It is not an easy task to write an article on the career of someone with so many facets as Mildred Spiewak Dresselhaus, commonly known to many physicists simply as Millie. In a sense it is both easier and more difficult to write such an article from the perspective of being her collaborator and her husband. I have attempted this task, but the reader must be aware that I am not totally objective in what is written here.
The Spiewak family's roots can be traced back to a small mostly Jewish village (`shtetl') in southern Poland called Dzialoszyce, where the Spiewaks had lived for many generations. The Spiewak family history was filled with a combination of natural disasters, invaders and external riots, on one hand, and their total devotion to their religion, tradition and music on the other. Millie's paternal grandfather was the town's cantor; he sang, composed traditional Jewish melodies that were played in the town synagogue and gave music lessons to children in the town. He was also the son of a cantor, and it is said that the musical talent which accompanied this profession was in the family for many generations. Life in Poland was difficult and dangerous for Jews. Looking for better opportunities, Millie's father Meyer left Dzialoszyce and emigrated to the United States in 1921.
Millie's mother Ethel Teichteil was born in 1903 in Galicia which was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and after World War I became part of Poland. Millie's maternal grandmother died at an early age leaving her grandfather with three very young children to raise. As World War I drew near, this family emigrated to Holland where Millie's mother was raised. Looking for better opportunities, Millie's mother Ethel left Holland for the United States in December of 1926, where she expected to meet up with Meyer, who was a relative by marriage.
Thus both of Millie's parents settled in New York City, where they soon were married. Millie's brother, Irving Spiewak, was born in Brooklyn in January 1928 and she arrived on November 11, 1930, the second of two children. She was also born in Brooklyn, New York and educated at Hunter College, Radcliffe College and the University of Chicago. Her early years in New York were made more difficult by the great depression which made survival the most important issue for the family to address. She spent her early childhood in a Jewish Ghetto in the Bronx during the Great Depression. When the Nazis came to power, her family in Europe was traumatized by the Holocaust, and almost all family members remaining in Poland were Holocaust victims. Though the family resources were very limited, her mother managed to send to European relatives what little she could gather up. Millie's father had difficulty in coping with so much adversity and he broke down emotionally. He was thus ill or hospitalized during much of her childhood and student years.
Meyer and Ethel Spiewak survived on whatever unskilled jobs that her parents could find. Life during the Great Depression was difficult. The medical condition of Millie's father made it impossible for him to secure permanent work, so the family survived on the basis of temporary jobs and welfare contributions. When Millie was about 10 years old, her mother found employment in an orphanage on the night shift, and after 3 years found employment in a leather factory, where she worked until Millie graduated from college. Unfortunately, Millie's mother suffered physical damage to her lungs from the working conditions, especially the chemical solvents used at the leather factory, and this resulted in severe respiratory problems from which she suffered for the rest of her life. However, she remained the major source of economic and emotional support for the family during Millie's formative years.
Mildred's early schooling was in Public School 42 in the Bronx. Since the family came from an orthodox eastern European Jewish background, music and education was emphasized in the home. Millie's older brother was a talented scholar and violinist, and in accordance with Jewish tradition was the main focus of the family expectations. Because of his exceptional talent, he was given free music lessons at Greenwich House (a ``settlement house'') in the Greenwich Village section of Manhattan. Millie also showed musical talent at an early age and started her musical training at the same settlement house as a scholarship student. Because of her considerable musical skills, she was also able during her childhood to make friends and move in more affluent circles outside of the ghetto where she lived. These contacts increased her aspiration level and exposed her to the cultural life of New York City.
In spite of adversity, the family remained focussed on the academic and musical
development of the two children. Irving was exceptionally gifted in both academic and
musical areas. His academic brilliance gained entry for him at the
Bronx High School of Science, where he graduated with honors at the
age of 15. He continued on to Cooper Union (a free engineering school
in New York City for gifted students), where he obtained a BS degree
in Chemical Engineering at the age
of 18. Upon graduation from Cooper Union, he left home to attend MIT as a graduate student and after that point had less contact with his sister.
