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89 Year Old Completes PhD in Physics!

Manfred Steiner, 89, recently earned his Ph.D. in physics from Brown University.

On September 15, 2021, Steiner successfully defended his Ph.D. dissertation, “Corrections to the Geometrical Interpretation of Bosonization” in Brown University’s Department of Physics with Professor Brad Marston serving as his adviser and Professors James Valles and Antal Jevicki serving as readers.

“It’s an old dream that starts in my childhood,” says Steiner, “I always wanted to become a physicist.”

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When Steiner moved permanently to the U.S. from Vienna, he focused on medicine and hematology, training at Tufts University and MIT. He then became a professor at Brown and led the hematology section in the university’s medical school.

It was only after Steiner retired from his career in medicine in 2000 that he finally started to pursue physics. He started taking classes at MIT.

He said he had to do a lot of physics classes at MIT before being allowed to start graduate studies. He transferred to Brown, to minimize his commute.

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Steiner worked slowly — he’s a grandfather who likes to spend with his family, and health issues have been a concern — but the credits kept piling up. And before long, Steiner was eyeing yet another Ph.D.

“You know, it took a long time,” he said. “There were medical problems in between that were very serious. But fortunately, I’m here now and I’ve overcome these problems.”

In a press release by Brown University, they said, “But even with two Ph.D.’s, an M.D. and a distinguished career in medicine behind him, Steiner is not prepared to rest on his laurels. He is currently reworking part of his dissertation for publication and plans to continue his theoretical physics work.”

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“Even though I am old, I would like to continue with physics. And even after writing and publishing this paper, I want to continue my research.”  Keeping going is consistent with Steiner’s approach to life, and he believes he still has more to offer. Steiner says, “I always tried to keep my brain sharp. Physics certainly helped me do that.”

Steiner admits he sometimes wonders how his life might have gone differently if he had not heeded his mother and uncle’s advice as a young man, “I do sometimes wonder how things might have gone differently,” he says.

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“I do not really regret it now. It was a good life and I made many great friends. It felt very good, particularly after I got my Ph.D. and worked in academic medicine. But physics always lurked in the background.”

“It’s my third doctorate, but this one I really cherish a lot. That I made it — and made it at this age,” said Steiner.

Read more news here at the East County Gazette. 

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