The evolution of universities: Ivory tower to economic engine | Cather Simpson | TEDxAuckland

The increasing desire for students to find commercial success upon graduation has led universities to priorities this over teaching a ‘philosophy of life’. Cather Simpson explores how this became the focus of universities, and discusses her own evolution as a professor.

Once believing the purpose of universities was to generate learning and provide students with a philosophy of life, Cather now considers herself a ‘three-pillar professor’, believing universities can and should continue to do this, but also offer economic opportunities to their students when they move on into the workforce. Professor Cather Simpson, a physics and chemistry professor at the University of Auckland, wants to spark further innovation in our universities to boost economic benefit. As the director of the Photon Factory, she runs a high-tech laser lab which uses exotic pulsed lasers to help scientists from all realms and levels achieve their goals – whether to improve products in industry or even assist a science fair project.

Currently, her lab is studying anything from how molecules light into more useful forms of energy, to how to better sort sperm by sex for industry.
When she’s not enjoying using lasers to solve the knotty problems presented by Mother Nature, she’s doing puzzles with her partner Tom and being taxi-mom to two engaging teenage boys. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at

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