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Samar Safi-Harb

Professor, Department of Physics & Astronomy Lead for Equity, Diversity and Community, Faculty of Science University of Manitoba 

 

And - Founder, VR:Calm. Winner - Sky Women in Technology Award

What drives me to keep going is making a real, positive impact on society through technology.

What do you do?

As a professor, I do research, teaching and service to my community. My research is in the area of high-energy astrophysics. 

 

As an astrophysicist, I research the aftermath of supernova explosions of stars—namely supernova remnants and neutron stars. These astrophysical objects are some of the most exotic and magnetic objects in the Universe allowing us to probe physics in extreme conditions unattainable on Earth. The explosions that create them disperse in the Universe the heavy elements essential for life. 

Why did you choose this field?

I fell in love in Physics when I took it in high-school, but I thought I wanted to (or should) become a medical doctor as I like to help people. So when I went to University I pursued a Physics pre-medical degree. By the end of it, I knew Physics is my passion, so I decided to pursue that and went on to do my graduate studies in (high-energy or sub-atomic) Physics, especially as I was fascinated by elementary particles. While at the University of Wisconsin-Madison trying to identify a thesis supervisor, I stumbled on a summer research project in Pulsar Astrophysics which made me love Physics even more, and so that was my way into Astrophysics! 

What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?

Mondays

4:30 pm

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Why do you love working in STEM?

Mondays

4:30 pm

 I love my job, especially the interaction with people at all levels and knowing that I can 

sometimes make a difference. I wake up looking forward to working with the next generation eager to learn new things, or wanting to be part of the amazing journey to make a discovery in space. At this stage of my career, I am also eager to work with academics and decision-makers to help the next generation (especially those coming from a diverse background or minorities) overcome barriers to go into, and enjoy, STEM. . 

Best advice for the next generation

Follow your passion. If you like any of the STEM subjects, don’t doubt yourself and 

believe you can do it. Work hard at it, be persistent (while also open-minded) and seek advice and new opportunities. 

Fun fact

This is a serious fact (!). I very much admire and look up to Jocelyn Bell Burnell who 

recently won the 2018 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics for her ‘fundamental contributions to the discovery of pulsars, and a lifetime of inspiring leadership in the scientific community’. She chose to donate all of her prize money to help women, minorities, and other members of under- represented groups to study Physics.