What's Happening in IPO

17 Sep 2015

IPO Students Meet with Prof. Steven CHU, Nobel Laureate in Physics 1997 and the Former US Secretary of Energy

Prof. Steven CHU, Nobel Laureate in Physics 1997 and the Former US Secretary of Energy was invited to share insights on climate change and renewable energy at HKUST as one of the University’s 25th Anniversary Distinguished Speakers Series on 15 September 2015. Before the talk, Prof. CHU attended the sharing session with students from IPO and School of Science which is a very valuable and rare opportunity for students to talk and learn direct from a Nobel Prize winner and a Former US Secretary. 

Prof Steven CHU shared his experience in working as the Secretary of Energy in the US Government.  From a scientist to a politician, Prof. CHU said it’s not easy but a right thing to do as he could make changes by pushing the government to spend the money in worthy causes like science and energy development.  There were lots of frustrations and it’s an exhausting job but he cared about the larger mission behind. He encouraged the students not to be scared of being fired of doing the right things.  Students should equip themselves to be competent that they are employable elsewhere, and be  sensible in spending so they do not need much money to support luxury living,  then they can stand firm for what’s right even under big pressure.

Prof. CHU said government always needs very good technical people to tackle various problems in the lowest cost and quickest way, and avoid economic backlash.  Sometimes officials need to compromise due to political reality.  For instance, nuclear reactors cannot be put to stop now but he would suggest using them within their life-spans and let them retire afterwards. He added that the experience of serving in government made him a better teacher as he was required to explain complicated issues to US Senators and Congressman in a simple way and keep their attention all the time.   

A student asked Prof. CHU’s views in education as more people tended to join banking and financial industry rather than academia.  Prof. CHU said people valued money and CV building too much nowadays.  People are judged to be successful on how much money they make.  “You are not smart unless you are rich” was a joke in the past but not now.  Prof. CHU said he was blessed to be poor that he needed to work to pay for his education and wanted to be a scholar but not making money.  He said rich people may not achieve what they could have as everything maybe too easy for them.      

Another student pointed out that the development in energy efficiency technology somehow encouraged people to consume more and how would Prof CHU comment it.  Prof. CHU thought that energy efficiency technology helped lower the energy prices and save energy to certain extent so it’s still worth developing.  He used daily examples like air travel was cheaper then people may travel more, but people would not buy more refrigerators at home even it consumed lesser electricity.     

Prof. CHU is now a Professor of Physics and Molecular & Cellular Physiology at Stanford University.  He loves doing research and will continue his research focus in climate change which is a very serious problem and the consequence is scarier than most people think.  Prof. Pak Wo LEUNG asked Prof. CHU to give advices to students who want to join Stanford University’s research teams.  Prof. CHU said even if students could not enter Stanford or Harvard, it’s not the end of the world. What matter is to join a group of researchers who are passionate about what they are doing and excite everyone in the group to pursue the same goal. Prof. CHU said he was very lucky to be in such a passionate group now where he has lots of fun.  

The one-hour sharing was too soon to end and we hope that Prof. CHU will visit HKUST again in the near future.  

  • Prof. Steven CHU, Nobel Laureate in Physics 1997 and the Former US Secretary of Energy

  • From left: Prof. Pak Wo LEUNG, Associate Dean, School of Science; Prof. Steven CHU

  • Meike SAUERWEIN (PhD student of Environmental Science, Policy and Management)

  • QI Gengmo, David (Dual Degree Program in Technology and Management)