DR LISA RANDALL (2016)
“The best science frequently combines an awareness of broad and significant problems with focus on an apparently small issue or detail that someone very much wants to solve or understand. Sometimes these little problems or inconsistencies turn out to be the clues to big advances.”
The inescapable checklist of a stereotypical scientist: bad hair year (where hair is present); skin probably used in the ‘Before’ part of ‘Before/After’ dermatology posters; speed-of-sound speech about the speed of sound, coming from behind lenses with frames more dense than the subject matter; plans for world domination hidden amongst collected data and discarded Post-It notes about Spock-like rationale; maintaining the appearance of an otherwise ‘distinguished’ octogenarian, and; Y-chromosome game strong.
The reality? Well, where there’s smoke there’s some fire, but some fires (and the smoke that emanates from them) are bigger than they need to be. Extinguishing many of these fires that plague the scientific field and its representation is theoretical physicist and best-selling author Dr Lisa Randall.
Earning her Bachelors in Physics and PhD in theoretical particle physics from the prestigious Harvard University in 1983 and 1987 respectively (where since 2001 she has held professorship after professorial stints at MIT and Princeton University), Dr Lisa Randall has become one of the leading scientific researchers and academics in particle physics and cosmology, working towards uncovering a ‘fifth dimension’ of our physical world via the Randall-Sundrum Model (1999). Whilst her research explores the nature of the universe, she has not shied away from the very real issues – scientific and social – here on Earth.
As the first female theoretical physicist to hold tenure at Harvard University, Randall is of a rapidly-growing population of women that are shattering the misconceptions of STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) as ‘boys clubs’, and challenging the misrepresentations of science and scientists as a whole. Randall is an instrumental voice in actively encouraging more girls and young women to pursue their interests in STEM, despite the social stigma that has led us to believe there is a gendered monopoly on scientific pursuit and critical thought.
This, in addition to penning best-selling books such as ‘Warped Passages: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Universe’s Hidden Dimensions’ (2005), ‘Knocking On Heaven’s Door: How Physics and Scientific Thinking Illuminate the Universe and the Modern World’ (2011), ‘Higgs Discovery: The Power of Empty Space’ (2013) and the ambitious ‘Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs: The Astounding Interconnectedness of the Universe’ (2015), there is no scientific mystery as to why Randall was listed in TIME Magazine’s ‘100 Most Influential People’ in 2007.