He’s in the middle of sophomore year at Rochester Institute of Technology, but Saugerties native Mike Every is already making a name for himself in the scientific community. His idea for the future of telescopes?
As in The Graduate, one word: plastics.
The Saugerties High Class of 2010 alum is a second-year physics major at RIT.“[In high school] I was making my own 14-inch telescope and I was grinding the 14-inch glass mirror, which obviously takes a lot of effort and it took a lot of time,” Every said. “While I was doing that, I came across the idea of making the glass process faster. I looked into different ways of grinding glass in faster ways. Then I decided, ‘Why do we need to use glass? Why can’t we use something else?’
Lighter-weight plastic has several advantages over glass.
“For professional telescopes, the sheer size of these mirrors that they use in observatories is astronomical,” Every said. “You can have a mirror that will easily weigh 20 tons, sometimes even more. If we were to make these mirrors out of plastic, and this is assuming that we take the glass and make an exact copy out of plastic material, a 20-ton mirror would only weigh about 10-15 tons, which greatly reduces the cost of supporting the mirror and moving the telescope. That’s simply replacing the glass with plastic. The mirrors could be thinner, and we could probably even get them down to 5 or 6 tons.”
Every’s theory took a giant step forward after arriving at RIT, where he was awarded a summer fellowship last year by the Innovation Center, funding a study in a composites lab.
“We got the idea that we could spin a liquid plastic and have it harden into a parabolic shape, and that’s exactly what we got,” Every said. “There were little surface imperfections, but those could be worked out.”
Every’s research paper was judged the best in the field of physics and astronomy during the 2011 undergraduate research symposium, leading to an invitation to the Meter-Class Astronomy Conference in Mauna Kea.
What do you miss most about Saugerties?
I really like the community there. It’s a nice small community. Very friendly and pretty much everyone knows everyone; that small-town type of closeness.
When a friend asks you to describe Saugerties, what do you say?
I would pretty much say it’s a small, close-knit community.
How did you end up doing what you do?
It all really snowballed from a young age. When I was five I got my first book from my Godmother and it pretty much just cascaded from there.
What are the most important skills in your [chosen] profession?
Dedication is number one, I’ve got to say. Things will go wrong, and just when you think they can’t get any worse, they get worse. And you’ve just to keep going with it. That’s number one.
Do you have any advice for someone hoping to follow in your footsteps?
Don’t give up. The number one thing was, when I first got this idea, I can’t tell you how many people, both professional people and people that really didn’t have a clue about the field were saying that there’s no way that this can work. People that have even toyed with this idea before got scared of it. They’d make something up to say it can’t be done, or it’s too difficult to do. Or there’s probably a professional out there doing it right now. You’ve just got to go with your gut instinct and go for it.
What is your favorite virtue?
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
Other than physics, I don’t know. I’d probably do something with computers. Computer engineering, computer software.
What are your favorite color, flower and animal?
Favorite color is blue; favorite animal is the lion; favorite flower, I don’t really have one.
What is your idea of the perfect Saturday?
Saturday with no work. Hanging out with friends and things like that.
Which qualities do you admire most in others?
I admire a sense of humor. A good personality, honest and trustworthy. Those are the major things I look for in people.
Do you have any heroes?
Not any in particular, no. Not really.
What is your idea of happiness?
Just being content with what I have, everything that I’ve been given. Not caring about material things or anything like that. Happiness is how my life is.
What is your idea of misery?
Pretty much the exact opposite. Being caught up in material things. Not having the time to think about the beauty in life.
What talent do you wish you’d been given?
Patience. I wish I could have had a lot more patience.
What is your main fault?
I would probably say patience again. That’s probably the biggest thing. I have a hard time sitting back and just relaxing, taking things step by step instead of trying to attack it all at once.
For which fault in others do you have the most tolerance?
I don’t mind if I arrange something with someone and they have a legitimate excuse to not want to do it. I would rather someone be honest with me and flat out tell me that what I said is stupid, or an idea is stupid than to agree with me and just go along with it. One of the things I don’t have a tolerance for is people that don’t speak up.
What is your favorite motto?
“Just do it.”
What character in history do you most dislike?
How far back are we talking? I’d say Osama bin Laden.
What is your present state of mind?
If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear Saint Peter say when you arrive at the pearly gates?