Dec. 16, 2015
Hey, in case you haven’t heard, the new “Star Wars” movie comes out this weekend. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, I’m guessing you already knew that.
I was just a kid when I saw the first movie, but I recall that I didn’t really want to see it because I wasn’t interested in science fiction or space. Yet, just a few minutes into the film I was enthralled. This crazy, new world captured my attention and I was sad when the credits rolled. I had decided that I wanted to marry Luke. Or Han Solo. I wanted a Wookiee for a friend. I definitely wanted to be Leia – she was anything but your typical princess.
I got to relive that childhood enchantment when I introduced the films to my daughter. She also wanted to marry Luke (well, until she found out how old he was in real life). For us, “Star Wars” was fun entertainment. While we really enjoyed the fantasy, space exploration for the both us wasn’t anything we wanted to do in real life. I’m happy to write about scientists and my daughter would be happy playing one on the stage, but actual astronomy just isn’t our thing.
But for some kids, “Star Wars” sparked a lifelong interest in science and space. Shannon Schmoll was one of those kids. She’s the director of MSU’s Abrams Planetarium and already has her tickets for this week’s movie opening. She willingly admits that she developed a slight obsession with the franchise. However, she turned that interest into her career and earned a Ph.D. in astronomy. Read her FACULTY VOICE: Slight Obsession, to learn more about her thoughts on the science behind the movies.
Schmoll is one of five Spartan researchers we talked to recently to offer their thoughts about “Star Wars” and how their real fields of study relate to the films. Check out the thoroughly entertaining MSUTODAY FEATURE: Spartans on Star Wars, to view short videos of our own MSU Jedi masters while they explore the film score, the fight scenes, the social implications of new, fresh characters and the science behind it all. To paraphrase Yoda, miss it, do not.
For people like Schmoll, one blockbuster movie helped her discover a passion for astronomy. For others, it takes a little more exploration to not only find passions but also figure out how to pursue them.
Clara Lepard, a junior majoring in zoology, tried to cram too many different areas of study into her schedule when she first got to MSU because her interests were so varied. Once she finally realized that she didn’t need to double major with a minor to follow her dreams, she found more time to pursue all her passions. Read her STUDENT VIEW: All of Me, to learn about her path to discovery and her success.
That’s one of my favorite things about MSU. MSU is a place of exploration — and not just in the classroom or laboratory. Every Spartan has the opportunity to explore countless paths until they figure out the one meant for them. Whatever path a Spartan chooses, he or she is destined to be a force for good in this world.
Photo of children at the MSU Planetarium by Kurt Stepnitz