Texas Tech University

Physics Major Passionate for Project Management Establishes Exchange Program

Glenys Young

May 29, 2020

Heather Harbin won one of the Texas Tech Parents Association’s Student Academic Leadership Awards.

In February, Texas Tech University and the Texas Tech Parents Association announced the 2020 Student Academic Leadership Award recipients to honor outstanding students who excel both in and out of the classroom. We are highlighting Texas Tech University students who were recognized.

Heather Harbin has a lot riding on her shoulders. In addition to all the normal student things, like classes and homework, the junior physics major is in charge of establishing Texas Tech University as the U.S. mainland's first site for an international exchange program through the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO).


During the 10 weeks she spent as a summer intern with the NRAO's National and International Non-Traditional Exchange (NINE) Program, Harbin studied project management and programming tools. At the end, she brought her newfound knowledge back to Texas Tech and put it into action. She is now managing the establishment of Texas Tech as a NINE hub and planning a new, hands-on astronomy course focused on data science and programming.

Along the way, she has discovered a passion for project management. After pursuing her master's degree in business administration, she aspires to become a project manager for NASA or an observatory.

For her efforts, Harbin recently received one of the Texas Tech Parents Association's Student Academic Leadership Awards.

How are you a leader in the classroom?
By being enrolled in a STEM major, I am among a minority of women in my courses. I'd like to think that by being a physics major, I am at least indirectly inspiring other women to explore the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields as well.

Harbin poses with the Green Bank Telescope in Green Bank, West Virginia.

How are you a leader outside the classroom?
I am directly involved in an effort to help improve the Texas Tech astrophysics curriculum while also establishing a strong network between Texas Tech and the NRAO.

Why did you select your major?
I selected my major because I have a natural curiosity about space and like to challenge myself.

How do you intend to use your education in the future?
I plan on pursuing a career in project management, particularly in the area of astrophysics. My background in physics and astronomy will provide me an understanding of the projects I manage, so I can be more effective at my job.

How has Texas Tech helped you along the path to those goals?
Texas Tech has provided me with a variety of opportunities, such as attending research symposiums and conferences, as well as summer internships. My internship last summer is actually what guided me to project management.

Who has had the biggest impact on you, and why?
My research mentor, Alessandra Corsi, has had the biggest impact on me during my time here at Texas Tech. She not only guides me toward wonderful opportunities, but she inspires me constantly by her hard work and her kindness.

Is there anything else you'd like to add?
I'd like to tell people that they shouldn't be afraid of branching out from what they know, and that it is necessary to do what is right for themselves. College is a time to explore your strengths and weaknesses, and if you happen to find that what you started with no longer suits you, that isn't a negative thing. It's actually quite positive, because it means you have the self-awareness to know what is and what isn't good for you. Ultimately, you need to do what makes you happy. After all, that's kind of the point, isn't it?