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Mildred Dresselhaus in 2006.

Mildred Dresselhaus in 2006.

Ed Quinn

Two researchers win highest U.S. honor

Two prominent researchers have won the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor bestowed by the United States.

Physicist Mildred Dresselhaus and economist Robert Solow are among 19 winners announced today by President Barack Obama. The list also includes the late dancer Alvin Ailey, news anchor Tom Brokaw, actress Meryl Streep, and musician Stevie Wonder.

Dresselhaus “is one of the most prominent physicists, materials scientists, and electrical engineers of her generation,” according to a White House statement. “A professor of physics and electrical engineering at [the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)], she is best known for deepening our understanding of condensed matter systems and the atomic properties of carbon, which has contributed to major advances in electronics and materials research.” Dresselhaus, who also held senior administrative positions at the Department of Energy, recently chatted with Science for its Working Life column.

Solow “is one of the most widely respected economists of the past sixty years,” according to the White House statement. “His research in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s transformed the field, laying the groundwork for much of modern economics.  He continues to influence policy makers, demonstrating how smart investments, especially in new technology, can build broad-based prosperity, and he continues to actively participate in contemporary debates about inequality and economic growth.  He is a Nobel laureate, winning the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 1987.” Solow is a professor emeritus at MIT.

The awards will be presented at the White House on 24 November.