The Martian

Buskirk-Chumley Theater Bloomington, IN


Dr. Caleb Choban

Sullivan Prize Fellow in Astronomy at IU Bloomington


Dr. Luke Nikolov

Assistant Professor of Biology at IU

The Martian— From cosmic dust to Martian must

A total solar eclipse will be visible in Bloomington in April 2024, and much like the collective suspense experienced during a total solar eclipse, The Martian captivates with its elements of human determination and teamwork against the backdrop of the vast cosmos.

Before the film, Indiana University Professor of Astronomy and self-proclaimed “Interstellar Dust Nerd” Dr. Caleb Choban will challenge our terrestrial perspective by discussing the life cycle and evolution of interstellar dust grains. Then Dr. Luke Nikolov, an Assistant Professor of Biology at IU, will talk about the real possibilities of growing potatoes on Mars!

This event is part of our 2024 National Evening of Science on Screen.

Buskirk-Chumley Theater Bloomington, IN

Film Synopsis

When astronauts mistakenly leave Mark Watney behind on Mars, the stranded visitor must use his wits, spirit, and scientific know-how to find a way to survive on the hostile planet.

During a manned mission to Mars, Astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is presumed dead after a fierce storm and left behind by his crew. But Watney has survived and finds himself stranded and alone on the hostile planet. With only meager supplies, he must draw upon his ingenuity, wit, and spirit to subsist and find a way to signal to Earth that he is alive. Millions of miles away, NASA and a team of international scientists work tirelessly to bring "the Martian" home, while his crewmates concurrently plot a daring, if not impossible, rescue mission. As these stories of incredible bravery unfold, the world comes together to root for Watney's safe return. Based on the best-selling novel by Andy Weir, and helmed by master director Ridley Scott, The Martian was nominated for three Golden Globes.

About the Speaker

Dr. Caleb Choban, inaugural Sullivan Prize Fellow in Astronomy at IU Bloomington, holds a Ph.D. in Physics from UC San Diego. His research focuses on the life cycle and evolution of interstellar dust grains (<1 μm) within the interstellar medium (ISM). Utilizing cosmological zoom-in simulations and contributing to the FIRE project, Caleb explores the evolution of dust from its creation in supernovae to cosmic time. Additionally, he simulates observations of dust extinction curves and emission spectra to guide real-world observations.

Beyond research, Caleb is deeply involved in community outreach and graduate student advocacy. He has taught labs for public schools, led coding workshops for community college students, and organized science demonstrations. As a graduate researcher, Caleb served on the Physics Graduate Council, advocating for student needs and pushing for increased stipends and improved work-life balance. He is also the founder of a physics mentorship program.

Caleb enjoys camping, hiking, cycling, and playing board games in California and Indiana in his free time.