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M. Cather Simpson

Founding Director, Photon Factory
Chief Science Officer, Engender Technologies
University of Auckland, New Zealand

M. Cather Simpson

Country of Birth: Germany
Country of Residence: New Zealand
Educational Background: BA in Interdisciplinary Sciences-Echols Scholar Program, University of Virginia; PhD in Medical Sciences, University of New Mexico School of Medicine


When I left home for the University of Virginia, I KNEW I was going to be a neurosurgeon. Then, I took a Cell Biology class and loved it. The professor, Richard Rodewald, invited me to come do research in his lab, and I was completely hooked. Ever since then, scientific research has been my calling.

As a university professor, I teach students chemistry and physics (and a bit of entrepreneurship) and I lead research at the pulsed laser research facility. Our core mission is to enable research through the advanced use of laser pulses to interrogate light-matter interactions and to manipulate and machine materials. We actively reach out to schools and the community, and have spun off two companies. I love that I'm able to do research that discovers new knowledge, applies science and technology to better the world, and trains the next generation of creative thinkers.

Perhaps the biggest challenge I've faced in my career is that my interests almost never match my background and training. I must prove myself anew, to demonstrate that I can achieve. I'm not sure I've overcome this challenge, I've just quit worrying about it. I get tremendous satisfaction from doing new science, learning about new topics, and moving into areas where I am not an expert.

I wish I had known that persistence and resilience are every bit as important for success as intelligence and creativity. I admire people who can fail, get knocked down, and get back up and try again a different way.

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