2007 Women in Science Award

Maggie Wittlin in Seed:

Dresselhaus_new MIT physicist Mildred Dresselhaus, the once-dubbed “Queen of Carbon,” was awarded the 2007 L’Oreal-UNESCO For Women in Science prize for “her research on solid state materials, including conceptualizing the creation of carbon nanotubes.” Dresselhaus is one of five female laureates, each from a different continent, to receive a $100,000 “no strings attached” grant in honor of her scientific achievement.

Dresselhaus said this is the first time she’s received a “women in science” award.

“In the early days, I was active in trying to level the playing field at my own institution,” Dresselhaus said, noting that she has mentored female students and postdocs throughout her career. When she was president of the American Physical Society, she worked to improve opportunities for women in physics nationwide. “Winning this award, this gave me a signal that maybe it’s time to be thinking worldwide.”

Dresselhaus herself grew up in an era when American women faced concrete obstacles along the path to becoming a scientist. When she was at all-female Hunter College as an undergraduate, Dresselhaus said, she was studying to be a schoolteacher; she had been told in high school that, as a woman, her career options were limited to teacher, secretary, or nurse. But her physics professor, Rosalyn Yalow, redirected her path. Yalow was teaching physics because she couldn’t get a better job, Dresselhaus said.

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