Elizabeth Simmons, P.hD.
University Distinguished Professor of Physics
Dean of Lyman Briggs College
Michigan State University
Question 1: Why did you become a researcher/engineer/scientist?
Answer: During high school I attended [a] summer science program in astronomy, which provided a glimpse of how all-encompassing life as a scientist could be. I spent six weeks on a team utterly focused on learning the mathematics and celestial mechanics needed to determine an asteroid's orbit, while making the midnight telescopic observations required as input. Being from a small school, this was my first experience among so many peers with a similar interest in science. I returned home certain that I wanted to be a physicist.
Question 2: Tell us about a hobby or passion outside of work.
Answer: I started fencing in middle school and found that it's like being inside a high-speed chess match. When my high-school coach became armorer for the 1984 Olympic Games, I got to join the armory staff, testing weapons for the world's best fencers. My husband and younger son have taken up the sport as well, so we spend our Friday nights together at fencing practice.
Question 3: If you could have one day in another profession, what would you want to do?
Answer: I'd choose a day immersed in the glorious art works of Florence as an art historian. One of my favorite physics research institutes is the Galileo Galilei Institute in Florence; a morning in the museums followed by hours of physics is a terrific combination.
Question 4: What's your favorite food? Got a sweet tooth? Caffeine junkie? Are you a chef or a restaurateur?
Answer: I love baking no-knead bread with savory ingredients: dark chocolate, cheese, tomatoes & olives.
Question 5: Share a comment or opinion you have on a topical science-related issue—preferably one not associated with your own field.
Answer: Every undergraduate majoring in science should study how science and society have impacted one another across many cultures and eras. Such cross-training produces richer science and better scientists.