University of Rochester

Currents--University of Rochester newspaper

Physicist receives Anthony Award

Esther Conwell '45 (Mas) was one of only a handful of women forging a career in physics when she earned her Ph.D. in 1948 from the University of Chicago. Today the professor of physics and chemistry is recognized internationally for her work in the field of semiconductors and for research that contributed to a better design for transistors.


In honor of her pathbreaking career, Conwell has been named the recipient of the Susan B. Anthony Lifetime Achievement Award. Established in 1997 by the Anthony Center for Women's Leadership, the award is presented annually to an alumna, trustee, faculty member, or administrator who has demonstrated strong leadership qualities, personal as well as professional success, and served as a role model for other women.

"[Conwell's] consummate career accomplishments in an era when women in science faced extraordinary hurdles and challenges are virtually unmatched," says Robert Boeckman, professor and chair of chemistry. "She has worked tirelessly for the cause of equality of women in science and engineering."

Discover magazine named Conwell one of the "50 Most Important Women of Science" in 2002. In 1997, she became the first woman to receive a major award from the Institute of Electronic and Electrical Engineers, the Thomas A. Edison Medal. She has authored or coauthored several books, more than 250 technical publications, and several patents.

A member of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering, Conwell joined the University faculty in 1998 after her retirement from Xerox Corporation. She also worked for Bell Telephone Laboratories and GTE Laboratories earlier in her career. Currently, she is studying the movement of electrons through DNA, which may be linked to cancer-producing mutations. She plans to continue these studies in collaboration with undergraduates.

Throughout her career, Conwell has been committed to addressing issues faced by women in scientific fields. In 1971, Conwell was a founding member of the American Physical Society Committee on Women in Physics to address an imbalance of women in the society due to discrimination. She also served on the National Research Council, where she worked on the Committee on Women's Employment and Related Social Issues.

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