Concepts familiar from grade-school algebra have broad ramifications in computer science.
Institute Professor Mildred S. Dresselhaus was sworn in August 7 by Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson as director of the department's Office of Science.
Dr. Dresselhaus will oversee the office that is one of the largest sponsors of basic research in the federal government, with an annual budget of $2.8 billion.
"It is hard to imagine a more qualified person than Millie Dresselhaus to oversee an office that sponsors so much important research for the nation," said Secretary Richardson. "Dr. Dresselhaus brings to the task more than 40 years of research experience as an eminent physicist. Equally important is her long service to the scientific community, including the leadership of major scientific associations. Her advice to the government on science policy has always been sage and I look forward to her continued contributions."
"Science has been so good to me, and I thought that maybe this is the time in my life when I should serve science and the country," she said about accepting the job. Dr. Dresselhaus, a National Medal of Science winner, has previously been president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Physical Society. She is on leave from MIT, where she is a professor in the departments of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and Physics.
Dr. Dresselhaus, whose appointment was confirmed by the Senate on July 26, will be responsible for managing five of the department's multiprogram laboratories and five single program laboratories carrying out a broad range of advisory, coordination and program management activities related to the DOE's energy research and development missions.
Institute Professor John Deutch held the same DOE position from 1977-79.
Dresselhaus, 69, holds 17 honorary degrees. She received the National Medal of Science for work in establishing a place for women in science and technology and for studies of the electronic properties of metals and semi-metals. She is currently writing a book about carbon nanotubes.
Dr. Fred Gilman, head of the physics department at Carnegie-Mellon University and chairman of the DOE's High Energy Physics Advisory Panel; Neal Lane of the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy Office and other members of the science community attended the public ceremony in the department's courtyard.
"Millie Dresselhaus is a distinguished scientist with the demonstrated combination of scientific accomplishment, wisdom and leadership that few possess," said Mr. Lane, assistant to the president for science and technology policy. "She will be an outstanding steward of the Department of Energy's vital science, engineering, and technology programs that help sustain US leadership across the frontiers of scientific knowledge."
The DOE's Office of Science funds programs in basic energy sciences, high energy and nuclear physics, biological and environmental research, fusion energy sciences, advanced scientific computing and science education. The office plans, constructs and operates major scientific user facilities. It also sponsors thousands of projects at hundreds of scientific institutions across the United States.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on August 23, 2000.