Steven Chu is the former U.S. Secretary of Energy and William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Physics and Professor of Molecular & Cellular Physiology at Stanford University.
Widely cited for his work in both alternative energy technologies and molecular biology, he served as Secretary of Energy from 2009 to 2013 under President Barack Obama and was awarded the 1997 Nobel Prize in Physics for his research on laser cooling and atom trapping.
As Secretary of Energy, Chu launched major new initiatives, including ARPA-E (Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy) and the Energy Innovation Hubs, and was personally tasked by President Obama to assist BP in stopping the Deepwater Horizon oil leak.
Prior to his cabinet post, he served as director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, where he was active in pursuit of renewable energy technologies such as solar energy and biofuels. He concurrently served as a professor of physics and applied physics at Stanford, where he helped launch Bio-X, a multidisciplinary institute combining the physical and biological sciences with medicine and engineering. Before this, he was head of quantum electronics research at Bell Laboratories.
Chu has published more than peer-reviewed 280 papers on atomic and polymer physics, biophysics, biology, bio-imaging, batteries, and other energy technologies. He holds 15 patents, and an additional 9 patent disclosures or filings since 2015.
He is past president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and many other prestigious scientific and professional organization.
He received an A.B. degree in mathematics and a B.S. degree in physics from the University of Rochester and a Ph.D. in physics from the University of California Berkeley, and has been awarded 32 honorary degrees.
The Ferguson Family Distinguished Lectureship is presented annually by the Nicholas School to bring to Duke major thought-leaders to speak on topics of significant social and environmental import. Past speakers have included environmental justice advocate Catherine Coleman Flowers; EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, former Vice President Al Gore Jr., and energy visionary Amory Lovins.