Swan was the first graduate student to win both the Wayne B. Nottingham Prize and the Morton M. Traum Award, given for outstanding thesis research in surface science. Swan won the Nottingham Prize, named in honor of Professor Nottingham of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for Most Outstanding Graduate Student Paper at the 1993 Physical Electronics Conference. She received the Traum Award, honoring Dr. Traum of AT&T Bell Laboratories, for the Best Graduate Student Paper at the 1993 American Vacuum Society National Symposium.
She also received the Presidential University Graduate Fellowship Award at Boston University, where she received a doctoral degree in physics in 1993, and a Sweden-America Foundation Scholarship. Her undergraduate degree in engineering physics was obtained from Chalmers University in Göteborg, Sweden.
At ORNL, Swan conducts research on the atomic-scale structures and properties of surfaces. Currently, she is studying the growth modes of ultrathin metal films, using a high-resolution low-energy electron diffraction (LEED) instrument, which provides statistical information about surface structures. She plans to combine this with scanning tunneling microscopy, a technique that provides detailed local information. The tunneling microscope and LEED instrument "are perfect complements," Swan said.
During Swan's thesis research at Boston University, she worked in a related area of surface science. DOE's Division of Materials Sciences sponsored her thesis research, in which she developed a new experimental technique for examining magnetic structure of surfaces.
The Oak Ridge National Laboratory, one of the Department of Energy's multiprogram national research and development facilities, is managed by Martin Marietta Energy Systems Inc., which also manages the Oak Ridge K-25 Site and the Oak Ridge Y-12 Plant.