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Kavli Prize Laureates Named

Honors: MIT’s Mildred Dresselhaus receives nanoscience award

by Susan J. Ainsworth
June 11, 2012 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 90, Issue 24

Credit: Ed Quinn
Dresselhaus holds a model of a single-walled carbon nanotube.
Mildred S. Dresselhaus
Credit: Ed Quinn
Dresselhaus holds a model of a single-walled carbon nanotube.

Seven researchers, including Mildred S. Dresselhaus of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, have been awarded the 2012 Kavli Prizes, which include a cash award of $1 million in each of three fields.

Dresselhaus, an emeritus professor of physics and electrical engineering, was awarded the prize for nano­science. She is being honored for “research into uniform oscillations of elastic arrangements of atoms or molecules called phonons, phonon-electron interactions, and heat conductivity in nanostructures,” according to the Norwegian Academy of Science & Letters. The Kavli Prizes are a partnership among the academy, The Kavli Foundation, and the Norwegian Ministry of Education & Research.

Early in her 50-plus-year career, Dresselhaus also conducted research on compounds made of different chemical species sandwiched between graphite layers and carbon fibers. That work laid the foundation for subsequent discoveries involving the C60 buckyball, carbon nanotubes, and graphene, according to the academy.

“Millie is a giant in nanoscience through her pioneering work in different nanostructures such as carbon-based and bismuth-related nanomaterials and their transport properties,” says Gang Chen, an MIT professor of power engineering who has collaborated frequently with Dresselhaus on thermoelectric energy conversion and phonon studies. “Her dedication to science and caring for younger generations is an inspiration.”

Dresselhaus says she is not yet sure how the prize, which came as an “absolute shock and surprise,” will influence her future work.

This year’s Kavli Prize in Neuroscience is shared by Cornelia Isabella Bargmann of Rockefeller University; Winfried Denk of Max Planck Institute for Medical Research in Heidelberg, Germany; and Ann M. Graybiel of MIT “for elucidating basic neuronal mechanisms underlying perception and decision,” the academy reports.

The astrophysics prize is shared by David C. Jewitt of the University of California, Los Angeles; Jane X. Luu of MIT; and Michael E. Brown of California Institute of Technology “for discovering and characterizing the Kuiper Belt and its largest members,” the academy says.

Norway’s King Harald V will present the Kavli Prizes at an award ceremony in Oslo on Sept. 4.



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