Astronaut urges following dreams

October 9, 2014 — by Caitlin Ju

Students were given the opportunity to meet astronaut Michael Massimino on Sept. 26 in the library’s research center.

Veteran of two space flights, two-time fixer of the Hubble Space Telescope, the first person to ever tweet from space, a cast member who plays himself on the CBS hit comedy “The Big Bang Theory” — these accomplishments all belong to one man, current Columbia Engineering professor Dr. Michael Massimino.

Students were given the opportunity to meet this multi-talented man on Sept. 26 in the library’s research center. The presentation was initially open to only physics students but later open to all who were interested to attend.

Consisting of a 30-minute introduction from a Columbia University admissions officer and Massimino’s 45-minute personal narrative, the presentation aimed to inspire students to consider STEM by demonstrating what can be done in those fields. It garnered a significant amount of interest, and the research center was packed, with a few people having to stand in the back.

When Massimino saw the large crowd, he seemed a little surprised when he jokingly said, “All you guys are staying after school on a Friday?”

Massimino also included in his presentation encouragement for students to follow their passion.

Massimino said, “Just think about what you like. Math, science, English, music, sports. Look at what you’re interested in and then those are the things you want to study.”

Sophomore Ruchir Mehta said he attended Massimino’s presentation because he was intrigued by his background.

“I went because he is an astronaut, and he’s been in space, which I find very fascinating,” Mehta said.

Sophomore Simrun Buttar said Massimino’s  success sparked her interest in meeting him.

“I wanted to see what path he took to get to where he was today,” Buttar said.

Through videos showing his takeoff into space and his crew experiencing zero gravity, as well as a slideshow of various photographs from his life both in and out of space, Massimino proved his point that though the STEM field is extremely tough and the workload is difficult, perseverance through these challenges can lead to great rewards. Massimino himself tried four times to get into the NASA space program and succeeded only on the fifth time.

When asked what his advice to Saratoga high schoolers was, Massimino said, “Take it one step at a time—think about what you enjoyed in high school—keep your faith up—keep a positive attitude.”

Many students agreed his presentation was effective in delivering the message across of never giving up on one’s dreams.

“It really inspired people because it showed you don’t need to know what you want to do right now. And [that] you can find out what you want to do as you go along,” Buttar said.

In one of his stories, Massimino recounted how at the first lunch after coming back from space, one of his friends expected his glass of water to float in midair similar to in space. The glass ended up crashing to pieces, receiving multiple stares from everyone in the hall.

Senior Arathi Sabada’s interest in the STEM field increased as a result of the talk.

“I had never really considered a STEM career, so the fact that I found the presentation extremely interesting was unexpected,” she said.

Senior Smita Sabada said she expected Massimino to be a stereotypical nerd. “But he was really funny and resonated well with the audience,” she said.

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