Lisa Randall: Who are you?
Lisa Randall studies theoretical particle physics and cosmology at Harvard University. Her research connects theoretical insights to puzzles in our current understanding of the properties and interactions of matter. She has developed and studied a wide variety of models to address these questions, the most prominent involving extra dimensions of space. Her work has involved improving our under-standing of the Standard Model of particle physics, supersymmetry, baryogenesis, cosmological inflation, and dark matter. Randall’s research also explores ways to experimentally test and verify ideas and her current research focuses in large part on the Large Hadron Collider and dark matter searches and models.
Randall has also had a public presence through her writing, lectures, and radio and TV appearances. Randall’s books, Warped Passages: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Universe’s Hidden Dimensions and Knocking on Heaven’s Door: How Physics and Scientific Thinking Illuminate the Universe and the Modern World were both on the New York Times’ list of 100 Notable Books of the Year. Higgs Discovery: The Power of Empty Space was released as a Kindle Single in the summer of 2012 as an update with recent particle physics developments.
Randall’s studies have made her among the most cited and influential theoretical physicists and she has received numerous awards and honors for her scientific endeavors. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, was a fellow of the American Physical Society, and is a past winner of an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Research Fellowship, a National Science Foundation Young Investigator Award, a DOE Outstanding Junior Investigator Award, and the Westinghouse Science Talent Search. Randall is an Honorary Member of the Royal Irish Academy and an Honorary Fellow of the British Institute of Physics. In 2003, she received the Premio Caterina Tomassoni e Felice Pietro Chisesi Award, from the University of Rome, La Sapienza. In 2006, she received the Klopsteg Award from the American Society of Physics Teachers (AAPT) for her lectures and in 2007 she received the Julius Lilienfeld Prize from the American Physical Society for her work on elementary particle physics and cosmology and for communicating this work to the public.
Randall has also pursued art-science connections, writing a libretto for Hypermusic: A Projective Opera in Seven Planes that premiered in the Pompidou Center in Paris and co-curating an art exhibit for the Los Angeles Arts Association, Measure for Measure, which was presented in Gallery 825 in Los Angeles, at the Guggenheim Gallery at Chapman University, and at Harvard’s Carpenter Center. In 2012, she was the recipient of the Andrew Gemant Award from the American Institute of Physics, which is given annually for significant contributions to the cultural, artistic, or humanistic dimension of physics.
Professor Randall was on the list of Time Magazine's "100 Most Influential People" of 2007 and was one of 40 people featured in The Rolling Stone 40th Anniversary issue that year. Prof. Randall was featured in Newsweek's "Who's Next in 2006" as "one of the most promising theoretical physicists of her generation" and in Seed Magazine's "2005 Year in Science Icons". In 2008, Prof. Randall was among Esquire Magazine's “75 Most Influential People.”
Professor Randall earned her PhD from Harvard University and held professorships at MIT and Princeton University before returning to Harvard in 2001. She is also the recipient of honorary degrees from Brown University, Duke University, Bard College, and the University of Antwerp.
Lisa Randall: Lisa Randall. Professor of Physics at Harvard University. And I’m also the author of “Warped Passages: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Universe’s Hidden Dimensions”. That’s always a complicated question. The first part’s easy. I’m from Fresh Meadows, New York. It’s a part of Queens – sort of on the outer edge of Queens towards Long Island. And how does it influence who I am today? Well I think growing up in New York can’t help but influence who you are. Even though I was in Queens, I went to high school in Manhattan. But also I was subject to the ____________ of being in New York. I was joking with a friend recently. I think my first day of school didn’t exist because it was at the time of the teacher’s strike. So I think that was characteristic of sort of a sense of uncertainty that existed around that time. So I think the fact that it was a bit of a bizarre educational system in the beginning probably influenced me; but also the fact that it’s an intense community where there’s lots of bright people around. For me, I think going to Stuyvesant was just nice to get away from the more insular area of Queens that I was in. And I think basically having . . . And we did have some good teachers. And not everyone, but some of them were good. And I think it definitely just influenced how seriously I took academics. You know I just always liked school, so I looked reading. I liked math. It wasn’t as much science. I think I liked math. I remember liking math more than . . . The science we learned was a little bit diluted. In third grade we dug up an ant hill and just looked at it. You know that was . . . that was counted as science. So it wasn’t really all that technical. But I think I liked just . . . I liked math. I liked the fact that it had answers. You know you didn’t necessarily need a great teacher. You could still learn the math, which was nice. But I . . . but I was a big reader too, so I just liked all that when I was a kid. Well you know it doesn’t happen at once I think. You sort of go . . . I mean it’s funny. You’re going into science thinking that you’ll have some impact that’s sort of more permanent maybe – that you’ll find some truth. And then you realize that truths get overturned, and it’s not so easy. And it’s not so obvious what will be there. But I think the fact that you can work things out, that you can test them, there’s something very reassuring about that. It’s not . . . it isn’t just opinion at the end of the day. For a while it is opinion until it’s tested. But at the end of the day it’s . . . it’s . . . it’s not opinion; or at least we’d like to believe that. And I think it’s true, and I think it’s been well-tested in many aspects of what it’s predicted. So there is still that . . . Even though what . . . what doing science is about is sort of answering questions you don’t know the answer to, at the end of the day you sort of have this overriding belief that some things will be known. Well I mean in a broad sense we’re trying to understand . . . I do theoretical particle physics, first of all. And so we’re trying to understand the substructure of matter. That is to say we’re trying to understand what are matter’s most basic elements. How do they interact? We’re also . . . The kind of work I do also interfaces with cosmology at times – understanding what’s in the universe; how it’s involved; how do you explain the properties of what we’ve observed there as well. So a lot of what we’re doing is trying to extend beyond what we know. There’s something called the standard model particle physics, and it tells us about particles called “quirks”, like those inside the proton neutron; particles called “leptons”, which are like an electron; and it tells us the four forces that we know about. And we’re trying to get beyond that. We’re trying to understand questions like, “What are masses? Why are they what they are? How are those masses related? Why are they related in the way they are? Are the forces related in some way? Where are they unified?” Recorded On: 11/2/07
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