Mildred Dresselhaus was a pioneering woman in electrical engineering, known for her research in graphite and semiconductors. Dresselhaus was raised in the Bronx and attended Hunter College to pursue her bachelors degree before continuing her graduate and post-graduate education at the University of Cambridge, Harvard University, the University of Chicago, and Cornell University. During her time at these various institutions, she served as a Fulbright Fellow, received a masters and PhD, and completed postdoctoral studies.
After completing her education, Dresselhaus worked at MIT’s Lincoln Lab and then moved to the campus of MIT, where she spent the remainder of her career as a professor of electrical engineering and physics. She was also the first female Institute Professor at MIT. Dresselhaus studied a wide range of subjects, but some of her most notable research includes her work with carbon, which led to her being known the “queen of carbon science”. Over the years her research focused on the electronic structure of semi-metals, various aspects of granite, and nanomaterials.
Throughout her life, Dresselhaus was awarded many honors and held many prestigious positions. She was the director at the Office of Science at the U.S. Department of Energy, she was the chair of the American Institute of Physics, president of the American Physical Society, and the first female president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science to name a few. In 2014 she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and was inducted into the U.S. National Inventors Hall of Fame. She was the first female recipient of the IEEE Medal of Honor and received many honorary doctorates and other awards throughout her life. Dresselhaus passed away in 2017, but continues to serve as an outstanding female role model in science and engineering.