MIT’s Ernest J. Moniz becomes Secretary of Energy


Ernest J. Moniz, the founding director of the MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI), left the Institute in spring 2013 to lead the US Department of Energy (DOE). He stepped down from his longtime positions as the Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Physics and Engineering Systems and as the director of MITEI and of the Laboratory for Energy and the Environment.

In his speech nominating Moniz, President Obama noted his unique qualifications, saying, “Ernie knows that we can produce more energy and grow our economy while still taking care of our air, our water, and our climate. I could not be more pleased to have Ernie join us.”

As Secretary of Energy, Moniz oversees an agency devoted to ensuring America’s security and prosperity by addressing its energy, environmental, and nuclear challenges through science and technology. The agency had a budget of more than $29 billion in fiscal year 2012; runs 17 national laboratories and many other research facilities; and has more than 16,000 federal employees and 90,000 contract employees at the national laboratories and other facilities. DOE is also the largest funder of research in the physical sciences.

MIT President L. Rafael Reif said, “President Obama has made an excellent choice in his selection of Professor Moniz as energy secretary. His leadership of MITEI has been in the best tradition of the Institute—MIT students and faculty focusing their expertise and creativity on solving major societal challenges, a history of working with industry on high-impact solutions, and a culture of interdisciplinary research.” Reif continued, “We have been fortunate that Professor Moniz has put his enthusiasm, deep understanding of energy, and commitment to a clean energy future to work for MIT and the Energy Initiative—and we are certain he will do the same for the American people.”

Moniz served as undersecretary of energy from 1997 to 2001. In that role, he had oversight responsibility for all of DOE’s science and energy programs and the DOE national laboratory system. He also led a comprehensive review of the nuclear weapons stockpile stewardship program, advanced the science and technology of environmental cleanup, and served as DOE’s special negotiator for Russia initiatives, with a particular focus on the disposal of Russian nuclear materials.

From 1995 to 1997, he served as the associate director for science in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. There, his responsibilities spanned the physical, life, and social and behavioral sciences; science education; and university-government partnerships.

Moniz has also served on the President’s Council of Advisors for Science and Technology, the Department of Defense Threat Reduction Advisory Committee, and the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future.

Moniz has been on the MIT faculty since 1973. He served previously as head of the Department of Physics and as director of the Bates Linear Accelerator Center. His principal research contributions have been in theoretical nuclear physics and in energy technology and policy studies.

This article appears in the issue of Energy Futures.


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