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An Admirable Life

Siu-Wai Chan remembers Millie and her impact on students and collaborators like herself.

Published onMay 15, 2018
An Admirable Life

Siu-Wai Chan
Unveiling Ceremony Speech

Photo credit: Geof Cooper

First, I thank you all for having me here.

I am both honored and saddened to be here. I had secretly wished that Professor Millie Dresselhaus would live forever. Of course, that is impossible, but it would have been nice if she had.  Very nice.

Professor Dresselhaus lived an admirable life. We, her students, wish to imitate that life as much as possible. Of course, that is also impossible, as her life was quite unique. But we can at least come together and know that Millie’s life is truly one to be celebrated and to be proud of. We are honored to be here and to take part in this celebration.

Millie visits me in 1996.

Frankly, I did not know Professor Millie Dresselhaus well until after I graduated and became a professor and a mother of two children, myself. She had been always encouraging no matter how inadequate I felt for the job (or for motherhood). I will always try to remember her words, “Just hang in there.” So I have been hanging in there, through thick and thin. And here I am — much because of her.

I took her Solid State Physics 1 course after my qualifying exam in Course III i.e. materials science, under the recommendation of Dr. Stephen Leung.  Yesterday, driving up here with Stephen, was the first time I learned that she taught her students to write proposals, which I surely really need, even today.  I certainly wish that I’d had that type of real training for becoming a professor. I did one thing right — I took her course and then took the second semester of that course.  At the time, she was teaching the course both at MIT and at UC Berkeley. Millie was flying back and forth, from coast to coast, every week or two. I did not think that was humanly possible, but Millie proved me wrong.

Millie and I at MRS, 2015.

In short, she always seemed to make the impossible possible. Before her, I had never met a woman so accomplished. She became a true role model for me.

So I remind us all that we never really lose someone, if that someone lives in our hearts.

Therefore, my wish has come true, and Millie will live forever. She will live in our hearts and remain with us as we remember her and think of the the lovely and helpful person that she was.

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