Steven Chu
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Steven Chu

U.S. Secretary of Energy (2009-2013), Nobel Prize-Winning Physicist and Professor, Stanford University

A distinguished physicist, innovative professor and the first science laureate to serve as U.S. Secretary of Energy, Dr. Steven Chu offers audiences insight on our energy future—and how advances in science are the key to solving our most confounding global issues.

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Good Science is Good Business: Leading the Way Toward a Brighter Future

As director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the first Nobel Laureate to serve as Secretary of Energy, Steven Chu has been at the center of scientific advances for four decades. Referred to by MIT Technology Review as a brilliant thought leader who is uniquely “animated by solving problems,” Chu has played a pivotal role in reshaping the Department of Energy, to improve its ability to stimulate private sector investments in clean energy and energy efficiency, and to enhance its role as a knowledgeable and honest broker in the energy industry. Chu offers audiences invaluable insight on the critical challenges of today: how developments in science and technology not only make good sense for science but also for business and economic growth. Chu discusses the numerous scientific and technological advances that have been achieved to date, what exciting new opportunities lie ahead, and why and how clean energy research and applied policy will both improve our lives and our national prospects for growth in business and industry.

Managing Risks in Critical Energy Industries

Oil, gas and nuclear power will be needed in the coming decades, even as we transition to increased renewable energy. Chu argues that the process of continuous improvement of best industrial practices in these energy sectors is also good business. The experience Chu gained while working on the BP oil spill, with the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board subcommittee on fracking together with his broad technical knowledge, have given him insights into how to cost-effectively improve the safety of oil and gas drilling. Similarly, the lessons learned in the melt down of the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear reactors revealed a number of risks that can be mitigated at low cost with the adoption of existing and developing sensor technologies.

The Innovation Imperative: How Leadership and Culture Foster Innovation

While progress in developing new energy technology typically has a long time horizon, the successes achieved by the Department of Energy under Steven Chu—most notably ARPA-E (Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy)—are groundbreaking. The ARPA-E initiative began funding energy technology research in 2009. Less than three years later, ARPA-E’s portfolio had reached close to $800 million, fueling millions of dollars of private sector investment and funding approximately 285 projects—such as a 1-megawatt silicon carbide transistor to engineered microbes that use hydrogen and carbon dioxide to make liquid transportation fuel. Similarly, the Energy Innovation Hubs, designed to strengthen the translation of scientific discovery into successful commercialization, are off to a strong start and have garnered broad-based support. Drawing from his own experiences as a scientist and manager at AT&T Bell Laboratories, Stanford, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and as U.S. Secretary of Energy, Chu discusses how one can shape a work environment that fosters innovation by creating a culture that invites scrutiny, open discussions and constructive criticism.

Renewing Our Independence Through Renewable Energy: Challenges and Opportunities

Developing efficient, affordable alternatives that serve to decrease the use of fossil fuels, minimize the dependence on foreign oil, create jobs and mitigate environmental concerns around the globe is a critical component of renewable energy research and technology. Steven Chu—recent U.S. Secretary of Energy, Nobel Prize-winning physicist and esteemed university professor—discusses with audiences the current state of clean energy, including the numerous cutting-edge advances that have been made over the course of the last four years and the myriad of government-industry partnerships that have been established, providing America’s innovators and entrepreneurs with a competitive edge in the global arena. In a dynamic and uniquely accessible fashion, Chu discusses the roles and responsibilities of government and industry in clean energy development and implementation, the transformative and positive impact of renewable resource advances on job growth, independence and prosperity and why and how renewable energy will give us, the U.S., an new set of economic opportunities. Chu also explores the development of specific business models that can best seize the economic opportunities, both domestically and around the world, in the transition to sustainable energy.

Meet Steven Chu

A distinguished physicist, innovative professor and the first science laureate to serve as U.S. Secretary of Energy, Dr. Steven Chu offers audiences insight on our energy future—and how advances in science are the key to solving our most confounding global issues.

A forward-thinking visionary, Dr. Steven Chu’s sharp focus on research during his time as secretary of energy transformed the agency by bringing science to the forefront of America’s clean energy policy. A holder of 10 patents and the first science laureate to serve as Cabinet secretary, Chu was a top science advisor to President Barack Obama. The President tasked Chu to use his scientific skills to assist BP in stopping the massive Gulf oil leak and to assist the government of Japan in dealing with the tsunami-damaged Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear reactors. Under his leadership, the Department of Energy was also asked to make initial recommendations on how the U.S. could develop environmentally responsible methods to tap our natural gas and oil resources with horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracking. Chu was lauded as secretary for his scientific brilliance and accessible easygoing style. He was personally responsible for identifying and recruiting numerous outstanding scientists and engineers to join the march toward a sustainable energy future built on developing cutting-edge technologies aimed at reducing the U.S.’s dependence on foreign oil and fossil fuels. He played a pivotal role in the initiation and development of ARPA-E (Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy), a program that focuses on high-risk, high-reward energy research that could lead to game-changing innovations. While Secretary of Energy, Chu also began Energy Innovation Hubs that have also received wide support from the industry and academia. The Hubs large, multi-disciplinary, multi-investigator, multi-institutional integrated research centers, with a focus on bridging the gap between scientific breakthroughs and industrial commercialization. Modeled after AT&T’s Bell Laboratories and the Manhattan Project, hubs focusing on Transportation Fuels from Sunlight; Energy Efficient Buildings; Modeling and Simulation for Nuclear Reactors; Batteries and Energy Storage; and Critical Materials have been started. A sixth Hub focusing on electricity systems and challenges to grid modernization has also been proposed. Chu was formerly Professor of Physics and Professor of Molecular and Cell Biology at UC Berkeley, professor of Physics and Applied Physics at Stanford University and a program head at AT&T Bell Laboratories. His work in laser cooling and trapping was honored as co-recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1997.  Steven Chu returned to Stanford in April 2013 as the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Physics and Professor of Molecular and Cellular Physiology in the medical school, and where he has resumed his research in biophysics and biomedicine. He also continues his work on solving the country’s energy problems by focusing on new pathways to sustainable, carbon dioxide-neutral energy. From climate change to solar power, Chu discusses with audiences why continued research and the transition to clean energy is absolutely mandatory and how technological innovation can secure a prosperous future for the U.S. and globally.

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