Millie's aptitude and interest in science would also have taken her to Bronx Science, but, alas, girls were not allowed into the Bronx High School of Science at that time. Thus she entered Hunter High School, the most highly ranked academic high school for girls in New York City. Hunter High channeled her into Hunter College with the goal of becoming an elementary school teacher. Millie was always interested in teaching and while in high school, she was able to gain income to help support the family by tutoring the children of more affluent families. The Hunter High School education was excellent, so that by the time she graduated high school and was ready to enter college, she could compete with the best students from the New York City area.
On the basis of her ranking on the New York State Regents exam, she was offered a scholarship to Cornell University. However, Cornell was far away from home and seemed to her like a wealthy man's school. So Millie decided to continue on to Hunter College where she felt very comfortable both socially and academically. Though she didn't know it at the time, this decision to attend Hunter College (which was relatively weak in the sciences) was decisive in launching her into a scientific career. The reason for this change in career objectives can be traced to one particular faculty member, Rosalyn Yalow, who became her advisor, mentor and physics professor at Hunter College in her second year. Rosalyn has followed Millie's career throughout her life and always seemed to be present whenever Millie was involved in either a minor talk or a more major event in the NYC area. This remained true for many years, as illustrated by Rosalyn's attendance in a wheelchair at an award ceremony for Millie at Hunter College in 1998.
After graduating from Hunter, Millie was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship which allowed her to spend a year at Cambridge University in England. Her studies during this year focussed on physics, and she was able to largely make up for the rather limited curriculum in physics which was offered at Hunter College. Upon returning to the United States, Millie spent a year at Harvard where she was awarded a Masters Degree and then she continued her graduate studies at the University of Chicago. This period at Chicago was at the very end of the Enrico Fermi era, and her training in physics had a very strong flavor of the Fermi approach to research and teaching in physics.
Contributing to her successful career is an exceptional skill in assessing a situation and deciding on exactly where she could fit in and make a significant contribution. Having made this decision, she gets in, and in a timely manner makes her contribution and then moves on to the next problem. I am sure that her early childhood experiences were instrumental in developing this intuitive strategy.
Her early research work was in solid state physics, which dates back to her Ph.D. thesis at the University of Chicago. Professor Brian Pippard whom she had met and admired during her Fulbright year at Cambridge was at Chicago for one year on a sabbatical leave from Cambridge University, and during his visit he did some key experiments related to the determination of the shape of the Fermi surface of metals based on their response to microwave signals. Pippard was a truly original researcher and was interested in the microwave response of superconductors as well as normal metals. He was instrumental in formulating her thesis problem with her on the response of a superconductor in a magnetic field to incident microwave power, and made many useful suggestions of how to proceed with the measurements and in their interpretation. At that time, the University of Chicago Physics Department system of graduate study (i.e., the Fermi tradition) expected the Ph.D. thesis to be truly independent work of the degree candidate. That rule, plus the fact that Pippard only stayed in Chicago for one year, meant that Millie was very much on her own in her thesis research. The experimental technique required that she measure the response of a coaxial cavity in which the central conductor was a single crystal wire of superconducting tin. Millie grew the single crystal, and built much of the microwave equipment, constructed the resonator and even ran the liquid helium liquefier on occasion to obtain the refrigerant used attain the low temperatures needed for the experiment. This research led to a sole-authored publication, in the Physical Review, on the surface impedance of a superconductor in a magnetic field, and earned a Ph.D. degree for her.
After obtaining her degree she applied for and received an NSF postdoctoral fellowship, which she took at Cornell where her newly acquired husband was on the faculty. While at Cornell, she worked out a model to explain the experimental results of her thesis. This was the period when the BCS (Bardeen-Cooper-Schrieffer) theory of superconductivity was impacting the physics community and attempts to explain her results using BCS theory were not successful. It is interesting to note that Millie's experiment has been repeated from time to time during the past 30 or more years by various people and under different conditions, and the validity of her experimental result has thus been confirmed. However, the modeling of these experiments remains closely related to a two-fluid model which was the theory she and Gene developed while at Cornell.
