STEVEN CHU, who received his physics Ph.D. from UC Berkeley in 1976, has been selected as the 2011 Alumnus of the Year by the Cal Alumni Association. The U.S. Secretary of Energy and Nobel Laureate is being recognized for his groundbreaking contributions to the fields of biophysics and atomic physics, his commitment to addressing climate change, and his transformative leadership in energy research and policy.

Photo of Steve Chu
Steven Chu Ph.D. ’76

In its 2011 awarda program, the alumni association is honoring a total of ten individual alums, six of whom (including Chu) have graduate degrees from this campus.  The formal presentation will be at the association’s Charter Gala, which will be held April 9, 2011.

The other alumni honors fall into three categories.

Two of three Excellence in Achievement Awards will be presented to grad alumni Andrew Frank ’55, M.S. ’58 (inventor of the modern plug-in hybrid) and city and regional planning professor Ananya Roy M.C.P. ’94, Ph.D. ’99.  (The third award will go to Charles Thacker ’67, a pioneer in computer science.)

All three named to win the Mark Bingham Award for Excellence in Achievement by a Young Alumnus or Alumna are grad alums: Victor Pineda ’03, M.C.P. ’06 (founder of the Victor Pineda Foundation), and the cofounders of Revolution Foods, Kristin Richmond and Kirsten Tobey, who both earned M.B.A.s in 2006.

In the Excellence in Service category, a grad alumna, Clothilde Hewlett ’76, J.D. ’79, was selected, along with two undergrad alums (Jefferson Coombs ’89 and Dr. Peter Bretan Jr. ’76).

A distinguished scientist and global leader, Steven Chu has gained renown as the nation’s foremost voice in advocating for scientific solutions to the issues of global climate change and the urgent need for carbon-neutral renewable energy sources. As Secretary of Energy, it’s his job to implement President Barack Obama’s ambitious agenda to invest in clean energy, help reduce our reliance on foreign oil, address global climate crisis, and create millions of jobs.

Chu earned undergraduate degrees in math and physics from the University of Rochester then came to Berkeley for his Ph.D.  Immediately before to his appointment as energy secretary, Chu was the director of the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, where he led the lab in pursuit of alternative energy technologies. He also spent time downhill on the Berkeley campus, teaching, as a professor of physics and professor of molecular and cell biology. His Nobel Prize came in 1997, while he was a faculty member at Stanford University.

Nearly 40 percent of those given the association’s top honor since its inception in 1943 have earned Berkeley graduate degrees, among them another U. S. cabinet official (Health, Education, and Welfare Secretary John W. Gardner Ph.D. ’38; two other Nobel Prize winners (nuclear chemist Glenn T. Seaborg Ph.D. ’37 and physical chemist Yuan T. Lee Ph.D. ’65) and other scientists; four noted jurists (U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren ’12, J.D. ’14, federal district judges Walter A. Gordon ’18, J.D. ’22,  and  Thelton Henderson, and California Supreme Court justice Roger Traynor), as well as two University of California presidents (Clark Kerr Ph.D. 39 and David P. Gardner M.A. ’59, Ph.D. ’66).