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That’s a Wrap

Wilton Grads Put Their Imaginations in Motion



WHS grad Matt Carney now studies neutron stars (the waves that stars make) and is pursuing his PhD at Northwestern University.

Two former Wilton students have no shortage of curiosity and passion for their chosen careers. Here’s how they’re expressing their interests in uniquely creative ways.

Riding a Different Wave
When most of us gaze up at the night sky we see the moon and the stars. But Matt Carney looks up and sees his future. 

“I study neutron stars,” he says casually, as if anyone can do the complex physics that he has done in order to prepare for his PhD at Northwestern University this fall. There, he’ll be sifting through massive amounts of data about gravitational waves—enormous currents that travel outward in space when a black hole collides with another black hole or a neutron star. There has recently been excitement around this work, thanks to a scientific instrument called LIGO (short for Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory), which, after over fifty years, has been able to detect, or “hear” those waves, even if they are millions of light years away. A century ago, Einstein predicted that these waves existed, but didn’t think it was possible to validate this part of his Theory of Relativity. Carney states that today, “Einstein would be proud of the team of scientists who made it happen.”

Likewise for Carney, the teamwork and culture of the scientific community is what got him hooked on physics to begin with. It started with a course at Wilton High School called Physical Science, taught by Mr. Liptack. Carney took more courses at Williston Northampton School and then at Kenyon College, where there existed another “… incredibly supportive culture to help you get where you wanted to go.”

All of this hard work has now led Carney, at 23, to Northwestern, where he’ll be studying the waves that stars make for at least the next five years. After that, he’s not sure, but adds, “When I was exploring jobs and grad school after college I kept asking myself, ‘Am I done with physics?’ And the answer was, ‘No, not yet.’” 

So the next time you look at the stars, send up a good luck wish for Carney, and for all the future scientists whose curiosities are as expansive as our universe.

Passion, Personified
The writing was on the wall for Shannon Lewis, when, at two years old, she refused to speak during a private school admissions interview until it was acknowledged that her real name was Mary Poppins. Years later, Lewis was the kid in the neighborhood known for dragging you into her homemade commercials. 

In college, at the University of Michigan, she made documentaries. And now, at 32, that drive to be part of the entertainment world is firmly rooted in Lewis as she stars in her role as executive producer for Passion Pictures, an award-winning, independent production company. Lewis has worked in the animation studio there for seven years, and has loved every minute of it. As the only American employee, she is the main point of contact for newly submitted scripts. She then coordinates with the London-based team to develop some creative ideas and pitch them to their clients. And, she says, “We cross our fingers and hope they choose us.”

Lewis’ younger days growing up in Manhattan had a lot to do with shaping her interests. She recalls how her mother, Ellen Lewis, immersed her in the world of movies, music, and theater, and from there Lewis fell in love with the entertainment industry. “I think I always knew I wanted to go into a creative field. I just had no idea which area of the arts I would end up in.” She also found a great support system once her family moved to Wilton, including Mrs. Henry, her Wilton High School English teacher whom Lewis swears “staged an intervention” to get her to focus on creative writing. Additionally, her internship with Wilton-based Pyewackitt Productions taught her some invaluable lessons, including her favorite maxim, “It is just as important to figure out what you don’t want to do, as it is to figure out what you do want to do.”

As for Lewis’s next act, that remains to be seen, but she views her future options as limitless and exciting, adding, “I’m really bad at sitting still.” And no doubt her restlessness will make life a little more entertaining for all of us.

Carney and Lewis show us that there is a big payoff when we follow our dreams and never lose the desire to learn the next exciting thing, whatever that might be.


FOLLOW YOUR PASSION?  Intrinsically satisfying work makes people happier than a large pay check does. However, your interests may change over time, so be open to pursuing new careers along the way.

 

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