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Michelle Shinn, Ph.D.

Michelle Shinn, Ph.D.

2019 Distinguished Alumni

B.S. Physics '78, M.S. Physics '80, Ph.D. Physics '83

Dr. Michelle Shinn was born and raised in Oklahoma and earned her bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees at OSU.


Shinn joined Lawrence Livermore National in early 1984, working in the laser division until 1990. While there, she and her small team built a laser using radioactive trivalent promethium, one of the few times a radioactive laser has been created.


In the summer of 1990, Shinn joined the faculty at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania as an associate professor of physics, putting the best practices she learned at OSU to use. She planned a long career in academia, but the opportunity to be involved in cutting-edge laser research proved to be a siren call she couldn’t ignore. In 1995, she joined the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility as a staff scientist. She led another small team to develop and operate the optical systems for three revolutionary free-electron lasers working from the ultraviolet into the infrared, as this time the Upgrade FEL remains the world’s highest average power tunable ultrafast laser at any wavelength. During the two decades she was at JLab, she was promoted to chief optical scientist. While in academia and at JLab, she mentored many summer research undergraduate students.


Driven by a singular, personal question, “How do I make the world better?” and the call to benefit the nation in a tangible way led her to federal service, and in early 2016, she joined the Department of Energy Office of Nuclear Physics. As the program manager for industrial concepts, she is responsible for the NP Small Business Innovative Research Program. There she works to strengthen ties with industry and the nuclear physics community in order to foster the development of commercial applications arising from nuclear physics research.


Shinn has been the author or co-author of over 135 publications. She was elected to a fellowship in the American Physical Society for her contribution in the applications of laser in society. A “Child of why?”, she finds time to do public outreach on a variety of physics subjects that are in the popular press, such as dark matter and energy, or what the detection of binary neutron star mergers tells us about the creation of precious metals. She also enjoys amateur astronomy, beekeeping, history musicology and the outdoors.

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