Why He Matters
Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced his resignation on Feb. 1, 2013.
In a letter to colleagues, Chu said he “would like to return to an academic life of teaching and research, but will still work to advance the missions that we have been working on together for the last four years.” Chu has taught at Stanford University and the University of California.
He will stay on until after the ARPA-E Summit at the end of February.
“I want to thank Secretary Chu for his dedicated service on behalf of the American people,” President Obama said in a statement. “As a Nobel Prize winning scientist, Steve brought to the Energy Department a unique understanding of both the urgent challenge presented by climate change and the tremendous opportunity that clean energy represents for our economy.”
Chu won the 1997 Nobel Prize for his 1985 work in figuring out how to cool an atom to a temperature of nearly absolute zero (or -273 degrees Celsius) in order to trap light and manipulate it. He and his team used six laser beams to trap the atoms, creating what they called "optical molasses."
"The conventional wisdom at that time was first you hold the atom with light and then you make it cold so you can do what you want with it," said Chu in an interview. "My idea was to reverse this by cooling the atom first, then grabbing it with light."