After earning a valuable scholarship to attend Wittenberg University, Erin Kapp arrived with a love of writing and thoughts of pursuing a career as a park ranger or a marine biologist. In four years, she found she could have it all at Wittenberg.
"I was going to major in creative writing until physics came along and stole my interest," Kapp said. "I didn't have a clue. I took a physics class and liked it, so I took another and told myself, 'if I do okay in this,' and I couldn't stop. I learned that I really liked science."
Her interest and academic success led to a double major in English and physics, along with the opportunity to find friends who were similarly entranced by how things work. Admittedly shy when she came to campus, Kapp said she has since gained comfort with herself.
"I'm less afraid not to be good at things," she said. She tried swing dancing and loved it, becoming an active member of the Swing Dance Club. She also found student employment in the Solution Center, the important point of access for questions about Wittenberg's Computing Services.
Kapp credits Associate Professor of Physics Paul Voytas with cultivating her fascination with electrodynamics and astronomy. Her interest in both led to activities both in and outside the classroom as she tutored students and served as president of the Astronomy Club, where she enjoyed a group of students that knew each other well and shared common interests and experiences.
An opportunity to fulfill her community service requirement at the planetarium in Pittsburgh, Pa., suited the young scientist perfectly.
"It was awesome," Kapp exclaimed. "I would run the equipment and present one-half hour live star shows to 150 people."
She also participated in a Wittenberg summer field study course in the United Kingdom titled "The Roots of 21st Century Science," said to be "the first and only course of its kind where the students studied the origin and development of two fields of 21st-century science – the life sciences and electromagnetic telecommunications."
"The UK program was an awesome experience," she said. "It really made science real rather than abstract, actually seeing how science evolved."
The experience increased Kapp's awareness of how important it is to help the general public understand science and how things work. She knows she wants to blend her dual loves of writing and science.
To continue preparing for her future with these goals in mind, Kapp plans to go to graduate school to earn a master's degree in communication.
"As a science writer, I can communicate to the public how things work, especially in physics and astronomy," Kapp said. "Magazines such as Scientific American continue to help people understand scientific research. They don't dummy-down, they explain the facts relative to the science and why people should care."
- Written by Phyllis Eberts
- Photo by Erin Pence