Jump to Main Content


Dr. Elizabeth H. Simmons is Associate Provost for Faculty and Academic Staff Development, Dean of Lyman Briggs College, and University Distinguished Professor of Physics in the Michigan State University Department of Physics and Astronomy. Lyman Briggs is a four-year residential undergraduate residential college at Michigan State University that focuses on the study of science in historical, philosophical, and sociological context. In her Associate Provost's role, Simmons leads the Academic Advancement Network, which promotes an inclusive, proactive culture supporting professional development for all MSU faculty, academic staff, and academic leaders.

During 2014-15, Simmons also served as Acting Dean of Michigan State University's College of Arts & Letters . During 2013-14, Simmons was an American Council on Education (ACE) Fellow in the Office of the Provost at Yale University.

After completing her undergraduate degree at Harvard University in 1985, Simmons earned an M.Phil. in physics at Cambridge University as a Churchill Scholar . She returned to Harvard for her doctoral degree and postdoctoral fellowship, and then spent a decade as a professor at Boston University, winning the university's Scholar/Teacher of the Year Award in 2002. In summer 2003, she joined the MSU faculty as the leader of what was then the Lyman Briggs School of Science.

In 2004, she launched Lyman Briggs on a 25% expansion of its student body, while simultaneously renovating all of the teaching laboratories and increasing the size of the faculty by nearly 50%. She was chosen as a 2004-05 CIC Academic Leadership Fellow and she won the ACE Michigan Network's Distinguished Woman in Higher Education Leadership Award in 2005. Two years later, the MSU Board of Trustees restored Lyman Briggs to the status of a College within Michigan State University, and Simmons was named its Dean. She was awarded MSU's Robert F. Banks Award for Institutional Leadership in February 2013.

Simmons is a particle theorist, whose research focuses on the origins of the masses of the elementary subatomic particles - particularly the W and Z bosons that transmit the weak nuclear force and the heaviest known particle, the top quark. She investigates theories in which these masses arise from new strong dynamics at energy scales accessible to experiments like those now underway at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland. She is the recipient of an Outstanding Junior Investigator Award from the US Department of Energy and a CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation, and has been named a Fellow of the AAAS (as of November 2011), a Fellow of the American Physical Society an APS Outstanding Referee and a 2012 APS CSWP Woman Physicist of the Month . She serves as an External Advisory Board member for the Physics Frontiers Center of the Kavli Institute of Cosmological Physics , as well as a General Member of the Aspen Center for Physics .

Dr. Simmons enjoys teaching physics courses at all levels, from introductory freshmen courses to graduate classes, and presently teaches a junior level course in mathematical physics . A central part of her mission as an educator is encouraging more students (especially those from groups now under-represented in physics) to consider studies and careers in the physical sciences. Her outreach work with undergraduates is centered in the QUEST project. She was selected as a member of the U.S. Delegation to the IUPAP International Conference on Women in Physics in 2008 (South Korea) and again in 2011 (South Africa).