Dear Commons Community,
The New York Times has a wonderful article/interview with Mildred Spiewak Dresselhaus, a professor of physics and engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dr. Dresselhaus research focuses on the fundamental properties of carbon — “carbon as graphite, the dark, flaky mineral with which our pencils are pointed, and carbon as liquid, the element with the highest melting point in nature; carbon that is insulator one moment, superconductor the next.”
Her accomplishments included inventing breakthrough techniques for studying individual layers of carbon atoms. She discovered ways to capture the thermal energy of vibrating particles at well-defined “boundaries,” and then to use that heat to make electricity. She devised carbon fibers that are stronger than steel at a fraction of steel’s weight. In sum, her research helped “usher in the age of nanotechnology, the wildly popular effort to downsize electronic circuits, medical devices and a host of other products to molecular dimensions.”
Dr. Dresselhaus just recently won the 2012 Kavli Prize in Nanoscience, a $1 million honor that matches the purse size and Scandinavian provenance of a Nobel, if not quite the status. The new award joins a very long list of laurels, among them the National Medal of Science, the Enrico Fermi Award, the presidencies of the American Physical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Dr. Dresselhaus is from New York City, the daughter of immigrants. She was raised in the Bronx and attended Hunter College High School and received her undergraduate degree from Hunter College where she studied physics with another science luminary, Nobel laureate, Rosalyn Yalow. Dr. Dresselhaus brings great pride to Hunter and CUNY.