Adler Planetarium Leadership & Executive Team
Michelle B. Larson, Ph.D.
President and CEO
An accomplished astrophysicist with a passion for science education, Dr. Larson is the Adler’s ninth leader. As president of America’s first planetarium, Dr. Larson oversees a twenty-first century space science center that includes the institution’s landmark museum complex, exhibition galleries, and three theaters; a robust research enterprise; one of the world’s leading collections documenting the history of science; and an award-winning education and outreach program. Dr. Larson’s professional passion is enabling engagement and communication between scientists and the public. She grew up in Anchorage, Alaska, earned her undergraduate and graduate degrees in Physics from Montana State University, and did her doctoral work in neutron star astrophysics. It was during this time that she discovered astronomy as a vehicle to engage people in science.
Dr. Andrew Johnston
Vice President of Astronomy & Collections
Dr. Andrew Johnston oversees the museums’ efforts in astronomy research and engagement, cutting-edge space visualizations, near-space exploration, history of astronomy research, and conservation of and outreach with the Adler’s world-renowned collections. Before joining the Adler team, Dr. Johnston had worked in museums for 30 years, conducting science research and developing new museum programs. Johnston received his PhD in Geographical Sciences from the University of Maryland, College Park.
Vice President of Development
Kate Brueggemann brings a wealth of experience in all aspects of fundraising as head of the Development team at the Adler. Prior to joining the Adler, Ms. Brueggemann was the Director of Principal Giving at the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis where she oversaw major donations, planned giving, and the capital campaign. She also served as Development Director at the Missouri History Museum. Ms. Brueggemann holds a BA in English Literature from Truman State University and an MA in English from the University of Missouri- St. Louis. She also holds a CFRE credential (Certification for Fundraising Executives).
Vice President, Chief Marketing Officer
Mr. Lapides is an experienced digital, retail, and traditional advertising and marketing professional with more than two decades of diverse experience. Prior to joining the Adler team, Mr. Lapides was the Director of Marketing at Cosi Restaurants. He began his career in the Department of Communications at the White House and is a veteran of prestigious Chicago ad agencies including Leo Burnett and Razorfish, where he helped grow such brands as Coca-Cola, Hershey’s, the United States Postal Service, and others. Mr. Lapides is also an occasional guest lecturer at his alma mater, the University of Illinois, where he graduated in 1991 with a B.A. in Communications. As Chief Marketing Officer, Mr. Lapides leads the museum’s marketing and communications initiatives, as well as revenue generating sectors including visitor services, membership, private events, food service, and retail.
Vice President for Finance and Administration/CFO
Ms. Heuser leads the Adler’s finance, human resources, operations and information technology teams. She joined the Adler as Controller in 2010. Prior to the Adler, her career includes responsibilities as an Audit Manager at Ernst and Young, as well as Senior Manager and Controllership roles with other organizations. A CPA, Ms. Heuser has an MBA in Finance and Policy Studies from the University of Chicago and a BBA in Accounting and Information Systems from the University of Wisconsin – Madison.
Vice President of Guest Experience
Ms. Cole comes to the Adler with over a decade of expertise in leadership, guest experience, exhibitions, and project management. She has a successful history enriching the visitor experience by empowering programming and exhibition teams to transform ways audiences can connect to museums. Prior to joining the Adler, Ms. Cole served as the Director of Visitor Experience at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and multiple roles over the course of five years at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. In her career, she has been responsible for the conception, development, management and delivery of dynamic visitor experiences that provided excellent customer service and strong content interpretation. Ms. Cole holds a BS in biology from Butler University and an MA in museum studies from Indiana University.
Vice President, Chief Information Officer
Chris Comerford joins the Adler with almost two decades of experience in leadership, strategy, and technology. He has successfully led a series of initiatives to enable organizational priorities through technology in both the academic and private sectors. Comerford was most recently the Senior Director of Information Technology and Administrative Initiatives for the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern University. He has also held technology leadership roles at Maven Wave Partners, ShopLocal, and the University of Chicago. Comerford earned his bachelor’s degree in economics and his MBA in strategy and management from the University of Chicago.
Laura Trouille, Ph.D.
Laura Trouille, Ph.D., was appointed Director of Adler’s Citizen Science efforts in June 2015. Before that time she held a dual postdoctoral position at Northwestern University and at the Adler, as an observational astronomer (examining supermassive black holes) and a science-education researcher (on the impact of lesson plans incorporating computational thinking into K-12 STEM education). She earned a Bachelors’ Degree summa cum laude from Dartmouth College and holds a doctorate in Astronomy from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.