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March 1, 2021

Dr. Sheila Kannappan is a Professor in the Physics and Astronomy Department and has been working at UNC for 14 years. She serves as the Associate Chair for Diversity & Mentoring in her department and actively supports women and minorities in STEM and academia generally through her efforts.

Dr. Kannappan’s research seeks to understand the evolution of galaxies and the larger cosmic structures in which they live. She has leadership roles in several international surveys combining multi-wavelength data from radio to x-rays and theoretical modeling of both large-scale galaxy environments and the detailed gas and stellar composition of galaxies. She loves learning and constantly expands her knowledge, recently picking up on new techniques in data science and exploring new subfields within astrophysics.

As a woman in science, Dr. Kannappan has not always been respected or included by default in her field. However, she’s used it to her advantage, learning to place less weight on whether or not her ideas will be accepted by the mainstream and bringing a dictinctive approach to science. “In each new area of research I get into, I bring fresh perspectives and chart my own course,” she says. “It is satisfying to contribute something unique to science that perhaps others would have missed.” When asked what advice she would give to other women scientists, she said to think critically about the advice you get and to place more emphasis on the people who believe in you and will tell you honestly what it will take to achieve your dreams. Furthermore, she said to help other underrepresented scientists, as your scientific impact will be magnified by each individual you help.