The Laser Institute of America (LIA) will present U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu with the 2010 Arthur L. Schawlow Award at the 29th International Congress on Applications of Lasers and Electro-Optics (ICALEO®) in Anaheim, Calif.

Chu, co-winner of the 1997 Nobel Prize in physics for development of methods to cool and trap atoms with laser light, will receive the honor during a luncheon Sept. 29 and speak during the event. Laser pioneer Schawlow nominated Chu for the Nobel while the two were colleagues at Stanford University. Chu will receive a silver medal, a special citation and a cash prize, and become a fellow and lifetime member of LIA.

Chu, 62, was appointed as energy secretary Dec. 15, 2008, while director of the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Lab and professor of physics and molecular and cell biology at the University of California, Berkeley. “Steven has blazed new trails as a scientist, teacher and administrator, and has recently led the Berkeley National Laboratory in pursuit of new alternative and renewable energies,” said President Barack Obama.

Born in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1948, he and his family settled in Garden City, N.Y., in 1950. Chu went on to receive his Ph.D. from Berkeley in 1976 and joined Bell Labs in 1978. It was at Bell, in Holmdel, N.J., that he and his coworkers perfected his Nobel-winning technique for cooling atoms with six lasers, creating “optical molasses” where the beams intersected. He went on to Stanford University in 1987, serving as a professor and chair of the physics department before returning to Berkeley to run the national lab in 2004.

The “green”-minded Chu — who reveled in shunning cars in favor of bicycles to get to work before his current role demanded full-time security — has touted a global “glucose economy” in which glucose from tropically grown plants would be distributed worldwide, gradually replacing oil. “From here on in, every day has to be Earth Day,” he told The New York Times last year.

This historic event for LIA will help provide sponsors and exhibitors from all over the world with an abundance of networking opportunities and a chance to maximize company awareness to over 200 companies and organizations from more than 20 countries. Sponsorship and Vendor Program packages are still available — contact Dave Evans at LIA for more details, 1.800.34.LASER.

LIA, the trusted and respected advocate of cutting-edge applications of laser technology since 1968, first presented the award in 1982 to Schawlow, who won the Nobel Prize in physics in 1981. The honor recognizes individuals who have made distinguished contributions to applications of lasers in science, industry or education.

ICALEO, which will run Sept. 26-30, is viewed as the premier source of technical information about laser materials processing.