Student Plays Support Role at PUD

Christian Cunningham Heads to University This Fall

Christian Cunningham
Christian Cunningham has worked as Northern Wasco County PUD’s tech support staff for the past year while attending Horizon Christian School. He graduated in June and will head to Arizona State University this fall, majoring in physics.

When Christian Cunningham graduated from Horizon Christian School earlier this year, he had not only a diploma but almost a year of solid work experience in a skilled technical field.

In July, Christian celebrated a year working with Northern Wasco County PUD, serving as their technical support specialist. Christian is the son of Tom and Cheryl Cunningham.

“I install computers, and fix any broken mouses or keyboards with issues,” Christian says. “If a keyboard is broken, I go check it out and figure out what’s wrong with it. And I do software things. If something is down on the server, I figure out how to set it back up.”

He enjoys the problem-solving involved in this work and he developed his skills largely at home.

“I started off with my dad—he started me on this track,” Christian says. “Every single time I’ve gone further in. If something goes wrong, I look it up. It’s a lot of googling and, if something doesn’t work, being able to fix it based on this knowledge.”

Christian started with the PUD last summer and continued to work afternoons during the school year.

“I had an internship class the last hour of the day open to me, so I would drive back here during that session and work for two hours,” he says.

Other than pulling weeds for a local family, this was Christian’s first full-time job. He heard about the opportunity last year when his mother spotted a notice on Facebook.

“I took my resume, brought it up to date, threw together a cover letter, and submitted it. I got the interview and now I’m here.”

Christian continues at the PUD until August. This fall he will head off to Arizona State University’s honors college, majoring in physics. He hopes to return to the PUD to work during winter and summer breaks.

“I like the people here,” he says. “They’ve been really nice.”

Most of his job involves working in a small, windowless office.

“But I’m also doing things I really like to do. That’s the trade-off. I’d rather be in an office all day doing something I love than outside doing something I don’t.”

And Christian definitely likes computer work. When he is not at the PUD, he is likely to still be working at the computer.

“I do a lot of programming,” he says. “I do a lot of basic things; such as automating different tasks I normally do a lot. One program simply looks at whatever I’m programming and tries to fix whatever I do wrong.”

Another project he has worked on involves stellar astrophysics.

“It has a lot of formulas, so I started programming all the formulas into it and all the constants, so it is easier to use,” Christian says.

That project ties in directly with his goals for the future. “I have set a goal for astrophysics,” he says, “but right now other physics fields are really developing and have job openings and opportunities. I’m looking at medical physics. It has a lot of opportunity and not a lot of people involved.”

“It still has a lot of computations involved. I like the theoretical, rather than the physical.”

A number of factors in Christian’s life have pushed him toward science. He became particularly interested in the subject after he had to have surgery to lengthen his leg and had to have an external halo brace.

“That really got me interested in science,” he says. “Also, my grandpa was a radiobiologist, so that interested me at a young age—and a lot of the movies I watched. I just like the field.”

Christian also has a strong focus on faith, which he thinks some folks might find strange for a young man interested in science.

“I find that a lot of the hard science that we can really cling onto does not actually contradict belief,” he says. “A good religion does not contradict science and science does not contradict a good religion.”