Student Profile: Lee Giat, eyes to the stars

Courtney Green, News Editor

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Meet Lee Giat. He is down to earth but has his head in space.

“My majors are communications and physics, specifically in video production and astrophysics. My ultimate goal is to make the first movie in space.”

“If we’re able to do that, then I think our culture as a species is going to change, and that will be really interesting to see.”

As Giat noted in an interview with Spinnaker, no movie set in space has actually been filmed in space– it’s all CGI. But don’t get him wrong; he loves space movies. “It’s just always better and more adventurous to do it in real life,” he explained.

Giat is already well on his way.

“I’ve been making movies and short films since I was seven,” he shared. “I also got interested in space and aviation and everything up there when I was introduced to flight.”

Because Giat’s father is a pilot, he has spent many years with his feet off the ground. This experience even led him to get his pilot’s license when he was sixteen. After that, Giat went on to work at an observatory where he floated his way further into the study of space. Through them, he got his NASA certification as a Public Outreach Astronomer.

“I wanted to figure out a way to convey that, and through my medium that is film and video production, I decided ‘why can’t we make something up there without special effects or special rigs and just do it for real, for the first time.”

Other experiences helping Giat towards his lofty goal is his time at Spinnaker as Video Director. Also during his time at Spinnaker, Giat hosted a show called “The Stem,” where him and his team would go out on scientific adventures. It started off as a short YouTube series but quickly took off at Spinnaker and around UNF. Giat’s team then took the series to schools in need outside of UNF as an outreach initiative to promote science and learning.

Recently, Giat paired with Emily Calandrelli, host of “Exploration Outerspace,” to partake in astronaut training in Russia. Together, they experienced everything an astronaut would have to do: gearing up in astronaut suits, rocket testing and even sampling some astronaut food, which isn’t how people think it is.

“It’s not astronaut ice cream,” Giat said. “If you think about astronaut ice cream, if you were to bite into it, the crumbs would get everywhere. The only reason you think of astronaut food as dehydrated is because water is very heavy to launch, so they use a space microwave to rehydrate food from recycled water onboard.”

Giat is currently the Planetarium Educator at the MOSH. His goal is to change the public’s perception of space and to make people more aware of just how small we are in the universe.

“It’s interesting to see people’s reaction when they realize for the first time how tiny we actually are after spending an hour zooming out from earth.”

When asked if he would be on board to help colonize the moon or Mars, Giat laughed. “I will totally sign up to go to the moon or Mars or anywhere– as long as I come back. Earth is the best planet in the universe. We have tacos.”

To be fair, we don’t know if other planets might have tacos, but we get what he’s saying.

As a parting thought, Giat wants everyone to know that opportunity is everywhere.

“There’s just so many organizations and so many places you can go to for opportunities. The opportunities are out there no matter what you do. There is opportunity waiting. If I were to say anything to anybody, I would say, if you want to do something really bad, something that you think is out of this world– literally– do more than what you’re expected to do.”

Giat will graduate from UNF with his communications degree this fall and his astrophysics degree by the end of 2020.

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