Michelle Birkett is an Assistant Professor of Medical Social Sciences at Northwestern University and the Director of the CONNECT Complex Systems and Health Disparities Research Program within the Institute of Sexual Gender and Minority Health. Dr. Birkett’s research uses network and quantitative methodologies to understand the social contextual influence of stigma on the health and wellbeing of marginalized populations, and in particular, sexual and gender minority youth. She received her PhD in Counseling Psychology in 2010 from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

1 Are you an early bird or night owl?

Early Bird

2 Are you pro- or anti-pun?


3 Do you have any pets?

Libby (a rescue spaniel) and Mazzy (a 17 years young black cat)

4 Do you have any science-themed home decor?

Yes – we decorate with a lot of photos of plants and maps.

5 Do you prefer cooking or baking?


6 Do you prefer sweet or savory?


7 Do you speak any other languages?


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?

Natural History

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

Probably wouldn’t get on a plane at the moment – but maybe Hawaii – someplace with beautiful weather all year round.

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

Flying of course

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

White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo

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

Go water my garden. Play with my son.

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

My partner, my son, chocolate

15 What beverage gives you life?


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

The first was probably Slaughterhouse-five by Kurt Vonnegut

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

a Zoologist

18 What drives you and keeps you going?

knowing that I have a role to play and could make some difference in the world

19 What got you excited in science?

That it allows your to find some truth through the chaos and complexity.

20 What excites you about science now?

Still the same answer

21 What is a guilty pleasure of yours?

youtube vloggers

22 What is a secret talent of yours?


23 What is your favorite game?

i’m more of a puzzler

24 What is the last book you read?

Last child in the woods

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

Keep your head down and do good work

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

making macarons

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

Follow your passions and the rest will work out.

28 What is the best way to de-stress?

Music, dancing, being outside

29 What is the last thing you watched?

Community – binging it

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

right now its toys, snacks, and diapers for my son

31 What is your favorite animal?


32 What is your favorite book?

anything by Vonnegut

33 What is your favorite comfort food?

Chocolate Chip Cookies

34 What is your favorite day of the year?


35 What is your favorite plant?

Old-fashioned pink geraniums

36 What is your favorite science fact?

According to physics, we’re all 99.99% empty space

37 What is your favorite season?


38 What is your favorite smell?

Fresh baked anything

39 What is your favorite sound?

My son

40 What is your favorite thing about yourself?

My ability to see the big picture

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

honestly probably the f-word

42 What is your proudest moment?

Seeing any of my mentees succeed – getting jobs, getting grants.

43 What kind of tree would you be?


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

It’s beautiful in the summer

45 Tell us something we probably don’t know.

I’m pretty obsessed with color

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

Candace Best