Man earns PhD, fulfills dream of becoming a physicist – at age 89


EAST PROVIDENCE, RI (AP) – An 89-year-old Rhode Island man has achieved the goal he’s spent two decades working towards and almost a lifetime thinking about – earning his Ph. and become a physicist.

Manfred Steiner recently successfully defended his thesis at Brown University in Providence. Steiner treasures this degree because it’s what he’s always wanted – and because he overcame health issues that could have derailed his studies.

“But I did, and this is the most gratifying point of my life, getting it done,” he said Wednesday at his home in East Providence.

As a teenager in Vienna, Steiner was inspired to become a physicist after reading about Albert Einstein and Max Planck. He admired the precision of physics.

But after the Second World War, his mother and uncle advised him that medical school would be a better option in turbulent times. He obtained his medical degree from the University of Vienna in 1955 and moved to the United States just a few weeks later, where he enjoyed a successful career in the study of blood and blood disorders.

Steiner studied hematology at Tufts University and biochemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before becoming a hematologist at Brown University. He became a full professor and led the hematology department of the medical school at Brown from 1985 to 1994.

Steiner helped establish a hematology research program at the University of North Carolina, which he led until his retirement in 2000 and moving back to Rhode Island.

Steiner and his wife Sheila, 93, have been married since 1960. They have two children and six grandchildren. He will be celebrating his 90th birthday this month.

Steiner finds medical research satisfying, but it doesn’t quite match his passion for physics.

“It was something like a wish that was never granted, always stuck in my head,” he said. “I always thought, you know, once I’m done with my meds, I really don’t want to spend my life just sitting around and maybe playing a little golf or something like that. I want to continue working. ”

At the age of 70, he began taking college classes at Brown, one of the Ivy League universities. He had planned to take a few courses that interested him, but by 2007 he had accumulated enough credits to apply for a Ph. program.

Physics professor Brad Marston was skeptical when Steiner entered his quantum mechanics class. Marston had taught fellows in his 40s, but never in his 70s. Then he realized how serious Steiner was on the subject and how hard he worked. any.

Marston became Steiner’s advisor for his thesis.

“He has written many articles in medical science, more articles than I have written in the field of physics. He had a scientific way of thinking that young students had to develop,” Marston said this week. “And any research problem worth its salt, you run into roadblocks. If you let obstacles discourage you, you will get nowhere. One thing that is really true about Manfred is that he is persistent. ”

Steiner defended her thesis in September after recovering from a serious medical condition.

In his thesis, he explores how electrons inside conductive metals behave in a quantum mechanism and how fermions can transform into bosons in their behavior. He’s working with Marston on a vaccination paper they want to publish.

Steiner now hopes to help, with their research, the professors he has befriended in the course of his research.

“I am not looking for a paid job. I got over that,” he said, laughing.

The Guinness Book of World Records says a 97-year-old man in Germany in 2008 was the oldest person to earn a doctorate, while news reports describe even older people pursuing such degrees. .

Although he was not the oldest, the attention was still intense. Brown University featured Steiner on its website after he earned his PhD, and people across the country have reached out to him for advice on pursuing their dreams later in life. Steiner told an aspiring mathematician, 57, “In general, you’re still a young man, do math.”

He said his advice is: Do what you love to do.

“Go for it because later on, when you grow up, you might regret not doing it,” he says. “You wish you could chase this dream.” | Man earns PhD, fulfills dream of becoming a physicist – at age 89


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