Moniz has the intellect of a scientist, the career of a veteran Washington insider, and the hair of George Washington. Moniz left his post as the director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Energy Initiative earlier this year to lead the Energy Department, a return of sorts for the 67-year-old physics professor. He served as undersecretary of Energy during the latter half of the Clinton administration and before that worked in the Science and Technology Office in the Clinton White House.
Echoing President Obama's remarks in his State of the Union address, Moniz puts global warming at the top of his priority list. "Climate change to me is an extraordinarily high priority," Moniz said during a town-hall meeting with DOE employees. "Frankly, it's a driver of my coming back here."
The Energy Department's biggest job is to ensure that the nation's nuclear stockpile is secured safely, and judging by his first day on the job in May, Moniz will be focusing on that a lot. His first briefings were with the National Nuclear Security Administration and the Energy Department's Office of Intelligence and Counterintelligence.
His colleagues say he's gifted but also savvy in a way that helps him thrive in the political world that is Washington. "I think Ernie Moniz is brilliant," said Dave Danielson, who is assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy and a former MIT student when Moniz taught there. "He has the technical and policy experience, and the experience within DOE, to really do a phenomenal job."
Because of his time working in the Clinton administration, Moniz will be returning to work with some of the colleagues he had known back in the 1990s, including David Poneman, the No. 2 in the department. "I think in Secretary Moniz we have someone who has just an absolute first-class intellect and all the scientific knowledge this calls for," says Poneman, who has published papers with Moniz. "But we also have someone who is pragmatic and a very engaging leader."
A native of Fall River, Mass., Moniz earned a bachelor's degree in physics from Boston College and a doctorate in theoretical physics from Stanford University.