Description of the Collection
Call Number: SC0828
Title: Steven Chu papers
Bulk Dates: 1975-2006
26.5 Linear feet
Summary: Papers pertain primarily to topics in physics and include notes,
overhead transparencies from his lectures, reprints, articles, memos, proposals,
correspondence, charts, and drawings. Subjects include electric dipole moment, diode
lasers, and dye lasers; and there are some materials pertaining to departmental matters.
Also included in the collection is the 1989 paper by P. Galison, B. Hevly, and R. Lowen,
"Controlling the Monster - Stanford and the Growth of Physics Research,
Language(s): The materials are in English.
Department of Special Collections and University Archives
Stanford University Libraries
557 Escondido Mall
Stanford, CA 94305-6064
Phone: (650) 725-1022
Information about Access
This collection is open for research.
Ownership & Copyright
All requests to reproduce, publish, quote from, or otherwise use collection materials
must be submitted in writing to the Head of Special Collections and University
Archives, Stanford University Libraries, Stanford, California 94304-6064. Consent is
given on behalf of Special Collections as the owner of the physical items and is not
intended to include or imply permission from the copyright owner. Such permission
must be obtained from the copyright owner, heir(s) or assigns. See:
Restrictions also apply to digital representations of the original materials. Use of
digital files is restricted to research and educational purposes.
Steven Chu Papers (SC0828). Dept. of Special Collections and University Archives,
Stanford University Libraries, Stanford, Calif.
Steven Chu is the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Physics and Professor of Molecular
and Cellular Physiology at Stanford University. From January 2009 until April, 2013, Dr.
Chu served as the 12th U.S. Secretary of Energy under President Barack Obama. During his
tenure, the Department of Energy annual budget was approximately $26 Billion and was
entrusted an additional $36 B through the Recovery Act.
As the longest serving Energy Secretary, he began several initiatives including ARPA-E
(Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy), the Energy Innovation Hubs, and the Clean
Energy Ministerial meetings. During his time at the DOE, the deployment of renewable
energy in the U.S. doubled. As the first scientist to head the DOE, Dr. Chu helped
identify and recruit a dozen outstanding scientists and engineers; he worked to create a
“Bell Labs” culture in ARPA-E, which is now being disseminated in other parts of the
Energy Department such as the solar photovoltaic program, “SunShot.”
From 2004-2009, he was the Director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and
Professor of Physics and Professor of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of
California Berkeley. Prior to those positions, he was the Theodore and Francis Geballe
Professor of Physics and Applied Physics at Stanford University. During this time at
Stanford (1987 – 2004) he twice chaired the Department of Physics and helped start
Bio-X, a multi-disciplinary initiative that brings together the physical and biological
sciences with engineering and medicine. From 1978 – 1987, he worked at AT&T Bell
Laboratories, including four years as Head of the Quantum Electronics Research
Chu’s thesis and postdoctoral work was one of the first successful observations of
parity non-conservation in atomic transitions, confirming the Weinberg-Salam-Glashow
theory that unified weak and electromagnetic interactions. While at Bell Laboratories
Chu and A. Mills performed the first laser spectroscopy of positronium, the fundamental
atom consisting of an electron and the positron, and muonium, an atom consisting of a
proton and muon. While also at Bell Labs, Chu also made contributions in condensed
matter studies of exciton energy transfer, Anderson Localization, and made the first
observation of anomalous (faster than light and negative velocity) pulse
While at Bell labs, Chu led the group that showed how to first cool and then trap atoms
with light. The “optical tweezers” trap, first demonstrated during the course of the
atom trapping work, is widely used in biology. Other contributions include the
demonstration of the magneto-optic trap, the most widely used atom trap today. At
Stanford, he developed the theory of laser cooling of actual, multilevel atoms (also
independently by Claude Cohen-Tannoudji and Jean Dalibard), and demonstrated the first
atomic fountain/fountain atomic clock. For this work, he was the co-recipient the Nobel
Prize in Physics in 1997. He group also introduced atom interferometry based on optical
pulses of light, a technique that has remained the most precise form of atom
interferometry after two decades. Chu and his colleagues used atom interferometry test
the equivalence principle between a macroscopic object and a quantum object to an
accuracy of several parts per billion and in the precision measurement of the coupling
constant that defines the strength of electromagnetic interactions.
