Chris Gatti

The Academic Acrobat

Academic by training. Acrobat at heart.

I am a gymnast-turned-acrobat that likes to think. I split my time between training, coaching, and working on programming projects in a variety of domains.

I grew up and trained as a gymnast in Massachusetts, and I went on to compete for the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, from 2001—2005. I studied engineering and obtained a BSE in mechanical engineering. After graduating, I started working in a biomechanics lab studying the shoulder and I stayed at the University of Michigan and went to grad school for an MSE in biomedical engineering. I worked on a lot of different types of projects, with most of them focusing on computational biomechanics. The computational aspect of those projects was most appealing and interesting to me, and this interest led me to my second stint of graduate school at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY where I received a PhD, focusing on machine learning and data analysis.

Since I stopped competing in 2005, I kept training on my own and playing in the gym for the next 9 years. When I was nearing the completion of my PhD in the spring of 2014, I put together a demo tape for Cirque du Soleil just to see what might come of my athletic and acrobatic talent. Cirque liked my demo tape, and two weeks after defending my thesis, I was in Montreal training for Corteo. I toured with the show for 16 months in South America doing a high bar act called Tournik, until the show closed in December of 2015. After rehabbing my shoulder, I joined Cirque du Soleil again, this time as the Head Coach of Volta, their newest big top production. In August 2017, I left that position, and now I teach handstands/acrobatics and do independent research.

Though my passion is acrobatics, I still think like an academic. I often have a few projects that I'm working on either independently or with a few colleagues. This intellectual outlet of mentally stimulating projects provides a nice balance to my physical training.