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‘Star Trek’: Cultural Phenomenon Reaches 50th Anniversary

Ask anyone what they know about “Star Trek” and you may hear a response about the Vulcan salute; the show’s distinctive opening, “Space: the final frontier;” or its original stars William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy and George Takei. These elements and others like them have grown from being just part of a television show into a part of the collective consciousness.

Add in all the show’s spinoffs – six additional television shows and 13 movies, with more to come – and “Star Trek” becomes a significant part of today’s popular culture.

You might say “Star Trek” has boldly gone where no show has gone before.

Gene Roddenberry’s original television series “Star Trek” aired its first episode on Sept. 8, 1966. Texas Tech University has experts available to discuss the franchise, its role in popular culture, the science behind it and more as its 50th anniversary approaches.

Tom Maccarone is an associate professor in the Department of Physics in the College of Arts Sciences. He can talk about the physics and astronomy concepts from the series, including the realities of space travel and warp speed as well as the series’ other stars, planets and spatial phenomena, such as black holes, asteroids, nebulas and worm holes. Maccarone’s research is primarily focused on understanding X-ray binary systems, especially in globular clusters, and understanding accretion in black hole and neutron star X-ray binary systems. He dabbles in stellar mass and supermassive black holes and occasionally gets into other areas, including galaxy evolution. He led the discovery of the first globular cluster black hole X-ray binary and the discovery of a new star, CX330.
Maccarone can be reached at (806) 834-3760 or thomas.maccarone@ttu.edu

David Ray is an associate professor in the Department of Biological Sciences and a fan of the original series as well as the spinoff series “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” He can talk about the plausibility of the varied life forms portrayed in the “Star Trek” universe. Ray’s expertise is in the molecular biology of animals and genomics; he has been studying how genomes change over time in a variety of animals including bats, crocodilians, rodents and insects.
Ray can be reached at (806) 834-1677 or david.a.ray@ttu.edu

Dominick Casadonte is the Minnie Stevens Piper Professor in the Department of Chemistry Biochemistry in the College of Arts Sciences and Trekkie since childhood. He can talk about the series’ chemistry and chemical elements, such as whether dilithium and dilithium crystals could actually exist. Casadonte’s research focuses on the dynamics of unusual excited state processes as well as the fabrication of novel nanomaterial and molecular systems that could be applied in molecular photodevices, energy storage systems, catalysts and environmental remediants.
Casadonte can be reached at (806) 834-2746 or dominick.casadonte@ttu.edu

Andrew Jackson is a professor and associate chair in the Department of Civil, Environmental and Construction Engineering in the Edward E. Whitacre Jr. College of Engineering and a self-proclaimed big fan of the original series. He can talk about life support and water reclamation in space. Jackson has been working for most of the past decade to develop a system that effectively and efficiently eliminates waste products from water so it can be recycled into consumable drinking water for use in space. His other research interests include the occurrence, impact and fate of perchlorate; the fate of micro-contaminants in the environment; and the use and development of passive samplers for contaminant fate studies.
Jackson can be reached at (806) 834-6575 or andrew.jackson@ttu.edu

Vickie Sutton is a Paul Whitfield Horn Professor and associate dean for research and faculty development in the Texas Tech School of Law and director of the Center for Biodefense, Law and Public Policy. She can talk about space law, the emerging field of legislating space exploration and business ventures. She will teach a course on the topic in spring 2017. Sutton established the law school’s law and science certificate program. She served as chief counsel for the Research and Innovative Technology Administration under President George W. Bush. She also served as assistant director in the White House Science Office, where she coordinated science and technology research programs.
Sutton can be reached at (806) 834-1752 or vickie.sutton@ttu.edu

Allison Whitney is an associate professor of film and media studies in the Department of English in the College of Arts Sciences. She can talk about science fiction cinema, special effects and the fan culture surrounding the “Star Trek” franchise. She specializes in the studies of film technology and is researching the representation of space exploration in cinema. In 2013, she published the article “Love at First Contact: Sex, Race and Colonial Fantasy in ‘Star Trek: First Contact.’”
Whitney can be reached at (806) 834-6948 or allison.whitney@ttu.edu

Robert Peaslee is chairman of the Department of Journalism and Electronic Media in the College of Media Communication. He can talk about the cinematic interpretations of “Star Trek” as well as the “Star Trek” fandom’s important role in shaping popular culture. Peaslee teaches courses in visual communication, blockbuster films and writing for feature film. His research focuses include media power, fan cultures, film, media and space, and global media.
Peaslee can be reached at (806) 834-2562 or robert.peaslee@ttu.edu

Rob Weiner is a popular culture and humanities librarian in the University Libraries. He can talk about the popular culture surrounding the “Star Trek” series. Weiner personally saw Nimoy during the actor’s visit to Texas Tech in 1983, and he has seen every “Star Trek” movie on its opening weekend since 1986’s “Star Trek: The Voyage Home.”
Weiner can be reached at (806) 834-5126 or rob.weiner@ttu.edu

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