The times were such that women's careers were not taken very seriously by most men. For example, while at Cornell, Millie was told by the head of the Laboratory with which she was affiliated that ``a woman could never teach an engineering student''. So with the expiration of the NSF Postdoctoral Fellowship in 1960 and the birth of a new baby, it was time to move on.
Her next job was at the Lincoln Laboratory of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology which provided an excellent environment for a young person to develop a career. Since she was not allowed (by the Lincoln Laboratory management) to continue with her superconductivity research at that time, she used this disappointment as an opportunity to branch into the study of magneto-optical effects in semiconductors and semimetals. Since the Solid State Division head at Lincoln Laboratory, Dr. Benjamin Lax, was primarily interested in semiconductors, Millie collaborated with his group in magneto-optic studies on semiconductors. However, she soon started a project on magneto-optic studies on semimetals that was mostly under her own direction. Thus she was able to direct her own program in an area which was well supported within the laboratory. This led directly into her studies in the electronic properties of bismuth and graphite, where she made fundamental contributions. During this period at Lincoln Laboratory, she was also able to work to some extent with MIT graduate students doing their Ph.D. thesis research. Thus she supervised her first Ph.D. thesis in 1965. During the ensuing 35 years, there were to be a total of 64 Ph.D.s from her research group, and she is still going strong.
As a result of her research achievements during the years 1960-67, she was invited to become a visiting Professor in the Electrical Engineering Department at MIT under the auspices of the Abby Rockefeller Mauze Fund for woman scholars. After one year as a visiting professor, she was appointed as a tenured full Professor, and over the years her career has developed in many directions from this MIT-based focus. In 1973, she was appointed as the first permanent holder of the Abby Rockefeller Mauze Chair, which she held until 1985, when she was appointed to the position of Institute Professor. In 1983, she received a joint appointment between the Physics Department and in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.
Her earliest research contribution was as a graduate student at the University of Chicago, where her Ph.D. research involved study of the microwave surface impedance of a superconductor in a magnetic field. This study yielded a surprising result that, under some circumstances, the microwave surface impedance of the superconductor (having zero dc resistivity) decreased under application of a magnetic field, which normally causes superconductivity to disappear. This finding that an applied magnetic field could appear to enhance superconductivity under certain conditions was noteworthy at the time (1958), especially since it occurred just after the BCS (Bardeen-Cooper-Schrieffer) theory of superconductivity was published (1957), and the BCS theory could not explain this effect.
The experiment was repeated at different frequencies by other young people, Paul Richards and Brian Josephson (who both went on to illustrious careers), and they both obtained results consistent with her earlier findings. This effect, which was explained a decade later by M. Garfunkel, did not in the end turn out to be important for the later development of the field of superconductivity. This background in superconductivity was, however, important to her in the late 1980's when she again started up experiments on the surface impedance of superconductors, after the discovery of high T c superconductivity. During her two postdoc years at Cornell University, she continued working with Gene Dresselhaus on a phenomenological explanation of this microwave superconductivity problem. This work was, however, discontinued after she moved to the MIT Lincoln Laboratory, where she became a staff scientist in 1960.
At Lincoln Laboratory she had a lot of freedom to work on ``anything other than superconductivity''. The bias against superconductivity research came from her Division leader, Benjamin Lax, who felt that the BCS theory had explained everything about superconductivity, and the field was now dead. Changing fields turned out to be the best thing that could have happened at this early time in her career in solid state physics, and in her training of graduate students later on, she emphasized the importance for a young person to learn several research areas in the early career years.
