Like many first time returning alumni, Shannon Swilley Greco ‘96 was impressed by what she saw as she toured the LAS campus. Even though it had been twenty-two years, she pointed out the location in the Savoy dining hall where she ate her meals. She talked about her faculty family, the Fiedlers, and her favorite teacher still on campus, Mr. Skove. When the tour reached the Belle Epoque campus, or “the off-limits college,” as she remembered, we walked past the science laboratories and she lit up. A series of questions and stories later, and it was clear that labs were where she had found her calling.
Shannon didn’t plan to become a science educator, it happened serendipitously. After being exposed to the international community at LAS and graduating, she studied International Relations at the University of Arizona. This led to a semester abroad in Mali, several years of post-university travel, and frequent stays on her mother’s couch taking temporary employment at Princeton University to fund the ongoing adventure.
As often happens in life, Shannon eventually settled into a routine, met her husband, Scott, started a family, and before long had spent 11 years as the Education Outreach Coordinator of the Princeton Center for Complex Materials, a National Science Foundation supported research center at the university. Shannon loved everything about it and educating people about science had become her passion.
With the encouragement of her supervisor, Shannon got her master’s in science education and eventually secured another science education position at the university. This time she began working at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, managed by the US Department of Energy. Shannon brought a unique perspective to the position and, as a “non-scientist” and parent, she was able to present advanced concepts in a fun and approachable way to help her audience understand them.
Shannon enjoys the science life so much she has taken her programs to the local community. She has started two girls’ Lego robotics teams at the YMCA Princeton, an internship program with Northstar Academy in Newark, and an energy camp for Trenton High School. Her enthusiasm and hard work were recognized in 2015 when YMCA Princeton named her one of their “women of excellence.”
As our tour wound to a close, I knew one thing for sure: next time I’m in Princeton I’m visiting Shannon at the PPPL. If you are in the neighborhood, I suggest you do the same.
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