Stanford physicist Steven Chu has been named director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) in California. The 56-year-old Chu, who shared the 1997 Nobel Prize in physics for using lasers to trap and cool atoms, becomes the first Asian American to head one of the Department of Energy's (DOE's) national labs.
"It's a spectacular choice," says Keith Hodgson, director of the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory, who says that Chu's research on using high-tech physics tools to investigate biological molecules is "very attuned to future developments" at LBNL. Chu calls his selection "a great honor," and a "big jump" from his practiced role as a top-flight researcher. The move also marks something of a homecoming for Chu who earned his doctorate from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1976.
Chu takes over 1 August from Charles Shank, who is retiring after 15 years at the helm. As director of LBNL, Chu will earn $350,000 annually and oversee an operation with a $521 million budget and a work force of approximately 4000. In January DOE expects to announce whether it has decided to retain the University of California as manager or chosen another institution to run the 73-year-old lab.