This is Bridget O'Callaghan-Hay, Assistant Professor of Physics. During the past seven years, she has taught physics, computer science, data science and earth science to undergraduate as well as professional studies students.
Bridget was born the second eldest of eight children in Ringaskiddy, Ireland, a small village located on the south coast about twenty miles from Cork, Ireland’s second-largest city. She recounted, “Everybody would get up and help out on the farm. Growing up on a farm in a large family, I quickly learned the difference between what somebody needs and what somebody wants. No matter the occasion my parents and grandmother always had a prayer on their lips.” Bridget’s upbringing instilled in her the desire to live out her faith in the service of God and society.
She recounts her elementary education experience in Ireland as going "to school in a three-room schoolhouse where several grades and classes were taught in a single room by one teacher. Once I finished my assignments, I would be tasked to teach the other grades.”
Bridget remembers enjoying school and reading whatever she could find. She particularly loved mathematics and science. She recalls one day having a pencil but not having any paper, so she used her family's house wall to solve a math problem. When her Dad came home from work, initially he was upset but after she explained the problem to him, he asked her to erase her markings from the wall. Since she asked “why?” all the time “Why?” became one of her nicknames.
After finishing secondary school, which is an education system for students that are 12 years or older in Ireland, Bridget attended the University College Cork where she earned both a Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in Experimental Physics. Soon after, she would make her way to Pasadena and earn her PhD in physics from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).
"After the completion of graduate school at Caltech, I really had no intention of staying in the United States. My plan was to earn my PhD, return to Ireland, teach physics and be with my family. While in college, I got involved in backpacking and mountaineering through the local chapter of the Sierra Club. During a backpacking trip in the Sierra’s I crossed trails with Jon, an engineer. I decided to marry him and stay in the USA. Our son was born the day after I received my PhD and our daughter arrived the following year. I finished my postdoctoral education at the University of California Irvine.”
Bridget worked for several American global aerospace and defense technologies companies. While technical lead for the satellite orbital analysis software team at Hughes Mission Control Center, she worked on placing and maintaining satellites in geosynchronous orbits. Then at XonTech, she was featured in the Diversity/Careers in Engineering and Information Technology magazine for her work in missile defense systems.
Reflecting on her experience and how she found her way to Vanguard University, Bridget says, "I enjoyed the work environment at smaller companies. It seemed like every time I started working for a small company, they ended up being acquired by a large corporation. I didn’t enjoy the politics of big companies. I left the corporate world and started my own consulting business. One night, I was working on the computer and found that Vanguard had an opening for an adjunct professor in physics and applied for the position. To be honest, I did not even know where Vanguard was located. The best part of teaching at Vanguard is learning from my students. I get to see everything from a fresh new perspective. I love hearing our students’ ideas and visions of how they are going to serve society.
Besides teaching, going to church, learning new languages and spending time with her family (which grew by two with the addition of her children’s’ spouses), Bridget’s other passion is running. In addition to socializing with friends she values her run time as her quiet time with the Lord. After qualifying for and running the Boston Marathon, she set a goal of completing a marathon (26.2 miles) in all 50 states. In October 2019, the quest was completed at Harper’s Ferry, WVA (What is WVA?). To date Bridget has run a total of about 60,000 miles, approximately two and a half laps of the Earth’s equator.
Vanguard is so thankful for Bridget's experience in physics and her passion for educating our students.
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