Institute Professor Mildred S. Dresselhaus has been nominated by President Clinton to serve as director of the Office of Science at the Department of Energy (DOE).
"Science has been so good to me, and I thought that maybe this is the time in my life when I should serve science and the country," she said about accepting the job. Dr. Dresselhaus, a National Medal of Science winner, has previously been president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Physical Society. She is a professor in the Departments of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and Physics.
If confirmed by the Senate, she will be responsible for carrying out a broad range of advisory, coordination and program management activities related to the DOE's energy research and development missions. The director advises the Secretary of Energy on science and technology policy and on the well-being and management of nonweapons multiprogram laboratories, and in formulating basic DOE research policy.
Institute Professor John Deutch held the same DOE position from 1977-79.
The honor was completely unexpected, Professor Dresselhaus said. When asked to breakfast in Boston last November by Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson, she had no idea what he wanted to talk about. "I thought it might be related to an article I'd just published in the journal Science on carbon nanotubes. But that didn't sound right."
During the breakfast, he told her of the position and that she'd been recommended by several people. "He said that he was anxious to have more people in his administration who are practicing science and are well-known in the scientific community," she said.
Professor Dresselhaus will take a leave of absence from MIT while holding the DOE position. She expects the appointment will last until the new president takes office.
Her research has helped unlock the mysteries of carbon, the most fundamental of organic elements. She is currently writing a book about carbon nanotubes which "I'm "working like mad to finish" before taking up her DOE position.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on April 26, 2000.