Ernest Moniz, an MIT physics professor with extensive experience with particle accelerators and national energy policies, has been confirmed in a unanimous vote by the US Senate as the next Secretary of Energy.
The Department of Energy is the single largest supporter of particle physics, and of basic research in the physical sciences, in the United States.
Moniz succeeds Steven Chu, also a physicist, who served during the Obama administration's first term and who announced Feb. 1 that he would be stepping down. After the transition, Chu will be joining the faculty of Stanford University.
Coincidentally, Moniz also has a Stanford connection. He earned his PhD in theoretical nuclear physics there in January 1972.
After postdoctoral research stints in Saclay, France, and the University of Pennsylvania, Moniz joined MIT's physics faculty in 1973. He was director of the DOE-funded Bates Linear Accelerator Center from 1983 to 1991. In the 1990s, Moniz became more active in the national energy policy discussion. He served the Clinton Administration as associate director for science in the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy (1995-97) and then as DOE undersecretary (1997-2001). In 2006, he was named director of the MIT Energy Initiative and the Laboratory for Energy and the Environment.
"Taken together, these roles have given me a deep appreciation of DOE's importance to American leadership in science," Moniz said in his April 9 written statement to the Senate committee reviewing his nomination. "DOE is the lead funder of basic research in the physical sciences and provides the national research community with unique research opportunities at major facilities for nuclear and particle physics, energy science, materials research and discovery, large-scale computation and other disciplines. DOE operates an unparalleled national laboratory system and partners with both university and industry at the research frontier.
"The Secretary of Energy has the responsibility for stewardship of a crucial part of the American basic research enterprise. If confirmed, I will work with the scientific community and with Congress to assure that our researchers have continuing access to cutting-edge research tools for scientific discovery and for training the next generation."
With a 21-1 vote, the committee approved Moniz's nomination on April 18.
Burton Richter, director emeritus of SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, says he has high expectations for Moniz.
"Ernie Moniz, whom I've known for a very long time, has lots of experience in Washington," Richter says. "He knows the system; he knows the people; he knows how to get things done. I think he will be a very effective Secretary of Energy."