Her earliest work at Lincoln Laboratory was on magneto-optics studies in semiconductors, where many others were also working at that time. She soon moved into using maneto-optics to study Bismuth and the other Group V semimetals, a materials system that she revisited many times in her career. Wanting to do something different from what others were doing, she started to study the electronic structure of graphite by magneto-optics, following a suggestion by her husband, Gene Dresselhaus, who had studied intraband Landau level transitions of graphite previously by cyclotron resonance transitions. Because this magneto-optics experiment was considered difficult and the graphite electronic structure was at that time considered to be very complex, she had little competition in this field. This situation was fortunate because these were the years when her three sons were born, her daughter having arrived previously in 1959, when she was a postdoc at Cornell.
Three seemingly unrelated discoveries occurred in 1960 which made the magneto-optics study of graphite possible in 1961: (1) the determination of a phase diagram for carbon, originally developed for the laboratory synthesis of diamond at the General Electric Laboratory, (2) the development of highly oriented pyrolytic graphite at Imperial College, London which provided large enough samples with good quality for an optical experiment, and (3) the development in 1960, by a University of Chicago classmate, Joel McClure, of a generic electronic structure band model for graphite in a magnetic field, which allowed interpretation of the magneto-optics results. Her earliest paper on this topic in the IBM Journal for Research and Development in 1963 on the Fermi surface of graphite, attracted a lot of attention, and was the start of almost 40 years of research in the field of carbon science. The special symmetry of graphite allowed the determination of the electronic dispersion relations for the whole region of the Brillouin zone where the electronic energy levels E(k) come within about 0.2~eV of the Fermi level. A general band model due to Slonczewski, Weiss and McClure was applied to interpret the magnetoreflection results, and, in collaboration with Gene Dresselhaus, this model based on symmetry was extended in a number of ways to determine the Fermi surface of graphite, and to include the effect of the spin-orbit interaction. The early works on magneto-optics studies of graphite and the use of theoretical models to explain the characteristics of an unusual magneto-optics spectra provided the best available values of the electronic band parameters of graphite near the Fermi surface. These values are still used today and have been useful for recent studies of the electronic structure of fullerenes and carbon nanotubes. While still a staff member at Lincoln Laboratory, she supervised her first graduate student, Sam Williamson on Fermi surface studies of graphite and arsenic. Sam later became famous for his use of SQUID magnetometry techniques to study brain waves.
With the advent of lasers in the 1960s, she was among the first to use lasers for magneto-optics experiments, and this happened quite accidentally because of her desire to do magneto-optics at very long wavelengths using circularly polarized light. In collaboration with Ali Javan, inventor of the CW laser, she and their joint student Paul Schroeder (who later became famous in the design of integrated circuits) carried out a high resolution magneto-optics experiment, using circularly polarized light from a helium-neon laser, and showed in 1968 that the previous assignment (based on transport measurements) of the Fermi surfaces for holes and electrons in graphite had to be reversed, leading to the signs of the graphite band parameters used today. This new model for the electronic structure of graphite explained a variety of other open questions, such as boron doping and cyclotron resonance experiments in graphite. For the next 10 years, she did a number of further studies in collaboration with graduate students and visitors to further refine our understanding of the electronic structure of crystalline graphite. The laser studies initiated in these early years led into her entry into the field of Raman spectroscopy and fast optics years later.
Through her magneto-optics work on graphite and the group V semimetals, she was invited to present papers on both topics at the International Conference on Semimetals and Narrow Gap Semiconductors in 1970 in Dallas, Texas. It was on a Dallas city bus, while going to a concert by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, that she met Professor Jean-Paul Issi of the Catholique Universite de Louvain-la-Neuve. From this chance meeting, started a strong collaboration that has lasted ever since, first working on transport properties of group V semimetals, then moving into many other research areas, such as thermal transport properties of graphite, graphite intercalation compounds, carbon fibers, fullerenes, carbon nanotubes, low-dimensional thermoelectricity, and bismuth nanowires. This collaboration has strongly affected research directions in both the Dresselhaus and Issi groups, with many joint publications and young people spending time in each others laboratories and growing scientifically thereby.
