Fast Forward Girls: Astrophysicist Erika Hamden

Fast Forward Girls: Astrophysicist Erika Hamden

GoldieBlox teamed up with the If/Then Initiative to bring you the YouTube series Fast Forward Girls. The show follows the journey of young women as they learn about STEAM in the real world by immersing themselves in it with the help of leading female innovators. In the Fast Forward Girls Spotlight, we take a moment to get to know those innovators a little bit better.

Did you know that you can have a job building telescopes? Neither did astrophysics professor Erika Hamden until her senior year of college! Erika did know from a young age, however, that she was enthralled with space.

When she was only six or seven years old, Erika’s mom told her about a competition on TV to rename the Big Bang. As just a first grader, the Big Bang hadn’t yet been introduced to Erika’s curriculum. But that didn’t stop her! Erika remembers grabbing the family Encyclopedia and reading about space and how the Sun is the center of the Solar System, and she was sold!

Erika’s story is also one about adaptability and learning from one’s experiences. After two and a half months at MIT, Erika dropped out of school… but she says it was the best thing that ever happened to her. Instead of focusing on what others expected of her, Erika learned to do what makes her happy and really think about what she cares about.

“What keeps me excited is that there are so many things that we don’t know,” Erika said. “There’s so much stuff. The universe is so awesome and weird and mysterious, and we know like a tiny, tiny fraction of all the things that there are to know. And I want to know all of those things. I want to know everything!”

Watch the spotlight below to learn more about Erika’s journey to becoming an astrophysics professor at the University of Arizona, including working as a chef before grad school! And don’t forget to tune in to Fast Forward Girls: The GEM Sisters Miss Space Challenge to see her work in action!

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