An award for what you love

Photo by Will Huang

Photo by Will Huang

Shohini Ghose doesn’t view teaching as a job — she views it as a privilege.

So when the physics and computer science professor at Wilfrid Laurier University claimed the prize for education at the Women of Waterloo Region Awards, she said she felt honoured to be acknowledged for something that is fun for her.

“I get to take my students on this journey of discovery about how the universe works. It’s like being a detective, and helping students solve this nice, interesting mystery – the ultimate grand mystery,” she said.

“That’s a privilege to be able to share my passion, so to me it’s really not a job.”

Last week, nearly 400 people attended the awards, where Ghose and seven other women were honoured for their achievements in entrepreneurship, health, science and technology, creative arts, professional service and more.

Ghose started teaching at Laurier in 2005 after seeing a job posting for people with expertise in chaos, quantum information or optics.

“It was [for] one of them and I had all three, so it felt right.”

Her research focuses on quantum physics specializing in quantum information science.

However, she also has extensive experience with quantum optics and chaos theory in relation to quantum physics.
In other words, she was a perfect fit for the job.

Ghose has taught first-year astronomy, however she now predominantly teaches upper-year courses in quantum physics and quantum computing.

Rather than regurgitating information to students, she takes a much different approach to their learning.

“I want my students to be engaged in a way so that they are the ones who are unraveling the puzzle and working through to the ideas,” she said.

“It’s about how do they learn to learn? How do they get those skills where they ask the right questions — or any questions — and how do they approach how to answer those questions themselves.”

In addition to teaching at Laurier, Ghose is also an affiliate at the Perimeter Institute for theoretical physics, a TED fellow, has co-authored a textbook and began the Centre for Women in Science at Laurier, which started in 2012.

Ghose is involved in substantial outreach for women in the sciences — encouraging women in science who face biases and inequality.

She herself faced bias in school, when many of her professors assumed she was a man when she handed in papers.
So, for her to win an award honouring the contributions of women is significant.

“This is an amazing group of women to be a part of, and Waterloo Region is full of incredible women doing incredible things,” she said.

“On one hand I find this is an incredible honour, on the other hand picking out one or two, or [eight] in this case is not enough. There’s too many incredible women doing incredible work that don’t get acknowledged but they’re out there.”

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