Dr. Axiel Yaël Birenbaum
Dr. Axiel Yaël Birenbaum. Photo provided by Dr. Axiel Yaël Birenbaum.

Dr. Axiel Yaël Birenbaum (@axielyb) works for Canada, using the world’s largest computers to design energy materials one atom at a time. I do so by teaching intelligent algorithms to do physics simulations. I am a queer, first gen, dyslexic, woman, hellbent on letting you know that we exist in science, and science is better for it. aybirenbaum.com

1 Are you an early bird or night owl?

Early Bird

2 Are you pro- or anti-pun?


3 Do you have any pets?

Yes! Laika, my support dog.

4 Do you have any science-themed home decor?

Yes. Home, office, suitcase, everywhere.

5 Do you prefer cooking or baking?


6 Do you prefer sweet or savory?


7 Do you speak any other languages?

French is my native tongue. Spanish, German, Swedish…

8 If you could switch professions, what would you do?


9 If you could switch science fields, what field would you want to work in?

Nope. I love what I do, which varies already a lot.

10 If you got a plane ticket right now, where would it go?


11 If you had one superpower, what would it be?

Spacetime manipulation

12 Is there anything you strongly recommend we watch and/or read and/or listen to?

Eames’ Powers of Ten (1977) video! https://youtu.be/0fKBhvDjuy0

13 It’s your day off. What do you want to do?

Pen & paper roll-playing with my friends.

14 What are three things you can’t live without?

Physics, good food, my loved ones.

15 What beverage gives you life?


16 What book did you read in school that positively shaped you?

Catcher in the Rye & Le Pere Goriot.

17 What did you want to be be when you grew up?

A theoretical physicist.

18 What drives you and keeps you going?

Knowing I have beating the odds and keep going. Knowing I am living the cherry on the cake of my dreams.

19 What got you excited in science?

The infinitely big and the infinitely small looking so damn similar! (see video suggested above)

20 What excites you about science now?

The universe is so damn cool!

21 What is a guilty pleasure of yours?

I refuse to feel guilty about what brings me joy.

22 What is a secret talent of yours?

I pick up languages very fast.

23 What is your favorite game?

Mass Effect!

24 What is the last book you read?

The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu

25 What is one of the best pieces of advice you’ve received?

Love yourself. Still working on it.

26 What is something you’ve always wanted to try but you’ve been too scared to do?

Take a year’s break.

27 What is the best advice for your 18 year old self?

It gets better.

28 What is the best way to de-stress?

Computer games

29 What is the last thing you watched?

BA’s 11 poutines in 12 hours

30 What is the weirdest thing you’ve had in your bag?

A pin of Moorie Curie.

31 What is your favorite animal?

My dog

32 What is your favorite book?

An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Cmd Hadfield

33 What is your favorite comfort food?

Salade cuite (Moroccan dish)

34 What is your favorite day of the year?

Rosh Hashana

35 What is your favorite plant?


36 What is your favorite science fact?

You can fit all of the planets of the solar system in the distance between Earth and the Moon.

37 What is your favorite season?


38 What is your favorite smell?

My partner’s cooking

39 What is your favorite sound?

Water trickling down a brook

40 What is your favorite thing about yourself?

That I defied everyone’s expectations, including myself.

41 What is your favorite word (in any language)?


42 What is your proudest moment?

Predicting cation distribution control in Aurivillius phases using strain.

43 What kind of tree would you be?

A cedar

44 What’s the best thing about where you live?

Longest ice skating outdoor rink: Rideau Canal!

45 Tell us something we probably don’t know.

I4/mmm is my favourite crystallographic space group.

46 Who would you like to see 46 Questions interview next?

David Weir (@davidjamesweir)