In the mid 1960s, Ted Geballe of Bell Labs introduced her to intercalation compounds of graphite with his discovery with Bruce Hannay in 1965 of superconductivity in alkali metal intercalated graphite, a material consisting of graphite sheets interlaced with alkali metal layers. The surprising thing about Geballe's work was the finding of superconductivity in a material consisting of constituents, neither of which were superconducting. Ted Geballe felt that the magneto-optic studies done on crystalline graphite should be extended to graphite intercalation compounds (GICs) to explain their electronic structure, and perhaps the possibility of observing superconductivity in this system. It was however not until 1971 when the de Haas-van Alphen effect was discovered in GICs that the Dresselhaus group seriously started to study GICs. In the beginning of this work, they encountered criticism from the funding agencies who at that time considered GICs to be the domain of chemists, and the reviewers didn't understand why people with a physics/EE/Materials Science background would be interested in working on such complicated systems.
In 1973, when she was appointed to the Abby Rockefeller Mauze Chair at MIT, she had enough intellectual and financial independence to attempt this high risk experiment that federal funding agencies did not find worthy of support. Having successfully observed magneto-reflection spectra in graphite intercalation compounds, stimulated her interest in studying many other aspects of these very interesting low dimensional materials, including x-ray structure, optical properties, Raman and infrared spectra, transport properties, Fermi surface studies, magnetic properties, superconducting properties. These studies demonstrated that the electronic and lattice structure for the graphite host material was only slightly perturbed through intercalation. Other studies by the Dresselhaus group were directed toward studying the intercalate layer, such as Raman scattering features associated with the intercalate layer, and structural phase transitions associated with the intercalate layer, low dimensional magnetism and superconductivity. She in fact pursued the study of graphite intercalation compounds for about two decades, and in the course of this work trained many students. The review article with Gene Dresselhaus for Advances in Physics on `Graphite Intercalation Compounds', published in 1981, was written initially for the benefit of students in the research group. The article came early as many people were entering the field, and influenced the development of the field substantially. Though quite ancient by now, this review article is still widely used today, and the impact of this article on her students and on the outside scientific community encouraged her to write many other review articles and books on various aspects of carbon science and applications. This review article and another on Raman scattering in Graphite Intercalation Compounds (1982) provide a good summary of the early work by the Dresselhaus group on Graphite Intercalation Compounds. She always felt that because graphite and its related compounds had so many unique and unusual characteristics, these materials provided fertile training ground for inquisitive young minds.
Interest in finding a better host material for the measurement of transport properties in graphite intercalation compounds, led to her establishing a collaboration in 1980 with Professor Morinobu Endo of Shinshu University, in Japan, who had developed synthesis techniques for the growth of graphitic fibers from the vapor phase. Their collaborative work showed that many transport and microscopy studies in graphite and its intercalation compounds could be investigated more sensitively in carbon fibers. This led to many studies of the electronic properties of carbon fibers and intercalation compounds based on these fibers. To educate their students on this topic, Millie and Gene Dresselhaus in collaboration with a number of colleagues wrote a book on carbon fibers which was widely used as a reference source by workers in the field. The initial studies by the Dresselhaus group were on vapor grown carbon fibers prepared by Professor Endo, and heated to high temperatures to achieve a higher degree of structural order. These fibers approximate single crystal flake material quite well. These fiber studies later led to research in collaboration with Professor Endo on the electronic properties of other carbon based materials, such as activated carbon fibers, which have a huge pore concentration on the subnanometer scale and a huge surface area of up to 3000~m2/g, and of fluorine intercalated carbon fibers in which 2D localization phenomena could be studied under a wide variety of conditions. Many of these transport experiments were carried out in collaboration with Professor Issi at Louvain-la-Neuve(Belgian University).By the time she started working on carbon fibers with Professor Endo, she had become a resource person worldwide in the carbon science area, giving her entry to many new fields of carbon science as they emerged. Along with this came many invitations to give invited talks and write review articles, books and monographs.
