Wandering the Earth and stars with Isaac Steinberg ’15

Astronomy club president and editor-in-chief of Wander encourages exploration

Photo/Mike Lovett

In medieval times, cartographers illustrated unexplored regions of their maps with pictures of dragons and sea monsters, accompanied by the Latin warning hic sunt dracones — here are dragons — to ward off travelers. 

But dragons don’t scare Isaac Steinberg ’15. On the contrary, he actively pursues the unknown. Steinberg is an avid traveler, amateur astronomer and editor-in-chief of Wander: Brandeis Abroad, the student magazine supported by the Office of Study Abroad

For International Education Week, Nov. 9-14, Wander is presenting a student photo exhibit in the Shapiro Campus Center atrium. It will run through Nov. 14. The sixth issue features stories, poems and photographs by students studying abroad.

The Earth isn’t quite large enough to contain Steinberg’s wanderlust. President of the astronomy club, he also explores the cosmos with Brandeis’ 24” Cassegrain reflector telescope. Several times a month, Steinberg hosts an evening of stargazing in the Gruenbaum Observatory in Abelson, where student astronomers explore the moon, nearby planets and far away galaxies, snapping photos of their observations. Steinberg is quick to note that the word “planet” is derived from the Greek word for “wanderers,” since the planets move, while the stars are fixed.  

“There is a sense of discovery and wonder when you look to the sky and see something you haven’t seen before, like a detail on a crater of the moon,” Steinberg says. “It’s a similar feeling when I’m traveling and discovering new people, places and ways of thinking. Both force me to think about myself differently.”

The Manhattan native caught the travel bug early, exploring Europe, Asia and Africa with his family. Taking a gap year following high school, Steinberg volunteered in a Brazilian slum, studied marine ecology on a remote Indonesian island, and practiced yoga in India. 

Steinberg returned to India after his freshman year to teach astronomy, photography, and philosophy at the Women’s Education Project, an NGO working to empower women. On his own study abroad semester, he studied in Australia and Indonesia.

About 40 percent of Brandeis students study abroad; Steinberg hopes Wander inspires even more to go away. “I hope Wander makes people’s minds wander but also encourages their feet to follow and see the world for themselves,” he says.  

The philosophy major has no intention to stop exploring after graduation. 

“I strive to be always wandering and wondering,” he says. “It can show you a more clarified truth in a subjective world. If you try to see things from another perspective, even if you don’t agree with it, it can help inform or even change your own perspective.”

To see photos from the Astronomy Club, check out ReAction: The Brandeis University Science and Research blog.

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