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Nobel Laureate Steven Chu to Give Commencement Address

Physicist’s research seeks new sustainable-energy sources

Steven Chu, the 1997 Nobel laureate in physics, will deliver this year’s Commencement address. Photo courtesy of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Steven Chu, the 1997 Nobel laureate in physics and a leader in the development of technologies to reverse climate change, will deliver the main address at Boston University’s 134th Commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 20. University President Robert A. Brown announced Commencement and Baccalaureate speakers, as well as this year’s honorary degree recipients, this morning at the annual Senior Breakfast in the George Sherman Union.

Chu, a professor of physics and molecular and cellular biology at the University of California, Berkeley, and the director of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, is leading a multidisciplinary initiative to create sustainable, carbon-neutral sources of energy. The Berkeley Lab’s research collaborations include the Helios Project, which uses biotechnology to turn plant materials into transportation fuels, and the Athletes Village at the 2008 Olympic Summer Games in Beijing, which is intended to be a near-zero-energy-use complex.

Chu won the Nobel Prize in physics in 1997 for his work in cooling and trapping atoms by using laser light. Prior to his appointment at Berkeley, he was a professor of physics and applied physics at Stanford University. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in mathematics and a Bachelor of Science in physics, both from the University of Rochester, and a doctorate in physics from Berkeley. He will receive an honorary Doctor of Science at BU’s Commencement.

Brown also announced that Bill Kovach, the senior counselor for the Project for Excellence in Journalism and a former New York Times Washington bureau chief, will deliver the Commencement day Baccalaureate Address at Marsh Chapel and receive a Doctor of Humane Letters. Kovach, a journalist and writer for 50 years, also was editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, curator of the Nieman Fellowships at Harvard University, and the founding chairman of the Committee of Concerned Journalists. The Project for Excellence in Journalism is a nonpartisan research organization that uses empirical methods to evaluate and study the performance of the press.

This year’s other honorary degree recipients include the painter Brice Marden (CFA’61); Judy Norsigian, executive director of Our Bodies Ourselves; Samuel O. Thier, the former chief executive officer of Partners HealthCare System and president of Massachusetts General Hospital; and Peter H. Vermilye, former Alliance Capital CEO, Citicorp chief investment officer, and current BU trustee.

Jessica Ullian can be reached at jullian@bu.edu.