energy secretary for the energy research efforts of President-elect Barack Obama's Administration in several ways. It's not just that Chu will be the first life-long scientist-- and a Nobel prize-winning physicist at that--to run a department which spends more than $15 billion a year on physical science research, including weapons work. (Previous energy secretaries have usually been political allies of the president, which Chu isn't; a Naval Admiral and a power industry official have previously held the post.) But his selection, and new clues from Obama's transition team, could signal some big changes in the way that the United States conducts science to tackle the energy challenge.

Physicists are especially happy:

Physicists in particular are elated; at last a genuine scientist will head the agency that funds the majority of physics research in the US. The position had usually been filled by political insiders. Chu shared the 1997 Nobel Prize with Bill Phillips for laser-cooling of atoms, and is currently the director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Under Chu the lab is a center of research into biofuels and solar energy. He is a member of the Copenhagen Climate Council. Alas, there will be pressure worldwide to abandon carbon reduction to ameliorate the economic downturn.

Read more about Steven Chu here.

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