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Science Graduates

Michael Norman, Ph.D.

Michael Norman

What I do now: I am Argonne Distinguished Fellow and Director of the Materials Science Division, a major research organization at Argonne, a Department of Energy national laboratory.  I am also a PI in the Center for Emergent Superconductivity, also funded by the DOE, as well as a Fellow of the Institute for Molecular Engineering at the University of Chicago.

My work/job consists of: I run a rather large scientific research organization of about 200 people.  I also continue to do some research in materials physics, particularly superconductivity.  I have had the pleasure of publishing over 200 papers, including review articles in Nature and Science.  I also get to travel to some very neat places to give talks.

Path to my current career position (how I got from the past to the present): I went on to graduate school at Tulane, after which I landed a postdoc at Argonne.  From there, I went up the “chain” to Senior Physicist, then leader of the Theory Group, and eventually to Division Director in 2011.

How I got to LSUS (or why I chose LSUS):  It was close by and inexpensive, besides having a good reputation.  And, my mother worked there (she was Dean Marsala’s assistant).

Fond memories of LSUS:  Maybe the time I got the keys for the top of Bronson Hall, and my Delta Sig buddies and I used this opportunity to drop water balloons on Kappa Alpha’s Old South festivities.  Everyone thought Moa Afrika did it, but we were the culprits.

LSUS faculty who helped me: Ed Carriere was instrumental in encouraging us all to go on to graduate school.  Also Dean Marsala for talking me out of pursuing a history career (though I loved Milton Finley’s classes).

How LSUS helped me succeed: It provided me a good foundation for graduate school.

Advice to college-bound students: Figure out what you want to do with your life.  The world is a very competitive place, so the earlier you do this, the better.

Advice to someone who wants to enter my field: Be flexible.  I started out in general relativity, but there were no jobs there, so it was great that I switched to materials physics midway through my graduate career.

Tips on choosing a major or career: Think about what you love, but also think about the job market.

My toughest professional challenge: Getting respect in the sciences can be a tough path.

My toughest personal challenge: Not everyone is easy to manage.

Successes (honors, awards, etc.) in my life: I was delighted to get the LSUS Circle of Excellence Award in 2008.  Also becoming a Fellow of the American Physical Society in 1995.  Maybe the best was participating in some work that resulted in my colleague winning a major physics prize in 2011.

I’ve learned this from life: Avoid stress.  No matter how bad things get at work, it’s not worth a heart attack.

What I’d be doing if I had all the time in the world: Head for the mountains.