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Issue Date: January 2012


Most Interesting People 2012: Evalyn Gates

Evalyn Gates

Executive director and CEO of the
Cleveland Museum of Natural History, 53

/ Why she’s interesting / After spending seven years at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago and three years as assistant director of the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics, Gates was brought on as the new leader of CMNH. In 2009, the particle physicist authored a popular science book titled Einstein’s Telescope: The Hunt for Dark Matter and Dark Energy in the Universe.

/ Back in Cleveland / Gates earned bachelor’s degrees in physics at the College of William and Mary and biomedical engineering at Case Western Reserve University. She also received a doctorate in theoretical particle physics from CWRU in 1990. “What’s wonderful now is coming back and finding Cleveland, especially University Circle, just buzzing with energy and excitement. There’s so much going on here.”

/ Museum of the future / CMNH is on the brink of undergoing a major renovation and expansion. Gates wants to showcase the museum’s extensive collection as well as upgrade exhibits. “[We will] be doing things that will have you crawling under, crawling over, pulling open, ... engaging you a little bit more so you come over there and say, ‘What is that?’ and then you begin to interact, and that’s how you learn science.”

/ Getting inside a dinosaur’s head / During photography of the recent dinosaur exhibit, Gates got up close with the prehistoric beasts. “They were taking some photos, ... so I sort of stuck my head up in and looked out through the skull. It was so cool! It gives you a different impression of what these creatures were really like. That gets your mind going.”

/ Not so artistically inclined / She minored in studio art as an undergraduate at the College of William and Mary. “What won’t surprise anyone is that I was terrible at it. Zero talent whatsoever.”

/ Her favorite particle / “Neutrinos are fundamental subatomic particles produced in nuclear reactions, like those in the sun. We always talk about the fact that we can’t see neutrinos or dark matter and that basically they’re invisible, but if you think about it from the other side, we’re also invisible to them.”


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