By Elise Coby
Erin Brady, a High Point University graduate from 2019, recently joined the university’s staff as the new manager of the Culp Planetarium and the physics laboratories in the Wanek School of Natural Sciences.
As manager of these new additions to HPU, Brady has a wide range of jobs and responsibilities.
“I’m responsible for setting up labs during the week for the introductory-level classes’ professors, based on what they’re doing, keeping it all organized and helping them find things,” said Brady. “Over the summer, it’s more on the development side, so if they want to make new labs for classes, I’m here to help them decide on equipment and test out their procedures.”
Before Brady’s return to the university, she worked with educational outreach programs with the National Science Foundation.
“I worked for Dr. Brad Barlow (assistant professor of astrophysics) over the summer,” said Brady. “He received a grant through the NSF, and part of that was for an educational outreach called LASER: Learning Astronomy through Service and Research. I helped him write up labs that HPU students will take to middle schoolers and high schoolers to teach them how to do astronomy with an online telescope located in Chile.”
Brady has given planetarium shows at events, like those during both Presidential Scholars weekends and for local retirement homes such as Pennybyrn and River Landing.
“I’m still starting out, but I’ve been able to give several shows so far,” said Brady. “We’re still on the developmental side of the shows, so we’ll be moving more into that with this coming semester.”
Brady is interested and excited about upcoming opportunities with the planetarium and how to utilize it.
“I am excited that there are endless possibilities of what we can do and how far we can reach,” said Brady. “So far, we’ve had a theatre production take place in the planetarium, and we’re looking to create more shows that are interdisciplinary. We’re trying to work with all the departments on campus to see how we can fit their needs in our space and find that overlap to make the planetarium an educational tool for everyone.”
Brady’s recent hiring made her feel as if she came home to the HPU community.
“It was weird, at first, coming back to campus on the other side,” said Brady. “It’s taken some time to adjust, especially coming back to the department I graduated from, but it’s also been one of the greatest aspects. I get to work with all these familiar faces and help them with other students just as they helped me. It’s been great.”
HPU’s STEM departments (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) experienced substantial growth over the past few years.
“I’m excited to see how much the programs have grown since I was a student here,” said Brady. “I think it’s great that all these opportunities are becoming available because these are growing fields.”
Brady shared some advice for students with science-related majors.
“It’s going to be a lot of work, and you’re going to have to put in the hours, but many people are supporting you,” said Brady. “You will find a community of students who stick together through tough times. The professors also have your best interest in mind. They are more than willing to sit down with you to help you with any problems that you’re facing inside and outside of the classroom, related to science.”
Brady also discussed her time as an HPU student and what made her successful.
“What made me most successful was being open to different ideas,” said Brady. ”You have to have an open mindset with learning new concepts. I came in hating physics, and I wanted to major in graphic design. I took a science class that was about physics for video games, and I did well. I loved it, so I had a conversation with the professor and added a major. Be open to taking that risk of changing something in your life, depending on what you like, and be open to the possibility of discovering something that you might not have thought was possible.”
Brady encourages students to be adventurous with their studies because they may find a pleasantly surprising path.