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Scientists as celebrities

| By Dorothy Lozowski

I recently saw a television commercial that caught my attention and provided “food for thought.” The ad begins with a young girl opening a birthday gift, and is delighted when she sees that it is a Millie Dresselhaus doll. A voice asks, “What if we treated great female scientists like they were stars?” and “What if Millie Dresselhaus… were as famous as any celebrity?” The commercial thoughtfully places a scientist, Mildred Dresselhaus, in scenes that are common for a celebrity, but quite foreign for a scientist. Images in the ad include a student sending a text that says “Aced physics!!” and includes Millie Dresselhaus emojis; children dressed up as Millie Dresselhaus for Halloween; tourists taking pictures of a Millie Dresselhaus wall mural; the front page of the New York Post featuring a picture of Millie Dresselhaus and a headline of “Physics or Chemistry?”

When I first saw this commercial, I did not know who Mildred Dresselhaus was, and it gave me reason to pause and think about celebrity and where our society places its celebrity emphasis. Most, if not all of us can probably quickly name many famous sports legends, actors and musicians. How many famous scientists can we quickly name? And how many of those would be female scientists? The ad brings attention to scientists, and in particular to women in science. Its sponsor goes on to mention that the company’s goal is to have 20,000 women in technical roles by 2020 [ 1]. Such goals and publicity can help to gain more much-needed interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers, especially among our youth. I would welcome seeing more ads that put scientists and engineers in the spotlight.


About Mildred Dresselhaus

Mildred Dresselhaus was born in 1930 and grew up in the Bronx, N.Y. She expected to become a school teacher, which she says was one of the three career paths that were open to women at the time (the other two were secretarial and nursing work). In college, however, she was inspired by Rosalyn Yalow, who encouraged her to study physics. Dresselhaus went on to become the first woman at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to attain the rank of full, tenured professor, and the first woman to win the National Medal of Science in Engineering in 1990. She was a member of the MIT faculty for 50 years and was particularly known for her work on nanomaterials and graphene. She passed away in February of this year, just weeks after the video in the commercial described above was released [ 2,3].

Her mentor, Rosalyn Yalow, was a nuclear physicist who won the Nobel Prize (one half of the award) in Physiology or Medicine in 1977 for the development of radioimmunoassays of peptide hormones. Her work opened the door to enable the measurement of low levels of various substances, such as insulin, in the body [ 4].


In this issue

This issue covers a wide variety of topics, including our cover story, which highlights the ways that drones are finding new applications in the chemical process industries (CPI); advances in temperature measurement; features on water and wastewater, and on pumps; and much more. We hope you enjoy reading. ■

Dorothy_LozowskiDorothy Lozowski, Editorial Director

1.Television commercial by General Electric; – accessed 8/7/2017.– accessed 8/7/2017.