Some of the new fields of carbon research that she herself started, usually along with her collaborators began in this period. One of these areas was the study of ion implantation of graphite (and other carbon-related materials such as polymers), carried out with T. Venkatesan, was intended to be a means of introducing controlled defects into the carbon lattice. These studies became the thesis work of Boris Elman [graphite and carbon fibers] and Bernard Wasserman [polymers]. The work on ion-implanted graphite was collected and published by Springer as a book, written with Rafi Kalish, who contributed complementary information on the ion implantation of diamond. The subsequent studies of the laser annealing of these ion damage induced defects led to an experiment on using a laser to melt graphite, the highest melting point material in nature. The properties of the liquid carbon which remained in the liquid phase for a microsecond were very exciting, including the observation that liquid carbon is metallic, which was a controversial topic at that time. Study of the laser vaporization of carbon from a surface allowed her, with her student John Steinbeck, to show the relation between the energy input and the mass of carbon leaving the surface, which indicated the emission of large clusters of carbon atoms (about 100 per cluster) from a laser irradiated graphite surface.
This finding (1983) led to a visit to EXXON research labs, where they was much expertise in carbon clusters. Her interest in carbon clusters (with many carbon atoms) may have influenced the EXXON researchers to extend their mass spectroscopy experiments beyond 30 carbon atoms, and in 1984 they found a remarkable spectrum showing clusters with only even numbers of carbon atoms in the mass spectra above 30 carbon atoms from a laser ablated graphite surface. The specially intense peak in the spectra at C 60 was picked up by Smalley, Kroto and Curl, who correctly identified this cluster with the icosahedral fullerene C 60. After the discovery of fullerenes by Smalley and coworkers, she entered the fullerene field and made a number of significant contributions, mainly in the area of vibrational spectroscopy. Her textbook, The Science of Fullerenes and Carbon Nanotubes with Gene Dresselhaus and Peter Eklund, also contributed to the development of the field. Attending her first fullerene workshop in Philadelphia in the summer of 1991 on fullerenes, she gave a talk suggesting the possibility of carbon nanotubes as an elongated fullerene and discussed their symmetry properties. Soon thereafter, carbon nanotubes were identified experimentally by Iijima in Japan in the Fall of 1991. With collaborators, Riichiro Saito and Gene Dresselhaus, came the prediction of the remarkable electronic properties of the carbon nanotubes, that they could be semiconducting or semimetallic, depending on geometry. Her use of resonant Raman Spectroscopy to demonstrate the one dimensional aspects of this remarkable electronic property of carbon nanotubes has been one of her most recent major contributions. Much of the research described above has been done in collaboration with Gene Dresselhaus and with various graduate students in the course of their Ph.D. theses.
She has played an important role in the development of several other fields, such as magnetic semiconductors in the 1970s, and in the 1990s, she has played a large role in the first observation of coherent phonon generation in a solid and in the development of the research areas of low dimensional thermoelectricity and bismuth nanowires. In the last two areas, her collaboration with the Issi group in Belgium has been critical to the early progress in the field. These are areas where both groups are now working, where the science is exciting, and there is promise that possible applications may occur in the future.
