Institute Professor Mildred S. Dresselhaus, an award-winning solid state physicist dedicated to improving career prospects for young scientists, will become the next president-elect of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) on February 14, immediately following the association's annual meeting in Baltimore.
The AAAS is the world's largest general science organization, with about 143,000 members and 300 affiliated science and engineering societies. AAAS also publishes the prestigious weekly journal Science.
Professor Dresselhaus is the ninth woman ever elected as AAAS president-elect, and the third consecutive. Following her term as president-elect, she will become president of AAAS in 1997, and then chairman of the Board of Directors in 1998.
The last MIT professor to head the AAAS was Sheila E. Widnall, Abby Rockefeller Mauze Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics, who was president from 1987-88. Professor Widnall is currently on leave serving as Secretary of the Air Force.
Professor Dresselhaus served on the AAAS Board of Directors from 1985 to 1989. Her return to leadership within the association reflects a desire to foster a more encouraging atmosphere for scientists and engineers in a time of dwindling public resources.
"AAAS already has a number of strong programs in this area, but what with the end of the Cold War, the downsizing of corporations and defense establishments, and intense federal budget battles, programs that were effective in the past may now need redirection," she said.
Professor Dresselhaus places special emphasis on the need to improve career and educational opportunities for young scientists. "My generation was lucky," she said. "We came up in a time of expanding science budgets and growing opportunities. We need to strengthen our strategies for helping young people who are interested in the advancement of knowledge and the fruits of the scientific enterprise."
Professor Dresselhaus is a National Medal of Science winner whose research has helped unlock the mysteries of carbon, the most fundamental of organic elements. In particular, she has studied various aspects of graphite and is author of a newly published comprehensive source book on fullerenes (also known as buckyballs and buckytubes). Her current work concerns research on various carbon-based systems, including fullerenes and nanotubes, low dimensional thermoelectricity, magnetism and high-temperature superconductivity.
Professor Dresselhaus has served as treasurer of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and president of the American Physical Society. She is a member of the Councils of NAS, the National Academy of Engineering and the Materials Research Society. She has also chaired several national studies on education for the Department of Energy and the National Research Council.
Professor Dresselhaus began her association with MIT in 1960 when she joined the staff of Lincoln Laboratory. In 1967 she became Abby Rockefeller Mauze Visiting Professor in what then was called the Department of Electrical Engineering. The chair is reserved for appointments of distinguished women scholars.
She became a permanent member of the MIT electrical engineering faculty in 1968 and a member of the physics department in 1983. She has also been associated with the Center for Materials Science and Engineering, which she directed from 1977-83, and with the Francis Bitter National Magnet Laboratory. From 1972-74 she was associate head for electrical science and engineering in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.
Professor Dresselhaus is married to Dr. Gene F. Dresselhaus, a theoretical physicist at the Francis Bitter National Magnet Laboratory. They have four children and three grandchildren.