Alumni in Focus: Professor Phiala Shanahan

Phiala Shanahan

Your career path in two sentences or less?
I grew up in Adelaide and studied both undergraduate and postgraduate physics at the University of Adelaide. After my PhD, I moved to the United States, where after some postdoctoral work I am now a professor of physics at MIT.

What are your hobbies?
Being outdoors and hiking, camping, climbing rock and ice, mountaineering

Favourite place to eat when in Adelaide? 
My parents’ house.

If I could go back to my University days I would...
Do it all over again and enjoy it just as much as I did last time.

Most prized possession? 
A Schwibbogen (German candle arch) that I bought with the honorarium from my first professional talk.

I can’t get enough of...

Something that makes you smile?
Seeing my students click when they understand a new physics concept.

Something you are grateful for?
My teachers throughout life.

If I could pursue a different career I would…
Be an Astronaut.

The most valuable lesson I have learned?
To surround yourself with inspiring and insightful people.

I cannot get through the day without...

Three words your closest friends would use to describe you?
I asked a friend, who said insightful, determined, and joyful.

Your definition of success?
When your job and your favourite hobby are the same thing.

My mother taught me...
To pay attention to detail.

Biggest career highlight?
Being hired as the youngest professor of physics at MIT, my dream job.

2021 is the year I will...
Explore some of the most remote parts of the Alaskan wilderness.

How I relax?
Reading new books or revisiting old favourites.

When I get home the first thing I do is...
Eat and unwind.

The biggest risk I have taken?
Leaving Australia.

A misconception about you?
That I always knew I wanted to be a scientist.

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