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FLiCX: Contact (Science on Screen)

Tuesday, March 28, 2017,

  • Location: Belcourt Theatre

Dir. Robert Zemeckis |USA |1997 |150 min. |PG |35mm

Skype Q&A following the screening with Steve Howell, head of the Space Sciences and Astrobiology Division at the NASA Ames Research Center, about the search for extraterrestrial life. Moderated by Tracie Prater, aerospace engineer in the Materials and Processes Laboratory at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center.

Participants who commit to checking in with the FLiCX administrator by no later than7:15pm, and to remaining through the post-screening discussion may RSVP in the right-hand column for tickets purchased by the Dean of Students office.
Since seating is limited, we must remind participants of the following:
  • that if you RSVP in the affirmative, and your plans change, you are expected to log back in and change your status to "not attending;"
  • that Vanderbilt participants must RSVP for themselves, and may not be "guests;"
  • and non-Vanderbilt guests are limited to one per participant. 

Based on Carl Sagan's novel of the same name, Contact follows Dr. Ellie Arroway (Jodie Foster), a radio astronomer working with the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI), as she intercepts a message seemingly sent by aliens with plans for the construction of a strange device. What could then turn into an overblown discussion of humanity's reaction to evidence of extraterrestrial life instead turns its introspective eye on Arroway herself, creating a deeply personal tale of one person's search for life's meaning in the stars above.

Steve B. Howell is currently the head of the Space Sciences and Astrobiology Division at the NASA Ames Research Center following his success as project scientist of both the Kepler and K2 missions. He received his PhD in astrophysics at the University of Amsterdam and has over 900 scientific publications spanning research on variable stars, instrumentation, spectroscopy, and exoplanets. Steve has written or contributed to numerous scientific books, and his textbook on digital imaging detectors (CCDs) is the standard in college courses around the world. Working as the scientist in charge of the planet-hunting Kepler mission inspired the creation of A Kepler's Dozen, a collection of short stories about real exoplanets that included Steve's first science fiction work. As a frequent invited speaker at scientific conferences and public forums, Steve has a passion for sharing astronomy with people throughout the world. He lives in the San Francisco Bay area with his partner Sally and enjoys scientific challenges, the great outdoors, vegetarian gourmet cooking, and playing blues music. And, yes, he still considers Pluto a planet in our solar system.

Tracie Prater is an aerospace engineer in the Materials and Processes Laboratory at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, where she is currently the materials discipline lead for the in-space manufacturing (ISM) project. Using the International Space Station as a testbed, ISM is responsible for developing the manufacturing capabilities needed to produce parts on demand during long duration, crewed space exploration missions. She also serves as a subject matter expert for NASA's Centennial Challenge on 3D Printing of Habitats, a public competition for additive manufacturing of structural habitats using recyclable materials and in situ resources (www.bradley.edu/challenge). She has a PhD in mechanical engineering from Vanderbilt University.