Helminiak is majoring in Astrophysics and Astronomy
BREVARD COUNTY • MELBOURNE, FLORIDA – Being a scholar-athlete at Florida Tech takes an incredible amount of hard work and dedication to excel both in the classroom and on the field.
In this Scholar-Athlete Spotlight, we are featuring Panther women’s swimmer Katherine Helminiak, a sophomore who is majoring in Astrophysics and Astronomy.
Originally from Sykesville, Maryland, Katherine earned her fifth career individual win at this year’s Panther Invite with a 17:23.74 in the 1650 Free.
Helminiak was named to the Sunshine State Conference Commissioner’s and Florida Tech Athletic Director’s Honor Roll following her freshman year.
Given the rigorous demands of her major and being a distance swimmer, we caught up with Katherine to talk with her about how she balances it all and the hopes she has for her team this season.
■ What’s your major at Florida Tech, and why did you choose this? Is it something that you’ve always wanted to do?
I’m an astronomy and astrophysics major, and I’ve always been fascinated with space and the stars. My parents got me a telescope when I was really young, so that kind of emphasized my love for space a lot stronger.
Then in high school, I was introduced to physics with an AP Physics class along with an astronomy class, and I realized that I wanted to pursue both as a major and astrophysics was the perfect combination of both.
■ What was it about Florida Tech that drew you here?
Well, I’m from Maryland, and so it’s a little bit cold up there. So, I definitely wanted to go warm, so south and then being on the Space Coast, being close to Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, all the stuff involved with my major, it seemed like the perfect place for me.
■ What are some of the exciting projects that you’ve been able to work on in classes here?
So far, it’s been a lot of Gen Ed’s, which have been nice to get the basis of all my studies going, and I’ve been able to take an intro to an astronomy course, as well as physics one and I’m in physics two right now.
So, it’s been a lot of basic-level courses with a lot of labs, but it’s still confirmed that I’m in the right major, which has been nice.
■ Given the demanding practice schedules, road trips, and five-month season, how do you keep everything balanced once the season starts?
Yeah, so it’s definitely a lot in terms of time to put into the whole season and the training, and even outside of the pool. But I think it does give us a lot of structure having two, if not three, practices a day.
Even though it may seem like a lot, I think personally, when we’re in the offseason and don’t have as many practices, it’s a lot harder to keep myself on a schedule.
So, I think although it is a lot to keep balanced, I think having that structure is a lot better for us in terms of time management and learning how to keep everything in line and keep on top of your schoolwork because you have to.
■ How has being a collegiate athlete prepared you for what you’re doing now, and what do you take from the pool that you apply to your studies?
I think being a swimmer and being a college athlete in general, you need a lot of time management and perseverance, and work ethic to be able to do your practices, get through practices, and also keep up your studies as a student-athlete.
I think time management is definitely one that translates, and I think also working with people on a team, as well as just having to work hard day in and day out, even when you’re tired and you don’t want to do it.
I think that’s something that’s a really great skill to have in and outside of the pool, in the workplace, and working with other people as well.
■ What advice would you give to an athlete coming to Florida Tech that has an interest in Astrophysics and Astronomy?
I’d definitely say try to test out the waters in astrophysics or astronomy or physics, just to make sure that that’s what you want to do. Also, do kind of branch out and test out the waters and maybe other fields or other classes, not just the one just to make sure that it is what you want to do because people change their minds and it’s better to know for sure early on, then later down the road when you can’t change it.
■ How do you feel about the season so far, and what expectations do you have going forward?
I’m really excited about this season. We’ve got a really great group of freshmen; they’re really quick, and the whole team in general, is a lot bigger than last year.
We’ve got a lot more depth this year as well, which is really exciting. I think based on our showing at the Panther Invitational, I’m very excited for the conference this year, especially to see
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