Beyond the Third Dimension with Dr. Lisa Randall

More than one faculty member, in an effort to give girls a sense of our Goodyear Fellow's stature, had likened Dr. Lisa Randall to a rock star in the days before she arrived. And Wednesday evening when the brilliant theoretical physicist concluded her presentation, the students treated her like one! Such a whoop and a hollering arose in the Engelhard Activities Building, one might have thought Fox/Hound Weekend had started a week early.

The rest of the 350+ crowd joined in to give Dr. Randall her first standing ovation in quite a while, if ever. "That was very sweet," said the Harvard professor, as she signed books and chatted with students and townspeople who had come to try to get their heads around her groundbreaking theories of hidden dimensions. The lecture concluded a busy visit: Between her arrival on campus around 1:00pm and the 8:00pm lectuve, Dr. Randall met with the entire community in the library, had a small-group discussion with select students and teachers in the Goodyear Room and attended a small dinner at Covert.
Varying degrees of the evening lecture about hypercubes, Large Hadron Colliders, Kaluza-Klein particles, string theory and branes, no doubt, went over the heads of those in attendance. However, Dr. Randall's down-to-earth analogies (about water droplets on a shower curtain, for instance) and amusing asides ("We scientists like to say we're fine-tuning some things when we are really just fudging them," she allowed) helped everyone walk away with some new insight or clue about the somewhat esoteric world of theoretical physics and the scientific process.

A number of individuals in the audience -- who came from as far away as Charlotte, NC -- were engineers, scientists and other true "fans" of science's biggest rock star. "I'm so proud of our School for having invited such an important person," said one student afterwards.

One of the hallmarks of Foxcroft's Goodyear Fellow Program is the interaction these famous people have with the community and so it was with Dr. Randall. During "A Conversation with Dr. Randall," an informal, hour-long gathering of the entire school community in the library earlier in the day, she shared some of her personal story and career path and answered questions from the girls, of which there were plenty. We learned, for instance, that she wanted to be a lawyer before a guidance counselor gave her one of those career questionnaires in ninth grade and that she loves rockclimbing, movies and reading, as well as the personal qualities that help one become a theoretical physicist.

"You have to have persistence, maybe even an obsessiveness," she said. "You have to be NOT willing to let yourself get stuck when you are trying to work out a problem or theory. The ability to see things from different perspectives and the ability to hold many ideas in your head at once, these are important too." The specific approach one takes to the kind of work she does, however, Dr. Randall said varies.

She also spoke a bit about being a woman in a man's world. "You have to make some wise choices," she said. "Find a (male) advisor who doesn't have a problem with being challenged by a woman. And early on, I tried not to think about it [being one of a few women in the field], but once you do the work and people start to see what you can do, it gets easier."
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An all-girls boarding and day school in Northern Virginia, Foxcroft prepares young women in grades 9-12 for success in college and in life. Our outstanding academic program offers challenging courses, including Advanced Placement classes and an innovative STEM program. Our premiere equestrian program is nationally recognized, and our athletic teams have won conference and state championships. Experience the best in girls' boarding schools: visit Foxcroft.