Mildred Dresselhaus receives the Heinz Award for Technology, the Economy and Employment for a body of scientific scholarship that has advanced the world's understanding of the multi-faceted field of carbon science and blazed a trail of opportunity and inspiration for women in science.
A Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) professor and researcher for more than four decades, Dr. Dresselhaus' work has kept the United States on the cutting edge of nanostructures and other technologies. Well-known for her scientific contributions, she is revered for her leadership in championing a more prominent role for women in the sciences - a position that has yielded significant strides during her career.
Following her doctoral work at the University of Chicago, she focused her initial research on solid state physics and superconductivity. In 1960 she and her husband, physicist Gene Dresselhaus, moved to the Lincoln Laboratory at MIT, where they remained for seven years, after which she joined the MIT faculty. Currently an Institute Professor of Physics and Electrical Engineering, she has trained more than 60 graduate students.
Dr. Dresselhaus is one of the foremost experts in the study of carbon science worldwide. Her investigations into the electronic properties of graphite, the structure and properties of novel forms of carbon, thermo-electricity and the new physics at the nanometer scale have significantly advanced these fields. She has lectured around the world, written extensively about her research and served in prominent leadership roles, including director of the office of science at the U.S. Department of Energy in the Clinton administration, president of the American Physical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, among other high-profile posts. Among her numerous honors is the National Medal of Science, as well as 20 honorary degrees from various colleges and universities.
The mother of four, Dr. Dresselhaus faced unique challenges in the workplace, which perhaps provided the inspiration to assist other women to pursue scientific careers. In 1970 she co-founded the Women's Forum at MIT and received a Carnegie Foundation grant to encourage women's study of traditionally male-dominated fields, such as physics and engineering. In 1973 she became the Abby Rockefeller Mauze chair, endowed in support of the scholarship of women in science and engineering. When Dr. Dresselhaus arrived at MIT in 1960, women comprised just 4 percent of the undergraduate student population; the percentage of women today tops 40 percent.
A researcher who unlocked scientific mysteries and opened the door of opportunity for countless women, Dr. Mildred Dresselhaus is as respected as she is beloved. She has served as a mentor and role model to many young scientists, and through this legacy, her contributions to science will endure for many generations to come.
Note: This profile is excerpted from the commemorative brochure published at the time of the awards' presentation.
UPDATES SINCE RECEIVING THE HEINZ AWARD
December 2014 - Mildred Dresselhaus has been selected for the IEEE's highest honor, the 2015 Medal of Honor. Cited for "leadership and contributions across many fields of science and engineering, she is also the first woman to earn the prestigious award. - MIT News
November 2014 - Institute Professor Mildred Dresselhaus is among 19 new winners of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, described as "one of the most prominent physicists, materials scientists, and electrical engineers of her generation … best known for deepening our understanding of condensed matter systems and the atomic properties of carbon, which has contributed to major advances in electronics and materials research." - MIT News
March 2014 - Mildred Dresselhaus to be inducted into 2014 class at the National Inventors Hall of Fame - National Inventors Hall of Fame
December 2013 - Millie Dresselhaus receives the 2013 Von Hippel Award. The Materials Research Society’s highest honor, the Von Hippel Award is conferred annually to an individual in recognition of the recipient’s outstanding contribution to interdisciplinary research on materials.- Materials Research Society
May 2012 - Mildred Dresselhaus, the so-called "queen of carbon science," took home the $1-million Kavli Prize in Nanoscience. The materials scientist from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology was awarded for her work in revealing the strange thermal and electrical properties that carbon develops at the atomic scale. - Scientific American
January 2012 - President Obama awards Mildred S. Dresselhaus the Enrico Fermi Award, one of the government's oldest and most prestigious awards for scientific achievement, and administered on behalf of the White House by the U.S. Department of Energy. - MIT News
September 2011 - The winner of the 2012 Acta Materialia Inc. Materials and Society Award is Dr. Mildred Dresselhaus of MIT. The Acta Materialia, Inc. Award in Materials and Society was established in memory of Dr. J. Herbert Hollomon and his dedication to promoting positive social consequences of science and technology that have had a major impact on society. The Award consists of a Steuben glass sculpture, an inscribed certificate, and a cash honorarium. - American Physical Society
March 2009 - Once dubbed the "Queen of Carbon Science" as one of the nation's foremost experts in the multifaceted field of carbon science, longtime Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Institute Professor Mildred Dresselhaus has been named the National Science Board's 2009 Vannevar Bush Awardee. NSB members agreed that Dresselhaus is especially deserving of the Vannevar Bush Award for her outstanding contributions to both her scientific field and to the scientific community at large. - National Science Foundation
March 2007 - Mildred Dresselhaus is one of five outstanding women scientists to receive L'OREAL-UNESCO Awards for Women in Science 2007. The five women scientists, one from each continent and all physicists or chemists, were presented with the 9th Awards at UNESCO Headquarters by Koichiro Matsuura, Director-General of UNESCO, and Lindsay Owen-Jones, Chairman and CEO of L'OREAL. - UNESCO
July 2006 - Mildred Dresselhaus receives the Harold Pender Award from the University of Pennsylvania's School of Engineering and Applied Science. The award is the highest honor bestowed by the school, and it goes to Dresselhaus for her "pioneering contributions and leadership in the field of carbon-based nanostructures and nanotechnology, and for promoting opportunities for women in science and engineering." - University of Pennsylvania
July 2006 - Dresselhaus co-authors a book entitled Group Theory: Application to the Physics of Condensed Matter with husband Gene Dresselhaus and Ado Jorio.
Speech5/24/2005 - Acceptance Speech
I was completely amazed a few weeks ago when I had a telephone call from Teresa telling me that I was selected for the Heinz Award in Technology, the Economy and Employment. Yes, I knew about this award, but I never dreamt it was of my possibility.
My own contributions, as were explained, were in science. And although science has something to do with technology, I think maybe it's my work with the students that I've worked with over the years. Even though we started off in science, the many women and men who I've trained over the years have indeed made a contribution that has impacted technology, the economy and employment. Yes, science and technology are closely related and we need much more of it as we go into the future.
I'm thankful that I've had an opportunity to contribute to society both through science and in the service of students and training. It has been a labor of love and it's amazing that I have received recognition for things that I really wanted to do and I must say that my family has helped me greatly in achieving what I have done over the years. I'm hoping that the recognition that I'm receiving now for this work both in science and in my service to women will help me to do more in the future and in the memory and tradition of John Heinz and the Foundation. We certainly have a lot of work to do before us.
Yes, we've had several centuries where science and technology have had a large impact, but it's not over as we look in the future we have some major huge problems to solve. Energy is out there looming as one of these and it's going to effect us certainly in this coming century and we need all the wonderful women and men to work together to make something happen in that field that's acceptable to the environment and will propel us in a wonderful economic future.
And, I thank you very much for this opportunity for the recognition and the opportunity to serve more in the future.