Interviewing Dr. Turski

I had my First Year Seminar with Dr. Mark Turski, Critical Thinking and the Nature of Inquiry, which focused on how the media has affected the environment from when the Industrial Revolution began to the present. One of the first assignments that we had to do was watch the film Thank you for Smoking and write an 800 word review. I personally found the film a cinematic masterpiece and wrote a paper that I genuinely enjoyed writing and Dr. Turski apparently enjoyed reading. We began discussing the production of cinema and what makes a movie a good movie over the course of the semester. This helped my Undeclared self realize that I was actually passionate about something: Cinema.

After arriving in his office, the first things we discussed were the movies we had seen over the break. What took up most of the conversation was how I had watch all six Rocky movies, plus the spin-off, over break. The first movie reached acclaim and continued to produced movies, and we both thought that the first one wasn’t the cinematic masterpiece is was built up to be, showing the difference between a “favorite movie” versus a “best movie,” as discussed in his class. I was there to conduct an interview, so we figured I should probably start asking questions.

Dr. Mark Turski, courtesy of Dr. Turski

ME: “What are some of the classes that you teach here? And do you have a favorite course that you teach?”

TURSKI: “Over the years, I have taught Chemistry, Physical Science for non-science majors, Astronomy, Earth Science, Secondary Methods for Secondary Education Teachers, some graduate courses from professional development. My favorite courses to teach are the Integrated Earth Science courses … and I like Hazards the best because I like blowing up stuff. And then my Resources course is the second one, because it’s integrated and it’s got big equipment. We live in a world that’s based on extraction, and people living in the wrong places. So when I travel, it happens to be to places that I like to travel to, and it happens to be what I do work, so, it works out pretty well … If I knew you could get a phD in blowing stuff up I would’ve gone to that school instead.”


ME: “What did you study in grad school?”

TURSKI: “Astronomy education. My phD is in Astronomy Ed. Undergraduate degree is in Soil Science. My masters is in Environmental Education. Because there weren’t enough teachers to run the program in art science for a masters so I had to switch programs, and then I went to the University of Texas in Science Ed, with a focus in Planetary Astronomy Ed.”


ME: “Do you do any research in your field now? What do you do outside of teaching?”

TURSKI: “Travel mostly. Review research articles and most of my work that I’ve presented at national conferences on classroom applications … I read current research articles and I interpret it into stuff that’s available for people that aren’t science majors.”


ME: “How do you work with scholars outside of your field?”

TURSKI: “Most of the people I’ve worked with were outside my field are outdoorsy or music and art oriented. So, we usually look at the intersection of these things. But, for the most part if I run into somebody [of that nature], they’re out hiking or diving and we get into this ‘Can you explain to me about this volcano’ and it’s like ‘yes I can.’ And if I run into anyone in a art galleries and they’re like ‘What are you looking at there? Can you explain it to me?’ … And as I told one woman, once, ‘How the art is formed is just as important as appreciating the beauty that you see when you look at it.’”

That last quote really stood out to me considering the fact that it can greatly be applied to many different art forms, such as my passion, cinema. As my major is about the pieces that form a film and focusing on each of pieces individually, putting them all together creates something of beauty to appreciate.


ME: “Do you do any interdisciplinary work?”

TURSKI: “Everything is interdisciplinary in the environmental sciences. … And to get teachers to teach environmental science is integrated stuff. Because they need the chemistry, they need the math, and even a school like Princeton changed Earth Sciences to Geo Sciences because they figured out it was the hardest major on campus. Because basically you ended up with a minor in Physics, a degree in Math, plus all your geology courses and all your chemistry courses. So, you were taking all these upper division science courses in different fields than any other degree. And high schools … supposed to be where students learned to put it together in learning about how the earth interacts a sphere. But it is easier to do stuff vertically than it is horizontally.”


ME: “What courses should students who major in your department consider taking outside the department?”

TURSKI: “I would like to see a digital photography course offered as an intro course where you could use a digital camera … so you could label then and they could be research grade, and so when you get back from the field, you can see what stuff is. And that’s one thing you can’t do on your smartphone, that you can’t do on your camera. … And the Stage Craft class. They teach kids carpentry, and you’ve seen musicals they have to crank out sets fast. It also teaches students what’s going on behind the scenes of movies and shows like the Superbowl to understand how the media pulls stuff off better. … Also simple business and management courses. It doesn’t matter what you’re in, you need to have those skills.”


ME: “I’m trying to build a major surrounded by film and television and how they’re made and everything and I want to ask you if you think the major I’m trying to build is a good idea?”

TURSKI: “Yeah. I actually, when I talk about all the jobs and all these movies that we saw, that’s what the people in the background do. A Fierce Green Fire and black and white photos and color. You’ll notice the music ed major was the one that figured out how the director made the water sad using music. Yeah you look at the great directors and the great film cutters. They, and I’ll even use rap music. Those producers know all the types of music. So the tropes are there and make something and try and come up with it to work. … Yeah people have to understand that cinematography is a job you just don’t walk into. It takes a wide range of study of these type of thing and you get hired for that for anything now, and even my environmental majors are impressed with the people who make these promos for the BP oil spill.”


After completing the interview, we continued to discuss my major and all of the cool opportunities that will open up for me as he rolled a cart to his next class; with about fifteen kids waiting outside the door as witnesses. I certainly gained confidence from this interview about what I’m doing, and also a few good movie and book recommendations.

One thought on “Interviewing Dr. Turski”

  1. Wow! I got a whole new appreciation for all of the facets of Dr. Turski! This interview has it all: art, science, and everything in between. I love the conversational way you tell the story of this meeting, and I love that Dr. Turski from the sciences helped you find your love of cinema. This whole piece is a wonderful tribute to the larger structures of the universe, and how interconnected so many fields and passions can be. A pleasure to read this!

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