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Connecting Theory and Experiments

Mildred Dresselhaus Awardee Prof. Tamar Seideman highly values diversity

“I love being able to make a contribution to society by using science,” said Dr. Tamar Seideman, Professor of Chemistry and Professor of Physics at Northwestern University in Evanston, USA, and Mildred Dresselhaus awardee 2013 during one of her visits to CUI. There are two aspects she  has in mind: on the one hand, her research at the interface of physics, chemistry, and materials sciences, especially in the field of nanotechnology; on the other hand, her ambition to serve as a role model for young women who want to go into science.

DSCF4466.KleinTamar Seideman herself could not rely on any role model: “The situation in Israel in the late seventies and eighties was very discouraging.” However, she was very enthusiastic about natural sciences. Tamar Seideman grew up in Israel, first in a kibbutz, later close to Tel Aviv. The year she spent at a boarding school in England was to give her life a significant direction: “I hardly spoke any English, but the natural sciences were easy to learn,” she explains. While she was spending a year in England, her parents moved to Munich, so that Tamar Seideman did not return to Israel immediately but instead relocated to Munich, where she spent 2 years attending an international school. This change consolidated her choice for science: Since this rather small school couldn’t offer an A-level course in history, she chose chemistry – and never regretted her decision. When thinking about a field for academic study, she considered mathematics, philosophy, music and chemistry – and again chemistry got the upper hand. “Chemistry offered diversity,” Tamar Seideman says today,” but I only realized years later that diversity is more generally an important criterion.”

In the following years she got her master’s and her PhD degrees at the Weizmann Institute in Israel, spent two postdoc-years in Berkeley and one more year as a Principal Investigator at  the NASA Ames Research Center (USA) – until forced to leave the US for visa issues. The National Research Council of Canada in Ottawa profited from such politics: From 1993 until 2003 Tamar Seideman worked in this institution. She then returned to the US and became Professor at Northwestern University in Evanston.

Today Tamar Seideman perceives herself as a “citizen of the world” who highly values diversity. Scientists from Russia, China, India, England, and Germany work closely together in her research group. Diversity, however, also applies to gender: “We can’t afford loosing half of the population as potential scientists. It is therefore very important to encourage young women – without discriminating against men, of course.” This is exactly what she sees as one of her major tasks and for that reason she very much appreciates being invited to speak to young female scientists – a task which is part of the Mildred Dresselhaus Program.

The Program is part of an ambitious Action Plan: Each year CUI will invite two leading female scientists in order to initiate new ways for collaboration, to intensify established contacts, and to create role models for young women in physics. Tamar Seideman is very enthusiastic about the possibilities the Centre for Free-Electron Laser Science (CFEL) offers: “I always wanted to be the type of theorist who can speak to experimentalists.”