WASHINGTON Feb 22 Outgoing U.S. Energy
Secretary Steven Chu will return to his comfort zone on the West
Coast this spring when he rejoins the faculty of Stanford
University to teach physics.
Chu, a Nobel Prize winner who led a tumultuous effort to
help spur a clean-energy U.S. economy in his four years at the
Department of Energy, announced his resignation on Feb. 1 and
said he would stay in the post until his successor was named.
President Barack Obama is expected to nominate nuclear
physicist Ernest Moniz of the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology to replace Chu as early as next week, sources close
to the process told Reuters this week.
Chu will hold a joint appointment in Stanford's Department
of Physics and the School of Medicine's Department of Molecular
and Cellular Physiology, according to university officials.
He taught at both Stanford and the University of California,
Berkeley, earlier in his career.
A self-proclaimed nerd and energy efficiency fanatic who
often cycles to work, Chu said he looked forward to being back
"I want to return to ... the marriage of physics, biology
and biomedicine," Chu told the Stanford Daily on Thursday. "That
is a very exciting frontier."
While at the DOE, Chu doled out millions of dollars in
stimulus funds to support clean energy research. But hard times
followed when one of the key recipients, solar-panel maker
Solyndra, filed for bankruptcy in 2011 after receiving a $535
million loan guarantee.
Chu, who is the longest-serving energy secretary in U.S.
history, defended his record to the end, fighting off charges
that his department gave funds to political allies.
Critics of Chu's tenure at the DOE complained that he had an
awkward, academic style that made it difficult for him to
deliver a compelling message to promote renewable energy and
Chu said his reappointment to Stanford's faculty will allow
him to impart a lesson he learned during his DOE tenure - that
communication is a vital part of deploying new technology.
"Using technology to drive down the cost of cleaner forms of
energy is only part of it," Chu told the student newspaper. "You
have to build a better mousetrap, and people have to be aware
that it's a better mousetrap."
(Reporting By Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Leslie Adler)