Darian Everding is no stranger to the word challenge. In fact that should be her middle name. At a young age Darian knew that she wanted to be challenged with her career and that is exactly why she chose to be a Physics major at the University of Northern Iowa.
“I get asked that question a lot, why did you choose physics? Physics is hard. That is exactly why I chose it actually. Because when I was in high school I went through all the way to my junior year and had decided that I wanted to be an English teacher. And that was awesome. But as I went through my senior year, I wasn’t challenged.”
It was during her senior year when Darian realized that English was not the right fit for her. She took a physics test that same week.
“If you have ever studied anything that has to deal with electronics, it is confusing. I was really hung up on voltage. I took that exam and for the first time EVER, ever, ever, I completely failed something. I got like a 38% on the exam. It wasn’t even close. As a student I never had been confronted with challenge and don’t know how to handle it. I broke down and started crying because I didn’t know what to do. My teacher was like, “you know, you messed up, but you know it and I know you know it.
So he stayed after school with me and we did after school meetings for a couple of weeks and he let me retake the exam. I didn’t ace it, I got mid 80’s which I was very proud of because that was coming from an absolute fail. I was continually challenged throughout the year.”
Darian graduated as one of the valedictorians of her class and had her mind made up on attending an Ivy League school.
“I was already deciding between Brown and Princeton, and I had not even applied or been accepted. I humored Celeste Bembry by saying I would go take a tour of UNI. And when I got to UNI, and I know this is going to sound cliché, but it felt right. It felt like home. I met the people and saw what they were doing with physics and I knew that I would continually be challenged.”
One of Darian’s favorite courses at UNI so far has been Physics III. Physics III is about programming and using systems. It was during this class when Darian discovered that there was nothing she couldn’t accomplish.
“It was three days before an exam was due and I was up way too late trying to come up with some sort of idea of what I could do with gravitational motion and forces. I was reading a story about Comet ISON, the comet that came really close to the sun and I’m looking and then it clicked, I can just model that! And I’m like that is what NASA is doing. They are modeling the motion of this comet. It was daunting it was huge, I needed to find the angles, the speed, how fast it is traveling, and the mass. I needed to know all of these things. The day the exam was due I had my final product. Everyone said this is going to miss the sun and will go back out into the solar system, I don’t think that is true. I really think it is going to hit the sun and it is a comet of ice, it is going to melt. And I said that before NASA said that and sure enough through my exploration of modeling I came to the conclusion that ISON was going to burn up and hit the sun. And it burned up and hit the sun on its way around. There is no more comet ISON in the solar system. It was so cool and it was because I was challenged to find something I could know how to do even though I didn’t think I knew I could do it. But that was my favorite moment in physics. It was something that seemed so far out there and I was shown that even though no one was there to hold my hand I know enough to tackle complicated problems and it was awesome.”
During her free time, Darian loves to read and she has two bunnies that she takes care of, Penelope and Norman, and recently added two cats, Cricket and Charlie.
“I love my fur babies and they definitely make life complete in the sense that I get to care for something else.”
In the future Darian is not entirely sure where the road will take her. She does know that her dream job would to be the next Bill Nye.
“I want to be like Bill Nye, that would be my dream, where you can be that face, or voice for kids interested in STEM.”
Her advice to a future panther is, “One of the key elements of being a scientist or a STEM person is pushing questions and buttons until you know. There are some things we won’t know but when it comes to seeking answers you get the chance to do that at UNI. The people here are great. I guess the big things is if you think you have interest in STEM don’t be afraid to go ask for opportunities to explore. You need to fight for yourself. You are your biggest advocate. Go fight for it.”