It’s hard to imagine a better candidate for the role of scientific technocrat than Steven Chu. After earning undergraduate degrees in math and physics from Rochester, he got his Ph.D. from Berkeley in 1976 and then joined Bell Labs, where he did the work on atomic physics that would earn him a share of the 1997 Nobel Prize. Chu holds ten patents, has published nearly 250 scientific and technical papers, and has taught at Stanford and Berkeley. While on the faculty at Berkeley, Chu became director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, a Department of Energy–funded research facility that has increasingly focused on renewable energy (especially during Chu’s tenure).
Chu is perhaps the best example of Barack Obama’s stated goal of relying on smart, proven experts to run his cabinet departments. And yet the Department of Energy has floundered under Chu’s administration.
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