Another Physicist To Washington

A press release from Caltech about Steve Koonin, who was the boss of my bosses during a SURF project and was a student of my undergraduate advisor at Caltech (and also responsible for severe drops in GPAs for many of the physicist students I knew at Caltech :)):

Steven Koonin, visiting associate in physics and former provost of Caltech, has been nominated by President Obama to serve as Undersecretary for Science in the U.S. Department of Energy. The position requires Senate confirmation. Koonin is currently chief scientist for BP, where he is responsible for guiding the company’s long-range technology strategy, particularly in alternative and renewable energy sources. He has served on numerous advisory bodies for the National Science Foundation, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Energy and its various national laboratories. Koonin’s research interests have included theoretical and computational physics, as well as global environmental science. He earned his BS at Caltech in 1972 and his PhD from MIT in 1975.

Note the dates between BS and PhD!

4 Replies to “Another Physicist To Washington”

  1. Great nomination! I went to Stuyvesant High School with Steve Koonin; we came to Caltech the same year (1968). He has a lovely family, was a charming friend, and, as he rose through the ranks to head of faculty, and Vice President/Provost, I could point to him as being on the “fast track” compared to my oddly random walking careers. He wrote a great letter of recommendation for my adjunct professorship. He had to take the BP Chief Scientist job, the money was enormous. Now I am glad that he can directly benefit the USA and the Science community as his (more than) full time job. Kudos to Chu and Obama for validating Steve’s talent and brilliance.

  2. Tonight’s/tomorrow’s Pasadena Star News summarizes thus:
    Former Caltech provost in line for federal energy post
    Posted: 03/26/2009 10:54:56 AM PDT
    PASADENA — President Barack Obama has announced his intention to nominate Steven E. Koonin, a former provost and professor of theoretical physics at Caltech, as under secretary for science in the Department of Energy.
    Koonin, who served as Caltech’s seventh provost from 1995 to 2004, would oversee the Department of Energy’s basic science portfolio, which includes many of the national laboratories, as well as provide technical advice and coordination across the Department’s energy applications and national security activities.

  3. Former Caltech provost tapped for federal energy post
    By Dan Abendschein, Staff Writer
    Posted: 03/27/2009 03:54:38 PM PDT
    … Caltech Professor Tom Tombrello, who had Koonin as a student and later as a colleague and boss, described him as “a prodigy.”
    “I handed back a paper when he was a junior and told him it was worthy of publication,” said Tombrello.
    Tombrello said Koonin has a balanced outlook on energy matters, advocating for green power while also supporting biofuels and nuclear energy….

  4. As an undergrad I did research for Koonin and I also had him as my quantum mechanics instructor. The research we were doing was an outgrowth of his MIT dissertation. What I could never understand is why such a brilliant guy went into NUCLEAR physics (in 1972) as opposed to particle theory or gravitation where all the other geniuses went.

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