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Meeting Highlights & Interview with Mildred Dresselhaus by the University of Arkansas
   — by Bryon Western & David Cameron, University of Arkansas

 Meeting Highlights

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Congress attendees visit between sessions.

Congress attendees visit between sessions.


Looking back, I am trying to decide if the conference was worth the two way 14-15 hour van ride (it felt like 30). It turns out it was, for several reasons. The first has nothing to do with the conference and I really could have done it without leaving Arkansas, but I was forced to hang around and actually get to know several people in my own department that I would not have gotten to know as well otherwise.

The second was the opportunity I had to interview Dr. Millie Dresselhaus, Chair of the AIP Governing Board (see article below). I found it amazing that she was so friendly and so willing to give up quite a bit of her personal time to talk to an undergraduate student from Arkansas. It is easy to see why she is not just a respected physicist, but also an admirable person.

For me, the trip to the Trinity Site was the best part of the meeting. To stand in awe of the history that took place there and here about it from someone who was actually there was quite a humbling experience.

Lastly, I would like to think New Mexico for introducing me to green chili con carne. I love that stuff.

— Bryon Western, University of Arkansas

Interview with Mildred "Millie" Dresselhaus
Mildred Dresselhaus

Mildred Dresselhaus

Mildred “Millie” Dresselhaus started her higher education at Hunter College in New York. Largely due to the fact that many women of her day where being directed into education and because it was considered a practical career choice, she began her undergraduate career with the intention of being a school teacher. After showing great aptitude in the sciences, she was encouraged to pursue as much science as possible from another well know woman in physics, Rosalind Yellow (now very well known for medical physics research). Millie now continues this mentoring tradition by helping encourage women to enter classically male dominated fields.

Professor Dresselhaus did indeed end up teaching; albeit, surely not in the capacity she had originally imagined. She is now a tenured professor at one of the most prestigious schools in the country, MIT. As faculty at MIT she has headed research on many state-of-the-art projects such as superconductivity, magneto-optics, and now carbon nano-tubes. When asked what her most favorite project that she had ever worked on, she smiled and said, “The ones I’m working on now.” She said she was proud of the work she had done in the past, but she always loves most what she is working on right now; otherwise, she would be working on something else.

One of the most impressive things about Millie was the greetings and recognition she received from her peers. Sitting in an out-of-the-way corner in the union of the University of New Mexico, several colleagues who had spotted her from quite a distance, came over to just to say hello and how glad they were that she was here. To one such colleague she said, “I’m giving a talk on ethics. I bet you didn’t know that I could give a talk on ethics.” He responded, “It doesn’t surprise me, I’ve seen you give talks on about everything else.”

Dr. Dresselhaus’s diverse experience and vast resume has indeed given her the qualifications to speak on a multitude of subjects. She has held a job from the time she was eight years old when her school was paying her to teach a mentally handicapped child to read. She has held public and appointed positions such as chief scientific advisor to President Bill Clinton and is currently the first woman to chair the governing board of the American Institute of Physics. Although she was somewhat surprised to be asked to give a talk on ethic, it would seem that her life experiences more than qualify her to do so.

Speaking on ethics, Millie said that living with the notoriety that she has achieved, it feels as though she can not make a mistake; although, this is not really any added pressure to her. She is living the respectful and ethical life she would have anyway. The most important thing for her was to set a good example for her children. A key point she wanted to get across, both in this interview and in her main speech, was this: The seed for an ethical life must be planted at home.

Personal Notes:
Getting to do this impromptu interview with Dr. Dresselhaus was absolutely one of the highlights of the conference for me. She could not have been friendlier. It was amazing to me that this noted physicist, who could have been talking to anyone at the conference, sat down with me and gave me more than an hour of her time. I was slightly nervous talking to someone of such prestige, but the anxiety quickly left because she was so personable. So, I just wanted to say thank you once more to Professor Millie Dresselhaus for her time and courtesy.

— Bryon Western, University of Arkansas

2005 World Year of Physics
Congress attendees cast their votes on the issue of Sigma Pi Sigma developing ethical recommendations for the physics community.

Congress attendees cast their votes on the issue of Sigma Pi Sigma developing ethical recommendations for the physics community.

In October 2004, Sigma Pi Sigma, the Society of Physics Students, and the American Institute of Physics all came together to celebrate the beginning of the World Year of Physics.

The first event celebrating and kicking-off the World Year of Physics was a conference attended by all three organizations and held in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Though many different presentations were given, one of the main themes for the conference was Ethics in Physics. Over the course of the weekend, talks were given and discussions were facilitated covering topics such as Ethics in Military, Ethics in Academia, and Ethics in Industry. The presenters were careful not to promote personal ethical views, but rather how to determine one's own ethical views and how to determine if the views of the person and organization fit well together.

The talks and discussions were very informative and raised some issues that may not have been immediately apparent. These in depth examinations of both personal and organizational ethical stances will make the choices that the conference attendees have to make in the future much easier and more well informed.

— David Cameron, University of Arkansas



Sigma Pi Sigma kicks-off the World Year of Physics 2005

Copyright © 2004, Sigma Pi Sigma