34 // Senior exhibit developer at the
Museum of Science and Industry *
Lives in: Lake View
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The fifth of seven kids, Castellini has always stood out from the pack: performing in youth symphony, signing with Ford Models, snagging her second-degree black belt in shaolin kempo karate, and receiving a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Wisconsin. Oh, and Science Storms, the MSI’s insider look at the wonders of nature? That’s Castellini, too.
Teach us physics in 20 words or less. “Physics is just another language, like French or German, for describing something—say, throwing a ball.”
Wow. That makes sense. Do you use that line often? “Telling a date I’m a physicist is usually the last thing on the list. If you want to stop a cocktail conversation short, tell him you’re a physicist. He’ll be like, ‘A physician?’ No. Oh, no.”
On teaching karate to kids: “I always said, ‘I don’t like teaching. I don’t want to be a teacher.’ But what I figured out, when I looked back at all of the odd jobs I had in grad school, was what I didn’t like was formal classroom teaching. It’s way easier to teach kids when you have the option of having them drop for pushups when they mouth off.”
On running: “I am one of those crazy people who run all winter long. I actually like winter running better than summer running. The lakefront path is far less crowded, but I also feel like more of a badass when I’ve gotten up to go running in 15-degree weather. How cold is too cold? If we’re inching south of 10 degrees and it’s windy? Well . . . But one of those days when it’s snowing and you feel like you’re running through a snow globe? That’s amazing. It’s crazy quiet. Finding your own quiet space within this huge city is a pretty cool feeling.”
On modeling: “I started modeling in grad school as a way of making a little extra grocery money. There’s this perverse joy in the disconnect between spending all day in a physics lab and then showing up [to model], and they’re like, ‘We don’t care if you can spell your name, sweetheart, as long as you can stand there and make that sweater look good.’ I remember one go-see at Harpo. They were doing an episode on auctioning off Oprah’s old evening gowns, and since she’s been a gamut of sizes, they had models from size 2 to plus-size. I had brought a bunch of work with me from the lab, and I was reading this technical research paper. There was a girl sitting next to me, flipping through some magazine. After about half an hour, she says, ‘Excuse me. What are you reading?’ I got as far as, ‘Well, I’m a grad student and I’m studying physics,’ and she just held up her hand and said, ‘I don’t want to know’ and turned right back around. The guys in the lab think I’m a total freak because I’m wandering off to do photo shoots, and the girls at the photo shoots think I’m a freak because I’m going back to the lab to do my physics research. Awesome.” —J.W.
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