Mildred Dresselhaus

Institute Professor of Electrical Engineering and Physics, MIT

2012 Lifetime Achievement Award Winner

Mildred Dresselhaus was an Institute Professor of Electrical Engineering and Physics at MIT. Professor Dresselhaus served as President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Treasurer of the US National Academy of Sciences, President of the American Physical Society and Chair of the Governing Board of the American Institute of Physics. She was a member of the US National Academy of Engineering, as well as of the Engineering Sciences Section of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Physical Society, the IEEE, the Materials Research Society, the Society of Women Engineers, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and American Carbon Society. She received numerous awards, including the US National Medal of Science and 23 honorary doctorates worldwide. She served as the Director of the Office of Science at the US Department of Energy in 2000–2001. She was the co-author of four books on carbon science. Her research interests were in electronic materials, particularly in nanoscience and nanotechnology, with special regard to carbon related materials, novel forms of carbon, including fullerenes, carbon nanotubes, porous carbons, activated carbons and carbon aerogels, as well as other nanostructures, such as bismuth nanowires and the use of nanostructures in low dimensional thermoelectricity. She headed a national Department of Energy Study on “Basic Research Needs for the Hydrogen Economy,” including hydrogen production, storage, and use. She co-chaired a National Academy of Sciences Decadal Study on “Condensed Matter Materials Physics, CMMP2007″ Professor Mildred Dresselhaus was a native of the Bronx, New York City, where she attended the New York City public schools through junior high school, completing her high school education at Hunter College High School in New York City. She began her higher education at Hunter College in New York City and received a Fulbright Fellowship to attend the Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge University (1951-52). Professor Dresselhaus received her master’s degree at Radcliffe College (1953) and her Ph.D. at the University of Chicago (1958). Professor Dresselhaus began her MIT career at the Lincoln Laboratory. During that time she switched from research on superconductivity to magneto-optics, and carried out a series of experiments which led to a fundamental understanding of the electronic structure of semi-metals, especially graphite. A leader in promoting opportunities for women in science and engineering, Professor Dresselhaus received a Carnegie Foundation grant in 1973 to encourage women’s study of traditionally male dominated fields, such as physics. In 1973, she was appointed to The Abby Rockefeller Mauze chair, an Institute-wide chair, endowed in support of the scholarship of women in science and engineering. Professor Dresselhaus greatly enjoyed her career in science. On her experience working with MIT students, she said, “I like to be challenged. I welcome the hard questions and having to come up with good explanations on the spot. That’s an experience I really enjoy.”