National Medal of Science
For her pioneering contributions in nuclear physics that have advanced research into many applications, including energy generation from fusion, dating of artifacts, and nuclear medicine; her passion for teaching; and her outstanding service to her profession.
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BirthFebruary 13, 1926
Country of BirthGermany
Key ContributionsResearch In Energy Generation From Fusion
Awarded byGeorge W. Bush
EducationUniversity of Michigan
University of Wisconsin
Areas of ImpactEnergy & Environment
AffiliationsUniversity of Pennsylvania
Berlin-born Fay Ajzenberg-Selove pined for her chance to become the next Amelia Earhart, studying aeronautical engineering after escaping Nazi-occupied Europe in the mid 1920s.
Discovering a love for physics at the University of Michigan, she later pursued research through her use of particle accelerators at various research institutions, with a life motto to, "live a life that I would not regret as I lay dying."
Driven by an unbridled passion, Dr. Ajzenberg-Selove survived three cancer diagnoses, a motorcycle collision and championed the work of female scientists, organizing the American Physical Society on "Women in Physics" in 1971.
Authoring hundreds of scientific papers, her research centered on light nuclei and energy absorption and emission.
She has described her scientific inspiration as one that blossomed at home, “I adored Dad, and since he was basically an engineer I wanted to be that too. He didn't push me, but he was a hero for me and I wanted to be like him.”
By Melissa Ayala