AAPT.org - American Association of Physics Teachers

College Park, Maryland, United States, November 19, 2007

MIT Professor Mildred S. Dresselhaus Recognized for Outstanding Leadership in Physics Education

The American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) announced today that the Oersted Medal has been awarded to Mildred S. Dresselhaus, Ph.D., MIT Institute Professor of Physics and Electrical Engineering, in recognition of  her outstanding, widespread, and lasting impact on the teaching of physics.

The Oersted Medal will be presented to Dr. Dresselhaus at a Ceremonial Session of the AAPT Winter Meeting at the Marriott Waterfront Hotel in Baltimore, Maryland, on Tuesday, January 22, 2008. Following the presentation, Dr. Dresselhaus will then deliver her keynote address titled “Expanding the Audience for Physics Education.”

Ken Heller, Chairman, AAPT Awards Committee, said, “Dr. Dresselhaus is dynamo in her support of physics in all of its aspects. Her research is on the cutting edge of materials physics and currently focuses on nanoscience. She has led some of the largest and most important scientific organizations in the United States. Most importantly, she was an early leader in pointing out the necessity for expanding opportunities in science and engineering to women and other underrepresented populations. Her leadership by words and deeds has had a profound influence on advancing this important issue.”

“It is difficult to believe how Millie can fit all her activities in one lifetime! In addition to her research and public service, she has maintained a great sensitivity and commitment to her teaching and physics education. She continues to be an encouraging influence on aspiring scientists and engineers. That aspect of her life alone is worthy of our high respect and admiration.” stated Toufic Hakim, AAPT’s Executive Officer.

Professor Dresselhaus is a native of New York City, where she attended public schools completing her high school education at Hunter College High School. 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). Dresselhaus received her master's degree at Radcliffe College (1953) and her Ph.D. at the University of Chicago (1958). She began her MIT career at the Lincoln Laboratory.

A leader in promoting opportunities for women in science and engineering, 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.

Dresselhaus, who chaired numerous national studies and directed the Science Office of the U.S. Department of Energy, is currently the Chair of the Governing Board of the American Institute of Physics. She has received many prestigious awards, including the National Medal of Science, the Buckley Condensed Matter Prize (2008) from the American Physical Society, and the Compton Medal from the American Institute of Physics. She has 24 honorary doctorates, is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering, a Foreign Fellow of the National Academy of Sciences of India and also Brazil, and the 2007 North American Laureate L’Oreal-UNESCO Award for Women in Science.

Regarding the award, Dresselhaus stated, “I was truly surprised to be chosen for the Oersted Medal in view of the list of stellar past recipients. Now that I have been selected for the 2008 recipient of this award, I am further inspired to bring the love and appreciation of physics to new audiences.” 

About the Award
The Oersted Medal is named for Hans Christian Oersted (1777-1851), a Danish physicist who, in the course of creating a demonstration for teaching his class, discovered that electric currents caused a magnetic field. This was a crucial step in establishing the theory of electromagnetism so important in building modern technology and modern physics. The award was established by AAPT in 1936 and is given annually to a person who has had outstanding, widespread, and lasting impact on the teaching of physics.

The previous Oersted award went to Carl Wieman. Other recipients include Arnold Arons, Hans Bethe, and Richard Feynman.
The complete list of winners can be found at http://www.aapt.org/Grants/oersted.cfm.

About AAPT
AAPT is the leading organization for physics educators—with more than 12,000 members worldwide. Our mission is to advance the greater good through physics teaching. We provide our members with many opportunities for professional development, communication, and student enrichment. We serve the larger community through a variety of programs and publications. AAPT was founded in 1930 and is headquartered in the American Center for Physics in College Park, Maryland.

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