Undergrad Juggles Physics, Astronomy, And … Rings

By Melissa Greco Lopes
Univ. Communications

As a Take 5 scholar at the University of Rochester, Adam Lanman augmented his education in physics and astronomy with the study of equilibristics and manipulation. While these may sound like terms heard in a science lab, they’re actually the nomenclature of a different venue: the circus stage. And, thanks to Take 5, a program that allowed Lanman to spend a fifth year at Rochester tuition free conducting an independent study with the Department of Dance and Movement, he was able to immerse himself in the art of circus performance. His work culminated on Saturday, April 27, during No Elephants Allowed, a performance of skills and tricks he acquired during his year-long study.

A four-year member of the University’s Strong Jugglers, Lanman parlayed his interest in juggling into a research project that sent him to Bristol, UK for fall 2012. There, he studied with Circomedia, a school that specializes in four areas of circus performance: physical theater, partner acrobatics and tumbling, aerial skills including the trapeze, ropes, and silks, and equilibristics and manipulation, which includes juggling and balancing on unicycles and stilts. During his three months at Circomedia, he trained extensively to prepare his body for the twists, turns, and balancing moves required of a circus performer. After five weeks on basic skills, he focused on juggling, equilibristics, and manipulation.

For Lanman, the connection between circus performance and dance was obvious. “There’s a movement in contemporary circus performance that has shifted from the spectacle and awe you might see in Barnum & Bailey to a more aesthetic, artistic appeal that has similar goals to dance,” says Lanman, noting the rise in popularity of shows like Cirque du Soleil. When he returned to Rochester for the spring semester, he enrolled in courses that taught choreography, improvisation, and playwriting.

During Lanman’s performance on Saturday, he showcased a variety of juggling tricks, including a two-stage pirouette, in which he tossed three objects into the air, spun once, caught two of the objects, spun again, and caught the third. He also performed acrobatics and dance routines and showed off some newly acquired clowning skills.

A native of White Plains, N.Y., Lanman will finish his Take 5 year this May, and head to Brown University to pursue a doctoral degree in physics.

Spotlight on Natural Sciences Alumni: Brian Turkett

Name: Brian Turkett
Age: 25
Education (UR and additional): B.S. in Physics and Astronomy and B.A. in Mathematics, University of Rochester, 2008; Take Five in Music Cognition, 2009; M.S. in Adolescent Education
Current city/state of residence: Baltimore, MD
Job Title: Science Educator
Employer: Maryland Science Center

Why did you choose to attend the University of Rochester?

I was interested in Rochester for its focus on astronomy research and education. My number one reason for choosing UR was that I knew I wanted a school that had an in depth program on astronomy, and Rochester does some great research in the field. Another reason is one of the best things Rochester offers is the ability to design your own major, minor, and clusters with your advisors. I was able to design both my own clusters in music and history, which was perfect because they were two subject areas outside of astronomy that I was really interested in.

When and how did you choose your major?

I always had a fascination and interest in astronomy and was really looking for a strong program that would provide me a lot of opportunities to learn about physics and astronomy. In high school, I knew that was what I wanted to be involved in, so I specifically chose Rochester for my major. As I was taking the required math courses for the physics and astronomy major, I discovered I would only need a couple more courses to receive a Bachelor’s in mathematics. The great thing about both of them was that I was able to pick the courses that interested me the most and design my own course of study with my advisors. I even had the opportunity to work in labs with professors on current astronomy research.

Also, my interest in education began at Rochester. During my sophomore year, I participated in Jumpstart, which was an early literacy program designed to partner you with young children to help them with their literacy skills. Needless to say, I loved the experience and began to debate heading into education. It wasn’t until my take five year that I finally committed to that decision and applied to the Warner School of Education. I had a busy, but very worthwhile, experience at Warner, and I am still having a blast mixing all the experience and education that Rochester has provided me into my career.

What activities were you involved in as a student and what did you gain from them?

For the majority of college I was a member of Residential Life. My sophomore year I was a D’Lion, my junior, senior, and take five years I was a resident advisor, and during my time at Warner I was a graduate head resident. I think the greatest thing about those experiences was that since I was in freshmen dormitories for five years I was able to connect and meet so many people from different class years, which really made my experience at Rochester special and enjoyable.

Although it is not an activity, another great experience I received was through the Take Five program. I was able to build my own program of study to something outside of my major and study it for a year after graduation. I chose music cognition, which consisted of a mix of classes between the music department and brain and cognitive science department. I was able to create my own independent study through Eastman. Every course I took that year was amazing, and it has provided me with a new interest and passion that I continue to think and learn more about.

What do you do now and why did you choose this career?

Currently, I am a science educator at the Maryland Science Center. My title is the SpaceLink Manager. SpaceLink is a current update center and exhibit related to astronomy and aerospace science. Beyond managing the exhibit, I also teach classroom programs related to physics, astronomy, and other sciences to students and families. The awesome thing about this job is that I am able to take the science I learned from my major and some skills and knowledge of astronomy research I gained in the Near-Infrared Astronomy Laboratory and incorporate them with my formal and informal science education practices I gained from the Warner School. I chose this career because I was interested in teaching science and focusing mainly on astronomy education. Also, It is very cool to be working at a science center because my passion for science began in the second grade during a field trip to the Rochester Museum and Science Center.

How are you still connected with the University?

There are a lot of alumni around the Baltimore area. We enjoy meeting up with each other and continually find new alumni to hang out with. The Rochester community was a perfect size, so someone will always know someone in a different class year. You can continually build friendships through the University connection.

Also, I have connected with the University through my teaching. When I student taught in Rochester, I brought my classroom to the physics and astronomy department for a field trip and showed them some of the labs and research being conducted. I also continue to help out the Warner School’s new cohorts and share information about education that can help them become even better teachers.