After mid-career, Millie reflected on her fortunate career development and recalled the training that she had received at Hunter College, where the students were ingrained with the idea that they had received a great education and had been launched into important professional careers by the financial support and hard work of many teachers, mentors and by public support. Now was the time to return something to the pool from which she had been drawing from all these years. To her, this ``service to society'' meant accepting administrative positions and service assignments in order to help other researchers and students do the science that was so important in her own life. Thus she became not only the leader of a large research group at MIT, but she also assumed a variety of administrative positions. The first was (1972-74) in the administrative role of Associate Head of Electrical Engineering in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT. Soon thereafter, she was asked to become Director of the Center for Materials Science and Engineering (1977-83). Her service in these positions was not to advance her own career, but rather, to serve the members of the organization and of the institution. Throughout, she kept her own research program and teaching assignments going, while carrying out her administrative responsibilites. One main emphasis of her leadership was to initiate new seed research programs which were nurtured through Center funds and then grew into major programs. Another emphasis was in the grooming of young people for leadership positions, who could then become laboratory directors, so that she could go back to her other activities, after the term of office was over. Her ability to perform these service activities was in part made possible by the growth of her children into responsible citizens, and their leaving home to attend college (starting in 1977 when her oldest child Marianne became an MIT undergraduate). Concurrently Gene, her husband, transferred to MIT in 1977, to join the Francis Bitter Magnet Laboratory, which gave him freedom to work extensively with the Dresselhaus Research Group.
Her visibility on the national scene was greatly enhanced in 1974, when she was elected to the National Academy of Engineering and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. This led to her appointment to various national committees, such as the Evaluation Panel for the National Bureau of Standards, which she chaired from 1977-83, and election to the Council of the National Academy of Engineering. During this phase of her career she was elected to influential positions including the presidency of the American Physical Society (1984) and to the presidency of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (1998). After election to the National Academy of Sciences (1985), she was elected to Chair the Engineering Section, to the NAS Council and then as Treasurer (1992), becoming the first woman officer elected to the National Academy of Sciences. In all these positions her selfless behavior and conscientious dedicated work earned her respect as well as new assignments and memberships, such as election to the American Philosophical Society, and is a "foreign" member of the Japanese Academy of Engineering, a fellow of the IEEE, a council member of the Materials Research Society, and an achievement award winner of the Society of Women Engineers. Dr. Dresselhaus has received numerous awards, including the National Medal of Science (1990) and 17 honorary doctorates.
Her teaching career has focussed on teaching solid state physics, group theory and semiconductor physics to Electrical Engineering and Materials Science students and making this material accessible to such students. The class notes for these courses have been widely used by students and researchers.
Millie's interest in mentoring women students started when she first came to MIT as a visiting professor in 1967, under the auspices of the Abby Rockefeller Mauze visiting professorship. The namesake of this chair, the older sister of the 5 Rockefeller brothers who became well known in politics and philanthropy, was herself very active in support of women's issues, such as birth control, access to education and career opportunities for women. Although the Abby Rockefeller Mauze visiting professorship was established to promote scholarship in science and engineering for women, the chair offered opportunities to address broader issues, which subsequently were made more explicit. And thus it happened that Emily Wick, who was a professor of food chemistry (half-time) and a dean of women students (half-time), asked Millie to help out in mentoring women MIT students when she was appointed to this visiting professorship in 1967. In this way Millie became aware of the academic problems women students were having at MIT, who at that time constituted 4% of the undergraduate student population.
There was a lot of interest in improving the living conditions for women students in the 1960s which marks the period when the two towers of McCormick Hall were built, through a very generous gift by Katherine Dexter McCormick, an early MIT alumnus. Thus, after her appointment in 1968 as a permanent MIT faculty, Millie was asked by Emily Wick to help out with the evaluation of undergraduate admissions applications. Through this experience, she became aware of the higher admissions requirements for women undergraduate students as compared to those of men. Historically, the different admission requirements for women and men had been based on the small amount of dormitory space available for women and on the poorer academic performance of women at MIT in this early time. From her experience with mentoring women students, Millie concluded that the poorer academic performance was to some degree connected with issues of social acceptance, isolation, harassment and discrimination. This led to the preparation of a motion at a meeting of the MIT faculty in the late 1960s to adopt an equal and joint admission process for men and women students. The acceptance of the equal admission process resulted in a rapid doubling of the women undergraduate population, and this large influx of women students soon created a stress on housing, athletics, medical and other facilities for women on campus.
