Arts & Culture / Mosaic / January 27, 2016

Haurberg merges love of physics and punk rock

Punk rock found Assistant Professor of Physics Nathalie Haurberg early on; she fondly recalls doing things considered “distinctly punk” even before she knew what that meant. She was sent home from school on the first day of first grade for being too distracting Ñ six-year-old Haurberg had pushed all of her short hair (which she had cut herself), up into a mohawk. She attributed this to it being the 80s, primetime for self-expression in the form of rock ‘n roll.

Currently, punk has manifested its magic in Haurberg’s edgy, choppy haircut, former lip piercing and sleeve of vibrant, graphic tattoos.

“Since I was 13, I’ve never not had a time when I’ve been into punk,” she said.

Haurberg fell into punk rock by listening to other bands that had punk influences. She recalled buying the “London Calling” album by The Clash, thinking it was the weirdest thing she had ever heard, but loving it, and learning about Goldfinger and No Effects from her older brother. Typing “punk rock” into Napster (a peer-to-peer online music sharing website) led her to a whole new world of music, where she listened to and downloaded whatever she liked. Her defining moment came in a Hot Topic, where she found a $10 CD of 45 various punk rock songs, followed by a Napster surf of all listings under “punk.”

“I was sold. Then I started learning that there were things in there I politically agreed with, and things I didn’t,” she said. In punk rock, there seemed to be a general discussion of issues that other music didn’t tackle, which she found alluring, and appreciated.

In 1999, Haurberg taught herself to play the guitar, and with a fellow high school punk rocker, formed a band. “We had no idea what we were doing, but wanted to make sounds we didn’t hate,” she recalled.

Haurberg discussed punk rock with a maturity that only comes from a deep understanding and long-term love of a concept. She believes that a lot of the general opinion about punk rock music comes from it being misunderstood. According to Haurberg, yes it is about rebellion, but it also encompasses more than that.

Haurberg is intrigued by the idea of the punk subculture being considered violent, pointing out that because this music and this lifestyle has manifested itself “in a very in-your-face way” we have concluded that it is negative or dangerous.

“We’ll call this music where people are just banging around and yelling and making a racket violent, but we don’t call the prison system violent,” she said, suggesting that punk is an idea that doesn’t allow you to pretend to be something you aren’t.

Punk has grown to mean different things for Haurberg over the 20 years she has been involved with it, and it has kept her passion alive to always be learning. She became vegan after she learned about animal rights, influenced by punk, which she believes has fueled a lot of activism.

“I learned about a lot of things politically through bands I was listening to who talked about these things, like oppression, for one. I learned about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through punk initially, and it’s how I became interested in a lot of other issues,” Haurberg said. “I wouldn’t really be me without it.”

This passion extends to her affinity for physics and astronomy, as well, which she knew she wanted to do since the fourth grade. Coming to Knox solidified this desire, when Haurberg took classes with Professor of Physics Chuck Schulz, graduating cum laude with a Physics major and Political Science minor. She went on to pursue her Masters and PhD at Indiana University, and found herself back at Knox, this time on the other side.

Having had an enjoyable and fulfilling time at Knox as a student, where she was labelled ‘that punk girl,’ Haurberg admits that she was still nervous coming back.

“There really was no reason not to,” Haurberg said, coming back to discover that the change was not as big as she’d thought. “I know more about the other side now than I did when I was here as a student. My old teachers are now my peers; we speak differently but it’s not really a huge difference.” Haurberg believes the liberal community of the college allows for students and professors to maintain comfortable relationships, which also extends to occasionally playing music with her students.

Regarding her love for astronomy, Haurberg said, “There’s really no other way I can put it: It is just so cool. I still like looking up at the sky on a clear night, I still like the basics, as much as I love everything else.” Haurberg prefers teaching Introductory Astronomy, as it allows for her to reach out to people who have little science background, if any, and allows her to introduce them to a new concept, in keeping with what she loves most about Knox.

“The thing I love about the people here and what brings you to Knox is the wanting to learn, seeking understanding of the world,” Haurberg said. “These things make teaching astronomy that much more rewarding, because these are people who want to learn, want to be in awe of it and want to know something they don’t already know about.”

Her two passions do often intersect, as she still plays in a band and is a firm believer of expressing yourself in more ways than one. “It doesn’t have to be just science all the time. I’m in a band and we sing about nerdy stuff just for fun,” she said.

Ultimately, Haurberg is on a quest for constant learning and believes this comes from doing what you love. “I have always been determined to do what I love, and this is it,” she said. “If you keep learning, your life can be very fulfilling, and that’s true of science, and everything in the world. That’s kind of the big philosophy for me, the idea of constant learning, of constant searching.”

Ayla Mir

Tags:  nathalie haurberg physics punk

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