Esther M. Conwell, professor of physics and chemistry at the University of Rochester, has been named the recipient of the Susan B. Anthony Lifetime Achievement Award. The award, established in 1997 by the Anthony Center for Women's Leadership at the University, is presented annually to an alumna, trustee, faculty member, or administrator who has demonstrated strong leadership qualities, personal as well as professional success, and has served as a role model for other women.
A member of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering, Conwell received her master's degree from the University of Rochester in 1945 and her doctorate from the University of Chicago in 1948. She joined the faculty of the University of Rochester in 1998 after her retirement from Xerox Corporation. She also worked for Bell Telephone Laboratories and GTE Laboratories earlier in her career.
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 co-authored several books, more than 250 technical publications, and several patents.
Her work in the field of semiconductor physics has earned her international recognition. Conwell's fundamental research led to an increased understanding of the materials from which semiconductors are made, contributing to a better design of transistors that helped develop technology leading to the computer revolution.
The renowned physicist has also made significant contributions to the field of integrated optics, focusing on exploring the interaction between light and matter. 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 (APS) Committee on Women in Physics, which addressed the imbalance of women in APS due to discrimination. She also served on the National Research Council (NRC), where she worked on the Committee on Women's Employment and Related Social Issues. At the University, Conwell serves as a research and academic mentor for undergraduates in the physics and chemistry departments.
"[Conwell's] consummate career accomplishments in an era when women in science faced extraordinary hurdles and challenges are virtually unmatched," said Robert Boeckman, professor of chemistry and chemistry department chair. "She has worked tirelessly for the cause of equality of women in science and engineering."
Note to Editors: Conwell is a resident of Brighton.