Steven Chu was born in St. Louis, Missouri, and raised in New York. He earned A.B. in mathematics and B.S. in physics from the University of Rochester, and Ph.D in physics from the University of California, Berkeley, where he was a postdoctoral fellow for two years. He joined the Bell Laboratories, Murray Hill, N.J., in 1978 and became the head of the quantum electronics research department at AT&T Bell Laboratories, in Holmdel in 1983. In 1987, he became Theodore and Frances Geballe Professor in the Physics and Applied Physics Departments at Stanford University. In 2004, he became Director of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Professor of Physics and Professor of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California, Berkeley.
Professor Chu is best known for his work in cooling and trapping of atoms with laser light. He used an array of intersecting laser beams to create an effect in which the speed of target atoms was reduced from about 4,000 kilometres per hour to about one kilometer per hour, as if the atoms were moving through thick molasses. The temperature of the slowed atoms closely approached the lowest temperature theoretically attainable (just one thousandth of a degree Celcius above the absolute zero (Absolute zero or 0 Kelvin = -273.15 C, or -459.67 F). These techniques eventually made it possible for scientists to improve the accuracy of atomic clocks used in space navigation, to construct atomic interferometers that can precisely measure gravitational forces, and to design atomic lasers that can be used to manipulate electronic circuits at an extremely fine scale.
Professor Chu is a Member of US National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, the Academia Sinica and a Foreign Member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Korean Academy of Science and Engineering. He is the author or co-author of more than 200 articles.
Professor Chu’s groundbreaking achievements earned him the King Faisal International Prize for Science (with H. Walthers), the Humboldt Prize and subsequently the Nobel Prize (with C. Tannoudji and W. D. Phillips), in addition to numerous other prestigious prizes and ten honorary degrees.
Chu is a strong advocate of alternative energy. In 2005, He proposed a theoretical and novel way to produce ethanol from wood to solve the world’s energy problem, and in January 2009, the US President appointed him to the post of Energy Secretary.
Dr. Chu, has been awarded the prize, for his contributions to the field include his development of the technique of optical cooling and trapping of atoms. He used this to study delicate systems in experimental Quantum Optics. His discovery of new instrumentation and its utilization to expand the frontiers of Quantum Optics secures him a leading position in the field.