The demise of the office of the Dean of Women Students in 1970 added to the stressful situation. In support of a group of women undergraduate leaders, Millie and her friend Sheila Widnall, a young professor of Aeronautical Engineering, convened a meeting in January 1970 to discuss women's issues at MIT. The intention was to discuss issues connected with women students, but the word "students" was omitted from the meeting notice. So, instead of the 30 or so student attendees that were expected, about 200 women appeared, representing women in all categories - employees, students, and staff. This gathering, was the start of the Women's Forum, which is still active in addressing issues of concern to MIT women employees and staff. This ground swell from the ranks started a series of activities to improve the status of women students, faculty, and employees. Except for the first year, when she was active across the spectrum of activities for MIT women, Millie later focussed her available time on women student and faculty issues.
The student issues were considered by a Committee on Women Student's Concerns, jointly chaired by Millie and Paula Stone, an MIT undergraduate leader. The committee's charge was to examine all aspects of women student activities and to make recommendations in their report for equalizing the opportunities of women students in receiving an MIT education. This report, completed some months later, was well received by the faculty and administration, and many of the recommendations in that report were soon implemented. Other studies and task forces which she chaired or participated in were subsequently constituted by President Wiesner, and later Paul Gray, to address particular issues of concern, as the percentage of women students increased to reach levels in the 40% range, which we have today, representing an order of magnitude increase, since 1967. However, the first study in 1970-71, set the tone for future studies, involving fact-finding and data collection, discussions of options and strategies, and the identification of solutions to problems, emphasizing solutions that were low cost and had wide benefit to both women and men.
With the growth of the women student body, arose an interest to increase the number of women faculty. This goal was enunciated by President Wiesner early in his administration, before it became popular elsewhere. Millie's contributions in this area were facilitated by a grant for the promotion of women in science and engineering from the Carnegie Foundation in 1973 and by her appointment (also in 1973) as the first Abby Rockefeller Mauze Professor, an Institute-wide Chair, which had available a small fund to work on women's issues. For the Carnegie Grant, she started two programs that had a positive impact. The first was an undergraduate seminar course on "What is Engineering", which attracted large numbers of women students (perhaps 30 out of 100), and also seemed attractive to minority students. She taught this course along with her solid state physics course for about 3 years, after which time it was taken over by others. The second initiative started under the auspices of the Carnegie Grant was the Women Faculty Group, which had about 3 meetings per semester, and was used for networking, discussion of women's issues, and group mentoring of junior faculty on writing proposals, the tenure process, mentoring of students etc. After the Carnegie Grant expired, Millie used her Chair Fund to support this group until 1983, when she got too busy with her duties for the American Physical Society.
After serving as President of the American Physical Society, she directed her activities on behalf of women in science and engineering more to the national scene. After serving for one year as a member of the Committee on the Status of Women in Physics of the American Physical Society, she served as Chairman of this committee for two years. Her project of greatest impact was the Co-chairing, with Judy Franz, of the Executive Director of the American Physical Society, of the committees of visiting women physicists, which started in the early 1990s and continues into the present. These committees assess the status of women physics undergraduates, graduate students and faculty and make recommendations for improving their status. The strong correlation between these visits and the increase in women physics faculty members nationwide provide one indirect measure of the impact of this intervention. Millie also contributed more broadly to the advancement of women in science and engineering through her chairmanship of the National Research Council Committee on Women in Science and Engineering for three years, 1990-93. The main activities of this Committee were to hold annual workshops on topics chosen to enhance the participation of Women in Science and Engineering, and from these workshops three widely quoted reports were published by the National Research Council.
Throughout her career she has supervised and mentored a number of women graduate students and postdocs. Many of them have made careers in academics and industry, and have in turn been active and successful in supervising the next generation of women in science and engineering. Many of these women have by now assumed significant leadership positions both in their professions and in service activites. Millie has always taken great pride in the accomplishments of her students, including their work on broader issues in science and technology.