The Ohio State University at Newark

Exploration as limitless as the universe at Ohio State Newark

November 13, 2018

It’s an ordinary Wednesday morning for most college students. But for those enrolled in Astronomy 1143 at The Ohio State University at Newark, it’s time to leave our earthly plane and travel 2.5 million light years across the cosmos to the Andromeda galaxy. It’s a time for exploration and imagination and awe.

These lucky students are the first to experience Ohio State Newark’s new SciDome planetarium as their classroom. The $2.1 million SciDome immerses learners into an interactive visual universe using powerful real-time astronomy simulations. Think about it: a 2,200 square foot facility with a 30 foot tilted dome, 4K digital projection and theater-style seating for 60 guests. And it’s a classroom for Ohio State Newark.

“What better place to learn about the universe than in a dome?” said Michael Stamatikos, Ph.D., Ohio State Newark assistant professor of physics and astronomy and researcher at Ohio State’s Center for Cosmology and Astro-Particle Physics. “I watched the SciDome being built and even now, every time I walk in and turn the system on there is an audible ‘wow’ from me.”

Students are appreciating the SciDome experience, as well.

“It's capable of displaying images that seem to ‘submerge’ you into the photo that's being projected, said Alayna Curran, a College Credit Plus student from Northridge High School who enrolled in the class specifically because of the SciDome. “It gives me a new perspective and makes the material appear more hands-on,” said the senior from Alexandria.

Everything about the SciDome classroom experience is different. Its high definition projection brings the universe into vivid detail, while the intimate space invites class discussion and engagement. And to take it all one step further, the SciDome itself is located inside a museum at The Works: Ohio Center for History, Art & Technology in nearby downtown Newark. Ohio State Newark’s unique collaboration with The Works has drawn attention and accolades across the university and region.

Stamatikos, or “Dr. Mike,” not only teaches those fortune Astronomy 1143 students, he’s also an active NASA astrophysicist and chief science officer at The Works. In short, he’s a man with irrepressible scientific curiosity. And he wants to inspire and help Ohio State Newark students to become the next generation of research scientists. To do that, he’s started a SciDome internship program for Ohio State Newark students who’ll conduct research and learn to run the SciDome programming right alongside Dr. Mike.

Stamatikos plans for other Ohio State Newark disciplines to utilize the SciDome’s interactive simulations for teaching as well, such as geography or biology. But as for that very first class, it was always clear that it would be astronomy.

“We’ve always looked up into the night sky and found a connection,” he said. “If I can teach astronomy to Ohio State Newark students at the SciDome, and that experience gets them excited about science, any science, then that’s something for which the entire university can be proud.”

The Ohio State University at Newark offers an academic environment that’s inclusive of diversity, challenging but supportive with world-renowned professors and access to Ohio State’s more than 200 majors. It’s where learning comes to life. Research, study abroad and service learning opportunities prepare students for their careers in ways they never expected.