Center for Superconductivity’s Butler wins IEEE Swerdlow Award

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Credit: University of Houston

Susan W. Butler, associate director for public affairs at the Texas Center for Superconductivity at the University of Houston, will receive the 2018 IEEE Max Swerdlow Award for Sustained Service to the Applied Superconductivity Community.

The award is given to people who have had a lasting influence on the advancement of the technology, through exceptional service to and leadership within the community, creating and promoting major programs in applied superconductivity or through leadership and management roles in major research organizations.

Butler is the first nonscientist, and the first woman, to win the award. Paul Chu, founding director of the Texas Center for Superconductivity, was the recipient in 2014.

The award is bestowed by the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) Council on Superconductivity and is named for the late Max Swerdlow, longtime program manager for superconductivity for the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research.

"Sue has been our person behind the scenes," said Bruce Strauss, a physicist and program manager at the Department of Energy's Office of High Energy Physics in the Office of Science and the 2012 winner of the Swerdlow award. "She's the person who's organized a wide variety of things, and she's a great arm twister for getting funds for the conferences.

"She's really been the glue that has held things together."

Butler has been at the University of Houston since 1982. She formally joined TcSUH in 1991, working with the center, IEEE, the Coalition for the Commercial Application of Superconductors and other organizations to promote the field.

"The challenges in the field of superconductivity are myriad, as are those in many other potentially game-changing fields," she said. "Helping to bring it all together in some meaningful way is the payoff for me."

The work has ranged from mentoring students as they become practicing scientists and engineers to helping to organize international conferences. The Swerdlow award will be presented Oct. 29 at the Applied Superconductivity Conference in Seattle.

TcSUH Director Allan Jacobson said that while it is "remarkable" for the award to go to a nonscientist, Butler's contributions made it a natural fit.

"There are more dimensions of service to the superconducting community than just the science side," he said. "She has done enormous things for outreach, for promoting women in science, for promoting junior faculty."

Butler is being honored for sustained service to the applied superconductivity committee, in particular:

  • For building coalitions and support at the local, state, national and international level for meetings and conferences to promote applied superconductivity, technically and politically;
  • For encouragement of high school and university students, teachers and industry partners; and
  • For championing women and promoting diversity in science, technology and business.

The award includes a plaque, a medal and $5,000.

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