Ethan Higginbotham’s passion for astronomy and physics is “out of this world.” His interest in all things outer space influenced him to pursue an internship with NASA, and one day, he hopes to broaden his astrophysics knowledge through completing a physics PhD. Ethan, who describes himself as determined and driven, shows that people living with Duchenne CAN reach their potential with a positive outlook.
After discovering his true passion for astrophysics, Ethan immersed himself in the study of physics and mathematics at Wichita State University and joined the Society of Physics Students and the Astronomy Club as treasurer. Despite his condition, Ethan is living his university life to the fullest with the support of home health aid.
His undergraduate experience has further fuelled his fascination with space, leading him to seek out additional experience in the field. After securing an impressive 3.6 GPA, Ethan applied for and secured an internhip at NASA. But this was no easy feat! With NASA’s internship program winning the “Most Prestigious Internship Award in 2022” and recognized as 65-times harder to get into than Harvard University, Ethan knew he was going to be up against some serious competition to secure his spot. However, after a thorough application process, Ethan was awarded a place in their 2023 cohort. Ethan’s ongoing research project at NASA focuses on creating a computer model of optomised solid-state batteries, which have huge potential to power the aircrafts of the future. In other words, Ethan uses computer programming to model the inside of a solid-state battery with the goal of making them as efficient and reliable as possible. So far, Ethan has learned about what being a scientist entails and has broadened his presentation and problem-solving skills. Ethan’s determination to succeed in space does not stop there. Following his internship, he has his sights set on a PhD in astrophysics from the University of Kanas.
When Ethan is not contributing to remarkable space-related discoveries, he enjoys playing video games, reading books and watching TV and sports. Staying loyal to his university town, Ethan is also a huge fan of of Kansas City Chiefs and KU Jayhawks, and he watches football and basketball to relax and unwind.
Growing up, Ethan was surrounded by a loving, close-knit family, which proved to be a great support network following his diagnosis with Duchenne muscular dystrophy at 3 years old. Ethan, who was the second member in his family to be diagnosed, is a great role model for his two younger cousins who also have the condition. Despite juggling a math and physics degree, NASA internship and independent living, Ethan has continued to dedicate his time to his family and the wider Duchenne community, often speaking in his auntie’s dedicated DMD advocacy group, finnsfriends.net, and attending camps designed to support and raise awareness for individuals with Duchenne.
A stellar example of not letting your disability define you, Ethan believes his perseverance from living with Duchenne has equipped him with the right skills to succeed in his internship at NASA. So, when asked about his own advice to others with Duchenne, Ethan says, “Accept things you can’t change and overcome obstacles,” and most importantly, “Find what you love and keep your mind set on it.”