Alannah Hallas is an Associate Professor of Physics at the University of British Columbia whose research focuses on the growth of new quantum materials using advanced synthesis tools. We asked her everything from her admiration for Richard Feynman to her kimchi cravings in hopes of giving you a better understanding of what goes on outside the lab for one of the best minds in Canadian research.
What do you like most about being a researcher?
The best part of my job as a researcher is that creativity is central to everything we do. We get to be creative in how we design our projects and in coming up with solutions to the problems we encounter. We also get to be creative in how we share our results, from designing figures to weaving a narrative. I also love getting to work as part of a team and learning from the brilliant people around me.
What advice would you give young researchers?
Get your hands dirty as quickly as possible! Reading literature is good and important but it’s hard to make connections until you have results of your own. Keep a notebook where you write down everything you do and observe in the lab. I have notebooks going back to my first year of graduate school and still frequently refer back to them. And, of course, ask lots of questions.
What inspired you to become a researcher?
Being a researcher is the only real job I’ve ever had and it’s hard to imagine doing anything else. I’ve had fantastic mentors at every stage who always encouraged me to keep pushing forward.
What do you like to do for fun?
I love to try new food, whether that be trying out a new recipe or visiting a new restaurant. In my free time, I like to play games, especially bridge, and watch baseball.
What’s your favourite cuisine?
Lately, I can’t get enough Korean food and find myself craving kimchi all the time.
If you could do any profession other than your own what would it be?
A graphic designer. I can get really carried away trying to make attractive and useful figures for papers and talks.
If you could meet any historical figure, who would it be and why?
I would love to get a beer with Richard Feynman. He revolutionized how scientists communicate with the public. Most physicists I know have been inspired by Feynman, whether it be his memoirs, his famous lectures, or his interviews, at some point along their journey.