Using the optical tweezers, Chu introduced methods to simultaneously visualize and
manipulate single bio-molecules. This work led to investigations in polymer dynamics
(using DNA as the model polymer) that included studies of reputation and relaxation in
polymer solutions, the discovery of “molecular individualism”, and the observation of
hysteresis in the coil-stretch transition.
In single molecule biology, Chu, with James Spudich and Robert Simmons, designed and
developed an apparatus that was able to measure the force on an actin filament held by
optical tweezers when myosin molecular motors attached to the actin hydrolyzed ATP. Chu
and his group were the first group to use FRET (Fluorescence Resonance Energy Transfer)
to study the individual molecules tethered to a glass surface.
This advance allowed the Chu and his collaborators to perform the first single molecule
studies of the unfolding and multiple pathways of the refolding of the Tetrahymena, the
accommodation and proofreading mechanism of the ribosome, and studies of the enzymology
of the hairpin ribozyme and helicase enzymes. During this time Chu helped start Bio-X at
Stanford University, a multi-disciplinary program that combined the physical and
biological sciences with medicine and engineering.
More recent single molecule studies the role of SNARE and associated proteins
responsible for neural vesicle fusion and the demonstration of the assembly of the
pre-initiation complex and followed by eukaryotic transcription. His group has also been
applying sub-wavelength optical imaging to studies of cancer signaling, the structural
development of growing bio-films, while improving the spatial resolution to
sub-nanometer resolution by developing a method to measure and correct the non-uniform
response of light in CCD cameras.
During the past ten years, Chu has also become active in marshaling scientists and
resources to address the energy problem with new pathways to sustainable, CO2 neutral
energy. He co-chaired the Inter-Academy Council report “Transitioning to Sustainable
Energy.” He was a member of the NAS/NAE/NRC committees that produced the reports,
“Rising Above the Gathering Storm” and “America’s Energy Future.” The “Rising Above the
Gathering Storm” report recommended the establishment of a new funding agency within the
Department of Energy, ARPA-E (Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy) that would
focus on high-risk high reward energy research that could result in the invention of
Chu led the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) from August 2004 to January
2009. He stepped down to become the 12th U.S. Secretary of Energy until April 2013. As
the fist scientist to hold a cabinet position and the longest serving Energy Secretary,
he began several initiatives including ARPA-E (Advanced Research Projects Agency –
Energy), the Energy Innovation Hubs, and the Clean Energy Ministerial meetings. Also
during his tenure, the deployment of renewable energy doubled in the U.S. and solar
energy deployment increased 10-fold. Chu was personally involved in recruiting numerous
outstanding scientists and engineers into the DOE, creating a more Bell-labs like
culture in how the Department evaluates and awards proposals. With colleagues from LBNL,
he developed an improved methodology for setting federal appliances standards. Chu was
personally tasked by President Obama to assist BP in stopping the Deepwater Horizon oil
leak in the Gulf of Mexico and to assist the Government of Japan with the
tsunami-damaged nuclear reactors at Fukushima-Daiichi.
After his government service, Chu has returned to Stanford to become Professor of
Physics and Professor of Molecular and Cellular Physiology, where he will teach and
continue his research in biophysics, biomedicine, energy and energy economics.
The holder of 10 patents, Dr. Chu has published ~250 scientific and technical papers. In
addition to the Nobel Prize and numerous other honors, he is a member of the National
Academy of Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts
and Sciences, the Academia Sinica, and a foreign member of the Royal Academy of
Engineering, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the Korean Academy of Sciences and
Technology, Honorary Fellow of the Institute of Physics and Honorary Member of the
Optical Society of America.
He earned an A.B. degree in mathematics, and a B.S. degree in physics from the
University of Rochester, a Ph.D. in physics from the University of California, Berkeley,
and has been awarded 23 honorary degrees.
Description of the Collection
Papers pertain primarily to topics in physics and include notes, overhead transparencies
from his lectures, reprints, articles, memos, grants, correspondence, charts, and
drawings. Subjects include electric dipole moment, diode lasers, and dye lasers; and
there are some materials pertaining to departmental matters.
Stanford University. Dept. of Physics.
Physics--Study and teaching.