Dr. Brittany Kamai is Native Hawaiian, an astrophysicist, athlete, author, mentor, and advocate for creating a better world. She is on a mission to help enhance our fundamental understanding of the universe and does so by weaving together every aspect of who she is. As an experimentalist, Dr. Kamai’s research focuses on improving gravitational wave detectors with novel technology ideas. She is advancing studies of seismic and acoustic metamaterials on a path to improve the ground-based detectors, namely LIGO and Cosmic Explorer. With increased sensitivity, we will gather deeper astrophysical observations to enable precision tests of cosmology, General Relativity, and stellar evolution. Dr. Kamai cares deeply about how we do science and infuses the aloha spirit into her practice of science. She advocates on national and international advisory boards to build towards a more equitable and inclusive field of astrophysics. She is the co-founder of the Society of Indigenous Physicists and PasifikaSTEM. Dr. Kamai has received numerous awards during her career including as a National Academy of Sciences’ Kavli Frontiers of Science Fellow, Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellow, National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow, among many others. Currently, Dr. Kamai is a Heising-Simons Foundation Postdoctoral scholar with a joint appointment between the University of California, Santa Cruz and Caltech.

1 Are you an early bird or night owl?

Night Owl

2 Are you pro- or anti-pun?

Pro-pun

3 Do you have any pets?

Yes

4 Do you have any science-themed home decor?

Yes

5 Do you prefer cooking or baking?

Cooking

6 Do you prefer sweet or savory?

Savory

7 Do you speak any other languages?

I am learning ʻolelo Hawaiʻi (Hawaiian language)

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

Polynesian Navigation

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

In meteorology as a storm chaser or in oceanography

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

Hawaiʻi

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

Controlling the weather or holding my breath underwater forever

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

Hawiki Rising

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

I want to go to the ocean and go exploring underwater with my fins, paddle out as far as I can on stand-up paddle board, or go surfing.

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

Water, greens (spinach/kale), reading and writing (okay I snuck a 4th one in there)

15 What beverage gives you life?water
16 What book did you read in school that positively shaped you?

The people who hugged the trees

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

A weather forecaster or one of those people on Twister chasing tornados

18 What drives you and keeps you going?

Being in community with people who are transforming the world towards the betterment of humanity

19 What got you excited in science?

I canʻt point to a moment though I can speak what keeps me excited, which is the connection with understanding how things work around me. Thanks to physics, I feel like a superhero because I can understand the principles about how technology works and go out and test things myself.

20 What excites you about science now?

Knowing that the universe is filled with darkness and we need creative ideas to figure out what it is

21 What is a guilty pleasure of yours?

Mint oreo thins

22 What is a secret talent of yours?

being compassionate (I donʻt know if thatʻs a secret)

23 What is your favorite game?

scrabble

24 What is the last book you read?

homebody by rupi kaur

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

hear a lot of advice but only listen to yourself

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

go to the moon

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

Your lessons will come to you. Be patient. Also, donʻt waste your time with the energy vampires. Keep living it up and laughing.

28 What is the best way to de-stress?

detaching from my electronic devices and being outside

29 What is the last thing you watched?

Connected – the episode about dirt

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

wow, where do I start?

31 What is your favorite animal?

jellyfish

32 What is your favorite book?

mathematical methods in physics

33 What is your favorite comfort food?

saimin

34 What is your favorite day of the year?

new years eve eve

35 What is your favorite plant?

Kelp

36 What is your favorite science fact?

We only know what 4% of the universe is

37 What is your favorite season?

Summer

38 What is your favorite smell?

the smell of the dirt and plants after a rain

39 What is your favorite sound?

deep bass

40 What is your favorite thing about yourself?

Making the best out of any situation

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

aloha

42 What is your proudest moment?

defending my PhD thesis with a packed house of friends and family from around the world in addition to the people in both departments that raised me tuned in.

43 What kind of tree would you be?

A big noble one

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

The mountains and proximity to the ocean

45 Tell us something we probably don’t know.

Between undergraduate and graduate school, I played water polo in the Netherlands for 1 year. My team made it into the final 4 for the European league (which was unexpected) then my team mates went off to win the gold medal that year in the 2008 olympics.

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

Geraldine Cochran