Class of 2021 Senior Spotlight: Ethan Catalanello

A True Renaissance Man
By Jessica Birk, (’22, RBS/HC), HC Media Team Co-Lead Videographer

Ethan Catalanello (’21, SOE/HC) has spent the last four years at Rutgers–New Brunswick actively pursuing his passions for astronomy, videography, photography, and research. By embracing every opportunity and never shying away from challenges, Ethan has accomplished so much, from winning the New Jersey Space Grant Consortium, to starting his own photography freelance business, educating the public on the wonders of space, and producing many high quality videos that foster community here at the Honors College. In a true interdisciplinary and “Renaissance man” fashion, Ethan has left a lasting imprint on the Rutgers community through his videos, photographs, astronomy interests, and research.

Composite image of the Orion Nebula taken by Ethan through a telescope, and colored according to the nebula's composition. Deep red represents sulfur, orange represents hydrogen, and blue represents oxygen.Ever since the first time Ethan learned about space, he has made it his mission to educate the public on how to use telescopes and other space related technology. As a member and former Treasurer of the Rutgers Astronomical Society, he gave several talks showcasing the wonders of astronomy and making space accessible to everyone. Additionally, he’s the Media Producer/Videographer for STAR (Space Technology Association of Rutgers) where he is able to merge his curiosity and passion for engineering and photography in the college setting. He enjoys his work at STAR because

he is “taking complex astronomy concepts and making them simpler, tangible, and more accessible for others to understand.” This is extremely rewarding and important to him.

Ethan’s entire videography portfolio is equally as impressive. When approached by TEDxRutgers to edit together their annual virtual conference, Ethan jumped at the challenge. Although it was difficult to coordinate all the speakers to film videos and edit them together, Ethan knew he had the dedication, teamwork skills, and editing expertise to make it happen. As Ethan says, “It was exciting to bring all the moving pieces together and create one cohesive video.” In the end, the video Gas planet synthesized with a custom planetary fluid simulation written by Ethan.was yet another successful example of his dedication and persistence. Similarly, Ethan has let his creativity and video skills flourish through the Honors College Media Team. He was initially drawn to Media Team because he wanted to be exposed to something completely unrelated to his major. He’d always loved filmmaking and wanted to gain real world experience. He quickly began producing videos, such as the HC Ambassador anecdotes recruiting series together with Jake Rattigan, Lead HC Ambassador, and rose to a Videography Team Lead position. He credits HC Media Team as his favorite part about Rutgers because he loves “working with passionate, like-minded people on a team.”

In the midst of the stressful pandemic, videography gave him a “sense of calmness.” He hopes that his videos inspire others to act on their creativity and see their projects through to the end.

In addition to his video work, Ethan has also focused a lot on his photography. After graduating, he hopes to work as a full time freelance photographer and entrepreneur. His Instagram astrobludiamond is dedicated to space photography and features 28 impressive pictures of Nebulas, moons, and lunar eclipses. When asked about his process, Ethan happily explained that “you first mount your camera onto the telescope, take several hundred pictures of the same object, and then stack the images to create one final picture of the celestial object.”

Image of spherical combustion taken in the microgravity environment of the International Space Station. The spherical flame is heating several silicon carbide fibers, making them glow.Ethan has also had many incredibly fulfilling research experiences in space and engineering. His sophomore year, Ethan applied to the ARESTY program to do research in the field of controls engineering. His project involved controlling a satellite with a robotic arm. He wrote a control algorithm for the satellite to remain stable while it was being worked on by the arm. Ethan could’ve just made a 2-D model, but instead he went above and beyond to create a 3-D model using MATLAB to model the dynamics of a robot arm and satellite. As a result of this high level research, he and his group won a grant from the NJ Space Grant Consortium. His junior year, he switched to the Tse Research lab to study how combustion occurs in a microgravity environment. He took data from the high speed camera and analyzed it in MATLAB to extract the fibers that glow and map the heat of the mini combustion in space and time.

Ethan’s favorite part about research is the challenge. “I like that there’s no right answer when researching. You don’t know what you’re doing, you have to rely on your previous knowledge. It is truly new and novel because nobody has ever done this before. You are actively contributing to the growth of human knowledge.”

It is this combination of creativity and technical mastery that sets Ethan apart. He is always willing to take an interdisciplinary approach to problem solving and has the persistence to see it through.