Burton Richter and Mildred Dresselhaus Win Presidential Enrico Fermi Award for Scientific Achievement

By Tawanda W. Johnson

Burton Richter


Burton Richter

Mildred Dresselhaus


Mildred Dresselhaus

The American Physical Society (APS) congratulates Nobel Laureate and SLAC Director Emeritus Burton Richter and Mildred Dresselhaus, MIT Professor Emerita of Physics and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, on being named winners of the Enrico Fermi Award for scientific achievement.

The presidential award carries an honorarium of $50,000, shared equally, and a gold medal. The U.S. Department of Energy administers the award on behalf of the White House. It is one of the government’s oldest and most prestigious awards for scientific achievement.

“Dr. Richter and Dr. Dresselhaus have both demonstrated exceptional scientific research and leadership throughout their illustrious careers, contributing to our nation in myriad positive ways.  We are honored to count them both as distinguished members and former Presidents of APS,” said Kate Kirby, APS Executive Officer.

Richter earned a B.S. in 1952 and Ph.D. in 1956, both from MIT. In 1976, he shared the Nobel Prize in physics with Samuel Ting for their co-discovery of a subatomic particle known as the J/psi. It provided evidence that Gell-mann & Zweig’s theory about quarks – fundamental building blocks of matter – was incomplete, leading to the Standard Model. Richter provided leadership at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, from 1984 to 1999, where he helped lead advances in accelerator science and technology that resulted in discoveries in particles physics and laid the groundwork for advances in photon science. He has also been a formidable leader in the science policy arena, including chairing the committee that developed the APS Energy Efficiency report. He recently released a book titled, “Beyond Smoke and Mirrors: Climate Change and Energy in the 21st Century.”

Dresselhaus received a B.A. from Hunter College in 1951; an M.A. from Radcliffe College in 1953; and a Ph.D. in 1958 from the University of Chicago. Her research portfolio includes discoveries leading to the fundamental understanding of various condensed matter systems, including graphite, fullerenes and carbon nanotubes. She has also served in many scientific leadership roles, including as President of APS, Director of the Department of Energy’s Office of Science and President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Additionally, Dresselhaus is widely recognized for her unwavering commitment to mentoring students and promoting gender equity. 

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