Faculty Assembly Representative: Leilee Chojnacki
Hello everyone, my name is Leilee!
In my academic life I have always needed to keep opening new doors, combining areas of study to feel like I’m making the most of the opportunities around me. Having plenty of stimulus helps me feel that I’m growing in the right direction. That’s why, despite starting off as an engineering student in the combined discipline of mechanical and biomedical engineering, I migrated in my early years to study biomedical physics, finally completing my undergraduate degree in astrophysics, and then pursuing a Masters degree in theoretical physics.
At OIST, I’m doing my PhD in the Theory of Quantum Matter Unit with Prof. Nic Shannon, where my work focuses on the properties of quantum magnets. The theory of magnetism is a big open playground of fascinating many-body problems, many of which are fundamentally interconnected to physical phenomena beyond magnets. Studying such problems in the context of magnetism teaches us how behaviours which emerge collectively make up the properties of not just the ordinary materials we see around us today, but also of those we would like to have more of around for a greener tomorrow. My work allows me to bring together a lot of tools, old and new, to solve challenging problems relevant for the discovery of novel superconducting materials or other exotic phases of matter, and everyday brings me one step closer to a deeper understanding of nature.
Okinawa, and OIST in particular, is a nice place to retreat and focus on making your PhD fulfilling and still achieve a meaningful work-life balance. Beyond the office, when not contemplating the inner workings of magnets, I find ways to contemplate other inner workings of nature. I have a deep love for the outdoors, which in Okinawa has manifested as my newfound appreciation for water sports. Along with the new, I continue to sustain and develop the old pursuits in my life. Being a practitioner of the fighting arts for over a decade, a practice I balance in philosophical harmony with my equally longstanding yoga practice, in my free time I enjoy sharing what I know. And if the weather allows that to happen outside, all the better for it!
On the student council, I’m this year’s Faculty Assembly Officer. My longtime involvement in teaching and my own experience as a PhD student put me in the right place to empathize with both the needs of faculty and students, and grant me some of the insight needed to help implement policy that will result in the win-win we all want on our collective path to excellence.