Tarak Shah, 33
Chief of Staff, Department of Energy’s Office of the Under Secretary for Science and Energy
Hometown: Glendale Heights, IL
How did you get here?
It’s a story that goes back 13 years, when I was on campus at the University of Illinois. I met a State Senator named Barack Obama and began volunteering for his campaign for U.S. Senate. I graduated in May 2004 and immediately began as a staffer on his campaign.
I moved to Washington with him after he won, joined his campaign for President in Chicago in 2008, and have served in his Administration since. I spent the first year and a half at the White House working on energy and environment issues. In 2010, I moved over to the Department of Defense to help set up the military’s first combat energy office. The goal was to help our troops use less energy on the battlefield, thus making them more agile, and lower the risks associated with resupply in combat. I spent four years at the Pentagon, and in 2014, I moved over to the Department of Energy.
Here, I am the Chief of Staff for the part of the Department that oversees all of our basic and energy technology research done by tens of thousands of scientists at laboratories all across the country and amounting to a $10B annual investment in science and technology. We’re working on everything from understanding how the tiniest particles interact to deploying clean energy across the Nation.
My full bio is here: http://energy.gov/contributors/tarak-shah
Who or what has been the greatest influence on your career?
President Obama. Since 2003 I’ve heard him talk about the dangers of climate change to our economy, our security, and our environment consistently for over a decade now. But he also believes that human ingenuity can help us address climate change. Our energy use is the primary driver of climate warming, and new clean energy technologies – like solar and wind – will help us meet the challenge. The President has directed the investment of tens of billions of dollars in these technologies. At DOE, I get to help guide those investments, and I am so proud to be part of that change.
What do you consider your greatest accomplishment during the Obama administration?
Over the course of my time in the Administration, we’ve made enormous strides in changing the way energy is used in the United States. Renewables are growing at their fastest pace ever. We’re using energy much more efficiently. We’ve reduced our carbon emissions. We’ve established a new international framework to address climate change. In each of the places I’ve worked in the Administration – the White House, the Defense Department, and the Department of Energy, I’ve had a role to play in these efforts.
As a member of the LGBT community, I have marveled at the enormous shift on LGBT rights that has occurred over the past few years, thanks in part to this President’s leadership. I’m so proud to have made a small mark there, serving at the Department of Defense when “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” was repealed, helping to organize the first official LGBT group at the Pentagon and organizing the first Pentagon Pride Celebration.
Can you describe your time working for the Obama administration in 10 words?
A clean energy revolution to take on climate change. #thanksobama
Complete the sentence: “When I’m not working, I’m..."
I'm on my bicycle, exploring this wonderful planet!”