Jan. 9, 2018 — Nobel laureate and former Energy Secretary Steven Chu has been chosen as president-elect of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Chu will start his three-year term as an officer and member of the Executive Committee of the AAAS Board of Directors at the 184th AAAS Annual Meeting in Austin, Texas, in February.
“As Secretary of Energy, I was reminded daily that science must continue to be elevated and integrated into our national life and throughout the world. The work of AAAS in connecting science with society, public policy, human rights, education, diplomacy and journalism – through its superb journals and programs – is essential,” said Chu in his candidacy statement.
“Never has there been a more important time than today for AAAS to communicate the advances in science, the methods we use to acquire this knowledge and the benefits of these discoveries to the public and our policymakers,” he said.
Chu cited his role in key reports by National Academies and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences on the competitiveness of the U.S. scientific enterprise and the state of fundamental research, studies that “sounded alarms that the health of science, science education and integration of science into public decision-making in the U.S. was in peril and heading in the wrong direction,” he said in his candidacy statement. “Concern among scientists and friends of science is even greater today and we in AAAS have our work cut out for us.”
AAAS must continue its efforts to communicate the benefits of scientific progress, Chu noted, saying the world’s largest general scientific organization must continue to ensure scientists and students have access to the free exchange of ideas and the ability to pursue discovery across national boundaries.
Chu currently serves as the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Physics and Professor of Molecular and Cellular Physiology at Stanford University. Prior to rejoining Stanford in 2013, Chu was secretary of energy during President Barack Obama’s first term, the first scientist to head the Department of Energy, the home of the nation’s 17 National Laboratories.
Prior to his appointment as energy secretary, Chu was director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory as well as a professor of physics and molecular and cell biology at University of California, Berkeley. He first joined Stanford University in 1987, where he was a professor of physics until 2004.
Between 1978 and 1987, Chu worked at Bell Labs, where he ultimately led its Quantum Electronics Research Department. At Bell Labs, Chu carried out research on laser cooling and atom trapping, work that would earn him – along with Claude Cohen-Tannoudji and William Daniel Phillips – the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1997. Their new methods for using laser light to “trap” and slow down atoms to study them in greater detail “contributed greatly to increasing our knowledge of the interplay between radiation and matter,” the Nobel Committee said in 1997.
Chu received bachelor’s degrees in mathematics and physics from the University of Rochester and a Ph.D. in physics from the University of California, Berkeley.
He was named an elected fellow of AAAS in 2000 and has been a member of AAAS since 1995. He served on the AAAS Committee on Nominations, which selects the annual slate of candidates for AAAS president-elect and Board of Directors elections, from 2009 to 2011.
The current AAAS president-elect, Margaret Hamburg, will begin her term as AAAS president at the close of the 2018 Annual Meeting. Hamburg is foreign secretary of the National Academy of Medicine. The current president, Susan Hockfield, will become chair of the AAAS Board of Directors. Hockfield is president emerita of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.