Meet Melanie

Hi! I am Melanie and I graduated from Ball State in May of 2021 with majors in both physics and astronomy, along with a minor in Spanish. I also collect houseplants!

Tell us about your current job. Day-to-day? Any long-term projects?

In August of this year, I was hired as the Planetarium Show Specialist at the Brown Planetarium here on campus. I now present private and public planetarium programs to school groups, community groups, and the public on an almost daily basis. When I am not presenting shows, I am working to improve the accessibility of planetariums with my research into the communities surrounding informal science centers in the U.S. The results of this research will allow these facilities to better serve their communities.

Describe your career path. How did you get where you are?

I was fortunate to have been hired shortly after graduation. As an incoming freshman, I was certain that I wanted to work as a researcher in astrophysics. Shortly after I began working for the planetarium, all of that changed. During my time as a student at Ball State, I worked as a planetarium assistant, lab assistant, and tutor. These jobs introduced me to careers in science communication.

How have you grown and learned in the successive roles that lead you to your current position?

As a student at Ball State, I worked as a planetarium assistant at the Brown Planetarium. In time, I was exposed to the ins and outs of daily planetarium operations. My last year of college, I took a Planetarium Operations course that provided me further insight into the larger, overarching projects that go on behind the scenes. Projects that take serious amounts of time and effort, yet they go on nearly unnoticed until their completion. The outcomes of these projects, such as high-quality planetarium show production, advertisement and art design, grant writing, and more, are extraordinary. My exposure to these projects at my previous job made me want to be a part of one and see the process through from beginning to end. I am now working on doing just that at my current position! 

What is the most fulling part of your job?

The most fulfilling part of my job is the creativity that the planetarium not only permits, but requires.

Informal learning centers offer so much more than an ordinary classroom can. I see the effect of this every day, and the community engagement aspect of the job keeps me inspired to continue my work. This connection with the community creates a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere for conversation between people who are curious about the cosmos. I work to educate guests of the planetarium and I often find myself learning just as much from them!

What are the most valuable skills you learned as a Ball State College of Sciences and Humanities student? How have they helped you?

I learned a lot about teamwork as a student in the College of Sciences and Humanities. Studying physics requires a lot of dedication to problem solving with homework assignments, laboratory experiments, and observational astronomy.

Working with a team is essential to success in science. It takes a lot of dedicated and extraordinary people to make big scientific breakthroughs happen.

Were there any professors, classes, or professional opportunities that had particularly significant impacts on you?

Working at the Brown Planetarium was the best experience I could have hoped for as a student. For many students in physics and astronomy, it can be difficult to find career opportunities without a higher education degree. As a student, I was able to apply what I was learning in my classes to my work and my work helped solidify the fundamental concepts in physics and astronomy that I was learning as a student.

What advice do you have for current or future Physics and Astronomy students who may hope to follow your career path?

Don’t give up!

Science can be very challenging at times, but it is at the most challenging moments that breakthroughs happen. Get involved as much as you can. Science is so broad and there may be opportunities or areas of study that are made for you that you’ve never even heard of yet.

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