The Dresselhaus Lecture series is named in honor of Mildred "Millie" Dresselhaus, a beloved MIT professor whose research helped unlock the mysteries of carbon, the most fundamental of organic elements—earning her the nickname “queen of carbon science.” This annual event recognizes a significant figure in science and engineering from anywhere in the world whose leadership and impact echo Millie’s life, accomplishments, and values.
2020 Mildred S. Dresselhaus Lecture:
Evelyn Hu, Harvard University
Evelyn Hu, the Tarr-Coyne Professor of Applied Physics and Electrical Engineering at the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard University, delivered the 2020 Mildred S. Dresselhaus Lecture on November 16, 2020.
Transforming Defects into Opportunities: Leveraging the Nanoscale
As the “Queen of Carbon”, Millie Dresselhaus’ profound understanding of materials like graphene and carbon nanotubes also recognized new design concepts made possible at the nanoscale. Her work on quantum structures brought dramatic new insights into the long-established field of thermoelectric materials. She understood that it was not only the “perfection” of quantum confinement that could improve materials performance, but also features usually regarded as “imperfections”: the many internal interfaces characteristic of nanostructures that might be used as a means to control and enhance the thermoelectric behaviour.
In tribute to Millie’s contributions, this talk provides another narrative of how materials defects and insights at the nanoscale can be developed into transformative scientific opportunities. There has been recent excitement about the performance of defects (such as vacancies, or missing atoms) in crystalline semiconductors, where the defect, also termed qubit, can manifest optical emission at a variety of wavelengths, distinctively coupled to long spin coherence times. In particular, when defects such as Silicon Vacancies in 4H SiC are integrated within nanoscale optical cavities, there is the possibility for remarkable, controlled output of light from the defect. Moreover, the integrated defect-cavity system can serve as a “nanoscope” into the material, allowing us to learn about the interactions with surrounding defects, ultimately providing broader insights into longer-term quantum coherence.
About Evelyn Hu
Evelyn Hu is the Tarr-Coyne Professor of Applied Physics and Electrical Engineering at the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard. She is presently a Co-Director of the Harvard Quantum Initiative. Prior to Harvard, she was a faculty member at UCSB, in the Departments of Materials, and of Electrical and Computer Engineering. While at UCSB, she also served as the founding Scientific co-Director of the California NanoSystems Institute, a joint initiative between UCSB and UCLA. Before joining UCSB, she worked at Bell Labs in both Holmdel and Murray Hill.
Hu is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Academia Sinica of Taiwan. She is a recipient of an NSF Distinguished Teaching Fellow award, an AAAS Lifetime Mentor Award, the 2019 SES Eringen Medal, and the 2020 IEEE Grove Award. She holds honorary Doctorates from ETH Zurich, the University of Glasgow, Heriot-Watt University, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, and the University of Notre Dame.
About Mildred S. Dresselhaus
Mildred "Millie" Dresselhaus was a beloved MIT professor whose research helped unlock the mysteries of carbon, the most fundamental of organic elements—earning her the nickname “queen of carbon science.” She is well-known for her work with graphene, fullerenes (also known as "buckyballs"), bismuth nanowires, and low dimensional thermoelectricity. She developed the concept of the "nanotube," a single-layer sheet of carbon atoms that is incredibly thin and yet incredibly strong.
With appointments in the Departments of Electrical Engineering and Physics, Dresselhaus was a member of the MIT faculty for 50 years. In 1985 she was honored with the title of Institute Professor, an esteemed position held by no more than 12 MIT professors at one time. A winner of numerous awards, Dresselhaus was a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the National Medal of Science, and the Kavli Prize in Nanoscience. She was inducted into the U.S. National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2014.
Dresselhaus led MIT and her field not only through her research and teaching, but with her longstanding commitment to promoting gender equity in science and engineering and a dedication to mentorship and teaching. She received a Carnegie Foundation grant in 1973 to support her efforts to encourage women to enter traditionally male dominated fields of science and engineering.
In honor of Millie, MIT.nano will host the Mildred S. Dresselhaus Lecture annually in November, the month of Millie's birthday. The event will recognize a significant figure in science and engineering from anywhere in the world whose leadership and impact echo Millie’s life, accomplishments, and values.