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A Jewel of Equal Opportunities

Together with 80 guests, CUI honored the Mildred Dresselhaus Awardees 2016, Prof. Christiane Morais Smith and Dr. Friederike Ernst, during its New Year’s reception in the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science. Moreover, in a relaxed atmosphere and finding personal words, the dean of the MIN faculty, Prof. Heinrich Graener, and CUI spokesperson Prof. Horst Weller gave insights into the cluster’s activities and outlined the participation in the excellence initiative’s competition.


Prof. Heinrich Graener: “The Mildred Dresselhaus Prize shows, that we are serious about our aim of keeping women in natural sciences.” Credit: Andreas Vallbracht

People are watching what is happening here and pay tribute, Graener said. This became obvious when Prof. Henry Chapman was invited to the Matthiae-Mahl at city hall or when Dr. Philipp Wessels was asked to join the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting. “CUI is doing extremely well,” Weller confirmed and mentioned six publications in “Science” and “Nature” in the year 2016 only, as well as around 80 publications originating directly from the cluster’s projects, among them many joint works that were published by scientists from different disciplines. The cluster of excellence created new structures and, Weller said: “Thereby one can change things.” The past two weeks had been marked by a lot of work for the new proposal; however, he said he was optimistic and convinced of having developed a good concept.


At the award ceremony (left): Prof. Heinrich Graener, Prof. Andreas Hemmerich, Prof. Cristiane Morais Smith, and Prof. Horst Weller. Credit: Andreas Vallbracht

In her acceptance speech, Prof. Cristiane Morais Smith stressed how much the situation in Germany had changed also thanks to the role of DFG. 20 years ago, when the Mildred Dresselhaus Awardee started a C 1 professorship at Universität Hamburg, there had been just one full professor of physics in Germany. “It is wonderful to see the change,” she said and then dedicated her prize to the many women before her, like for example Emmy Noether, who never got anything.

Prof. Andreas Hemmerich called Morais Smith a perfect role model and his favorite proof against gravity. In his honorary speech, he outlined her path of life starting in a small village in Brazil to her engagement as a highly acclaimed physics professor at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands. In between she worked for the Bank of Brazil to finance her studies, for example, gained a degree in French literature, and learned six languages. Today, a lot of interested colleagues in Hamburg were looking forward to collaborate in the field of topological states.


Presenting the junior award (left): Prof. Heinrich Graener, Dr. Friederike Ernst, Prof. Horst Weller, and Prof. Alf Mews. Credit: Andreas Vallbracht

Despite her young age of thirty years, Prof. Alf Mews called junior awardee Dr. Friederike Ernst a perfect role model as well. She had written her doctoral thesis within three years at FU Berlin, worked on six publications, then went to Columbia University, USA, as a Postdoc followed by Stanford University, USA, where she gave birth to her daughter. As Friederike Ernst stressed, the prize enabled her to re-enter the German science community in a very enjoyable way. She is looking forward to the time she will be spending in Hamburg, which she calls an ideal location for her research on nanoscale systems.

CUI Equal Opportunity Officer Marie Lutz was deeply impressed by the awardees. In working with women scientists, she realized again and again that there is no single way to be taken in science, but many individual paths, which the program supports. Lutz: “The Mildred Dresselhaus Program is a small jewel in equal opportunity activities and a special characteristic of CUI.”

After the ceremony, the guests were invited to finger food and drinks and to enjoy networking. In addition, the cluster presented its image film in German and English plus a short version that was shown last year in selected cinemas in Hamburg. In time for the New Year’s reception, “Unit Cell” was also put into operation again. The sound installation will be permanently available, making it possible to sensually perceive crystallography.

See also: CUI on film

An English version of the magazine Mildred Dresselhaus Preis und Preisträgerinnen will appear soon.