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Roosevelt House is proud to present a discussion —on Zoom only—of Carbon Queen: The Remarkable Life of Nanoscience Pioneer Mildred Dresselhaus by Maia Weinstock. In this essential new biography, Weinstock chronicles the life of trailblazing physicist and alumna of Hunter College High School (’47) and Hunter College (’51), Mildred Spiewak Dresselhaus (1930–2017). The author will be in conversation with Hunter College professor of physics Kelle Cruz.
Growing up in New York City in the 1940s, “Millie” Spiewak was taught that there were only three careers open to women: secretary, nurse, or teacher. In Carbon Queen, science writer Maia Weinstock describes how Dresselhaus defied expectations and forged a groundbreaking career as a scientist and engineer. Inspired by her time as a student at Hunter College, where she received mentorship from 1977 Nobel Prize winner Rosalyn Yalow, she went on to make influential discoveries about the properties of carbon and other materials that expanded our understanding of the physical world and forever changed STEM fields spanning from electronics and aviation to medicine and energy.
A recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama, Dresselhaus’s indelible impact on modern life has made her an enduring icon of women in the sciences.
It was sort of love at first sight. [Rosalyn Yalow] took me under her wing and [asked] me ‘Why are you in education?’ I said, ‘Well, that’s a practical career path for me.’ She encouraged me to pursue science as much as I could, saying that she thought I had enough talent to make a career of it… In those days, nobody had great expectations for careers. There weren’t really many jobs in science at the time. But I loved it so much, and she was doing it, so I figured I could do about the same.
— Mildred Dresselhaus, as quoted in Hunter 150: Celebrating the Past, Caring for the Future
Maia Weinstock is an editor, writer, and producer of science and children’s media whose work has appeared in Scientific American, Discover, SPACE.com, BrainPOP, and Scholastic’s Science World. She is Deputy Editorial Director at MIT News, a lecturer at MIT on the history of women in STEM, and creator of LEGO’s “Women of NASA.”
Kelle Cruz is Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Hunter College, a Research Associate at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), a Visiting Scientist at the Flatiron Institute, and a passionate advocate of inclusive practices in STEM.