NIU physics professor makes time for politics

Danny Cozzi

Not only is Michael Fortner an assistant physics professor at NIU, but he also divides his time as a state representative in the Illinois General Assembly.

Fortner received his M.S. in 1983 and his Ph. D in 1989 from Brandeis University. He has taught physics at NIU since 1993.

In 1990, Fortner volunteered politically in West Chicago, where he lived at the time. From there, his involvement in politics increased as the years progressed.

Fortner soon found himself as the mayor of West Chicago as well as an alderman, which he served as for six years.

Fortner was elected state representative of the 95th district in 2006.

Despite the commitment to both teaching and involvement in his political career, Fortner manages the two demanding careers.

During fall semesters, Fortner has a full schedule of classes and teaches full time. Come spring, however, Fortner loosens up with the university to focus on politics.

“I just teach one course, part time, during spring semester meeting one day or two days a week,” Fortner said.

With this lightened load, he is able to pay more attention to his work within the Illinois legislature.

Though they may seem different, Fortner said the two different careers complement each other.

“There are places where my physics skill sets give me unique skills with being in legislature,” Fortner said.

Fortner said the education he received in physics overlaps into his political career and helps when he is in the assembly examining documents, explaining them and handling the complex issues that follow.