People

Shannon Curry, A'04

Shannon Curry

"For the first time, I saw the world in a completely different way and could discuss that with really fantastic, thoughtful people." (Shannon Curry)

Current occupation:
I am currently a post-doc at UC Berkeley in the Spaces Sciences Laboratory working on NASA's next Mars Scout- MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN).

How do you use your physics background and training in your line of work?
Physics is part of my daily life because my primary area of research is developing computer simulations of planetary atmospheres. The solar system environment, specifically the interaction of the Sun or a star with a planetary atmosphere, is really complex; building a simulation that describes it well requires bringing a number of different areas of physics together (plasma physics, fluid dynamics, radiative transfer and electromagnetism). Learning how to solve problems with physics is incredibly rewarding, and we are really lucky to live in an era of technology where we can actually 'test' how physics works in space by taking in-situ measurements at places like Mars and Venus.

Did the Tufts physics department prepare you for your current career path?
It absolutely did- in fact I wish I had taken better notes because when I began my PhD 4 years later, there was no transition period and we were expected to have a really solid base from day 1. In addition to the academics, I really appreciated the research opportunities that Tufts provided or encouraged. My research as an undergraduate was actually at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics using Chandra data (with the encouragement of my adviser, Austin Napier) since not many of the faculty at that point were doing data analysis in x-ray astrophysics. Starting research as early as possible was enormously helpful later on in graduate school and now as a research scientist!

What is your favorite memory of your time in the Tufts physics department?
I really, really enjoyed taking Modern Physics with Gary Goldstein and Quantum Mechanics with Roger Tobin the same semester. For the first time, I saw the world in a completely different way and could discuss that with really fantastic, thoughtful people. I also remember taking astrophysics classes with Bill Waller and he had incredible stories about observing that inspired me to spend a semester near Kitt Peak.