Professor Steven Chu ForMemRS

Steven Chu is an innovative physicist who has developed methods to cool then trap individual atoms and biomolecules using laser light. Whilst Steven received the 1997 Nobel Prize in Physics for this important advance, he has devoted his recent scientific career to finding solutions to energy and climate challenges — culminating in his appointment as US Secretary of Energy in 2009.

His early research, conducted at Bell Labs, contributed to the optical tweezers — an instrument now widely used in biology experiments to hold, move and study objects such as actin filaments found in muscle or even whole cells. He also introduced atom interferometry for precision measurements as well as the first atomic fountain, used to ‘set’ highly accurate atomic clocks.

During his tenure at the US Department of Energy, Steven oversaw a tenfold increase in solar energy use and an overall doubling in the use of renewable energy. This significant achievement is helping to reduce the consumption of fossil fuels, an action that Steven advocates as essential for combating climate change.


  • King Faisal International Prize

    In the field of physics.

  • Nobel Prize in Physics

    Jointly with Claude Cohen-Tannoudji and William D. Phillips for development of methods to cool and trap atoms with laser light.

Professor Steven Chu ForMemRS
Elected 2014