Mildred Dresselhaus is the First Woman to Receive the IEEE Medal of Honor

‘Queen of Carbon Science’ contributed to major advances in electronics and materials research

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Photo of IEEE Life Fellow Mildred Dresselhaus.
Photo: Donna Coveney

THE INSTITUTE IEEE Life Fellow Mildred Dresselhaus is the recipient of the 2015 IEEE Medal of Honor “for leadership and contributions across many fields of science and engineering.” She is the first woman to receive IEEE’s highest award.

Dresselhaus is a professor emeritus at MIT, which she joined in 1960 as a researcher in its Lincoln Laboratory Solid State Division, in Lexington, Mass. She studied the properties of carbon there, and her pioneering research earned her the nickname “Queen of Carbon Science.” She became a professor of electrical engineering in 1967, joined the physics department in 1983, and became an Institute Professor of electrical engineering and physics in 1985.

Dresselhaus has made pioneering contributions to the study of phonons, thermal transport in nanostructures, and the structure of carbon nanotubes.

She served in 2000 as director of the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science, in Washington, D.C. From 2003 to 2008, she was chair of the governing board of the American Institute of Physics. She was president of the American Physical Society in 1984 and of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1997 and treasurer of the National Academy of Sciences from 1988 to 1992.

She was presented with the 2014 U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest honor for civilians, 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.”

The Medal of Honor is sponsored by the IEEE Foundation. Dresselhaus is to receive the award at the annual IEEE Honors Ceremony, to be held 20 June at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City.

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