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UC Berkeley's Nobel Laureates: Energy Self-Sufficiency in the 21st Century


George A. Akerlof (Economics, 2001) • Steven Chu (Physics, 1997) • Donald A. Glaser (Physics, 1960) • Yuan T. Lee (Chemistry, 1986) • Daniel L. McFadden (Economics, 2000) • George F. Smoot (Physics, 2006) • Charles H. Townes (Physics, 1964) • In conversation with Chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau


George A. Akerlof

Akerlof was educated at Yale and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he received his Ph.D. in 1966, the same year he became an assistant professor at Berkeley. He became a full professor in 1978.  Akerlof is a 2001 recipient of the Alfred E. Nobel Prize in Economic Science; he was honored for his theory of asymmetric information and its effect on economic behavior. He is also the 2006 President of the American Economic Association. He served earlier as vice president and member of the executive committee.

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Steven Chu

Chu is the William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor of Physics and a professor of molecular and cellular physiology in the Medical School at Stanford University. He has published over 275 papers in atomic and polymer physics, biophysics, biology, batteries, and holds 11 patents. Currently, he is developing new optical nanoparticle probes for applications in biology and biomedicine, exploring new approaches to lithium ion batteries, PM2.5 air filtration and other applications of nanotechnology. Chu was the 12th U.S. Secretary of Energy from January 2009 until the end of April 2013.

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Donald A. Glaser

Glaser (1926–2013) was a physicist, neurobiologist, and the winner of the 1960 Nobel Prize in Physics for his invention of the bubble chamber used in subatomic particle physics. He was a professor in the Graduate School at Berkeley. 

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Yuan T. Lee

Lee is a professor emeritus in the Department of Chemistry at Berkeley. In 1986 he shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry John C. Polanyi and Dudley R. Herschbach “for their contributions to the dynamics of chemical elementary processes.” He holds a B.Sc. from Taiwan University (1959); M.S. from Tsinghua University (1961); and Ph.D. in physical chemistry from Berkeley (1965). He has been a fellow of American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1975) and, in addition to the Nobel Prize, he has been the recipient of a National Medal of Science (1986) and other awards.

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Daniel L. McFadden

McFadden is the E. Morris Cox Professor of Economics and Director of the Econometrics Laboratory. He is the 2000 Nobel Laureate in Economics for his work in econometric methods for studying behavioral patterns in individual decision-making. Following the completion of his Ph.D. in 1962 at the University of Minnesota, McFadden went to the University of Pittsburgh as a Mellon postdoctoral fellow. The following year, he joined Berkeley’s economics department. In 1979, McFadden moved to the economics faculty at MIT, and in 1991 he returned to Berkeley.

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George F. Smoot

Smoot received his Ph.D. in physics from M.I.T. in 1970 and was a post-doctoral researcher at M.I.T. before moving to Berkeley in 1971. Honors include: NASA Medal for Exceptional Science Achievement, Kilby Award, Lawrence Award, 2006 Nobel Prize in Physics. An active researcher in observational astrophysics and cosmology, Smoot’s group at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and in the Department of Physics at Berkeley is observing our galaxy and the cosmic background radiation that is a remnant from the fiery beginning of our universe.

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Charles H. Townes

Townes was born in Greenville, South Carolina, on July 28, 1915, the son of Henry Keith Townes, an attorney, and Ellen (Hard) Townes. He attended the Greenville public schools and then Furman University in Greenville, where he completed the requirements for the Bachelor of Science degree in physics and the Bachelor of Arts degree in modern languages, graduating summa cum laude in 1935 at the age of 19.

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Robert J. Birgeneau

Birgeneau, an internationally distinguished physicist, served as the ninth chancellor of UC Berkeley from 2004–13. Well known for his commitment to diversity and equity, he successfully advanced a vision of “Access and Excellence.” Prior to Berkeley, he was president of the University of Toronto for four years and on the faculty at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for 25 years. He is a fellow of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the Royal Society of London, the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and other scholarly societies.

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