In assembling his administration, President-elect Barack Obama has looked to the University of California to fill two of the top posts in the United States government.

On Dec. 15 Obama nominated UC Berkeley scientist Dr. Steven Chu, a physicist and Nobel laureate, as Secretary of Energy. Chu, director of the Dept. of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, is noted for his focus on alternative energy research.

He shared the 1997 Nobel Prize in Physics for creating laser techniques that cool and trap atoms and molecules. Chu joined Berkeley’s faculty in 2004 and was recently appointed its Philomathia Chair in Alternative Energy.

In a press release, Obama said Chu’s research in sustainable energy reflects the administration’s aims for its environmental policies.

“[Chu] blazed new trails as a scientist and teacher and administrator, and has recently led the Berkeley national laboratory in pursuing new alternative and renewable energies,” Obama said. “Steven is uniquely suited to be our new secretary of energy as we make this pursuit a guiding purpose of the department of energy as well as a national mission.”

Another UC Berkeley professor will also be a major force in U.S. policy during the Obama administration. Christina D. Romer, a macroeconomist, was nominated on Nov. 24 as the chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisors.

Romer, an expert in recessions, worked with Obama during his campaign as a consultant on economic policy issues. At the press conference where he announced her appointment, he praised her “groundbreaking research on many of the topics our administration will confront – from tax policy to fighting recessions” and said “her clear-eyed, independent analyses have received praise from both conservative and liberal thinkers alike.”

Chu and Romer – along with the rest of the nominated Obama team – must first receive Senate confirmation before assuming their posts in the administration.