About Me

As a professor…

In my professional world, I am a science education, design and communications researcher interested in the social parts of science, technology and engineering. How can students feel welcome and accepted in science and technology classes and programs? How can adults feel comfortable and confident learning about new scientific and public health information? How can we invite adults and children to participate in computation and coding in public spaces?

With a background in mechanical engineering, I started my career as a junior and senior high school science teacher and I realized the complexity of the decisions that students make at that age about who they are, what matters to them and what they’re interested in. Students that I thought were excellent science would often say things to me like “Oh Miss, I’d never study science after high school. I’m just not a science person.”

Inspired by those students I returned to graduate school to do research in the sociology of science and science education. After completing an MA and PhD at the University of Toronto, I am now a professor at the University of Calgary. I do research into language, communication and identity in science both in education settings and in public communication, such as in the media, social media, and public spaces like museums and science centres. Our Mind, Matter and Media lab website (co-lead with Dr. Pratim Sengupta) has links to recent collaborative projects with the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity and Telus Spark in Calgary.

If you really want to learn more about what I do at work: MCShanahan CV

Photography and Visual Art

I am a self-taught photographer who started with a broken hand-me-down camera and film in my early twenties. I explored Toronto without a light meter, taking chances with exposures and chronicling my adventures through copious notes. After a long break to make room for a grad school, family, and cross-country move, I picked up a camera again a few years ago to explore what I have to say with it. The full-time demands of my job and caregiving responsibilities meant that my artistic practice was tied to my every day by necessity: taking photos to learn and develop while around the house or at the playground or dog park. Embracing that constraint, my work aims to capture the seemingly mundane moments that construct our lives, as I carry my camera with me and pay attention to the world around me. I don’t rely on extensive planning or setups; instead, my photos are glimpses of the world as I see and experience it.