On Saturday, Dec. 4, friends and colleagues of MIT Institute Professor Mildred Dresselhaus gathered on campus to mark her 80th birthday with a celebration honoring her lifetime of contributions to science, the Institute and society.
The 12-hour event began with a scientific symposium featuring talks from close collaborators, former students and postdocs, and ended at the Boston Marriott Cambridge with a spirited party where Dresselhaus was toasted by 19 speakers beginning with Dean of Science Marc Kastner
Provost L. Rafael Reif opened the symposium by thanking Dresselhaus for helping to make MIT one of the best research universities in the world. He noted that her 50 years at MIT spanned a third of MIT’s history.
“I am one of many of you who have been touched by Millie, her character, and her commitment," Reif said. "She is one of the best ambassadors that MIT has ever had.”
Symposium speakers presented a retrospective that not only highlighted Dresselhaus' vast and varied scientific achievements in carbon research and thermoelectrics, but also her contributions to science policy and the mentoring of young people.
Dresselhaus, who earned the National Medal of Science and served as director of the Office of Science at the U.S. Department of Energy, concluded the symposium with spontaneous but characteristically gracious and thoughtful words.
"Let me tell you that being 80 years old isn’t so bad," she said. "As long as you have science on your mind and fun things to do, you really don’t feel the age at all."