The Citizen Scientist


Scientists, just like the rest of us, lead lives that are often filled with surprising twists and turns.
Today, Steven Chu is world famous as a Nobel Prize-winning physicist. But as a teenager he felt
so resentful of being pressured by his family that for a time he dropped out of high school. Years
later, as a successful physicist, he was initially a skeptic about global warming. But his insatiable
curiosity led him to dive into the data and discover that the dangers were real. So in his fifties,
Steve walked away from the lab work he loved and transformed himself into a citizen-scientist,
devoted to putting science to work for all of us to help us cope with the climate challenges that
we face.

Film Resources: Lesson Plan and Community Outreach Guide

Our partners, The Climate Initiative and the National Science Teaching Association, have created outstanding resources to accompany each of our films. Click on the buttons below to access the lesson plan and community outreach guide for The Citizen Scientist. The classroom-ready lesson plan developed by the National Science Teaching Association highlights the science and engineering practices scientists use to explain the phenomenon of climate change. The Climate Initiative’s community outreach guide offers talking points and prompts to help foster viewer conversations about the film.

Meet the Scientist

Steven Chu, Ph.D.

Steven Chu, Ph.D.

Professor of Molecular and Cellular Physiology and of Energy Science and Engineering, Stanford University

Steven Chu is the William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor of Physics and Professor of Molecular & Cellular Physiology in the Medical School at Stanford University. He has published over 280 papers in atomic and polymer physics, biophysics, biology, bio-imaging, batteries, and other energy technologies. He holds 15 patents, and an additional 15 patent disclosures or filings since 2015.

Dr. Chu was the 12th U.S. Secretary of Energy from January 2009 until the end of April 2013. As the first scientist to hold a Cabinet position and the longest serving Energy Secretary, he recruited outstanding scientists and engineers into the Department of Energy. He began several initiatives including ARPA-E (Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy), the Energy Innovation Hubs, and was personally tasked by President Obama to assist BP in stopping the Deepwater Horizon oil leak.

Prior to his cabinet post, he was director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, where he was active in pursuit of alternative and renewable energy technologies, and Professor of Physics and Applied Physics at Stanford University, where he helped launch Bio-X, a multi-disciplinary institute combining the physical and biological sciences with medicine and engineering. Previously he was head of the Quantum Electronics Research Department at AT&T Bell Laboratories.

Dr. Chu is the co-recipient of the 1997 Nobel Prize in Physics for his contributions to laser cooling and atom trapping, and has received numerous other awards. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Pontifical Academy Sciences and 7 foreign academies. He was formerly President and then Chair of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He received an A.B. degree in mathematics and a B.S. degree in physics from the University of Rochester, and a Ph.D. in physics from the University of California, Berkeley, as well as 35 honorary degrees.

Click here to read more about Dr. Chu’s work.

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