Adler Planetarium

Executive Staff


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.


Ginevra Stirling Ranney
Vice President for Institutional Advancement

Ms. Ranney leads the museum’s efforts to secure philanthropic support, working closely with the president and board of trustees. She has been a member of the development team at the Adler Planetarium since 1999 and has served in a variety of roles, including campaign director for the Adler’s $40 million Lift-Off! Capital Campaign, which ultimately raised $54 million. Most recently, Ms. Ranney was the associate vice president for development. She holds fifteen years of experience in fundraising including board development, capital campaigns, major and individual gifts, corporate and foundation relations, and event management.  Before joining the Adler, Ms. Ranney was the assistant director of special gifts and the Grateful Patient Program at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. She graduated with honors from Kenyon College.  


Sarah Cole
Vice President of Visitor Experience

Ms. Cole comes to the Adler with over a decade of expertise in leadership, visitor 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.

Marc Lapides
Vice President of Business and Market Development

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 vice president for the Adler’s Business and Market Development team, 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.

Marcia Heuser
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.  


Geza Gyuk
Vice President for Astronomy, Research and Collections

Dr. Gyuk is a member of the international VERITAS collaboration, which built and operates the world's most sensitive TeV gamma-ray observatory. As part of Adler's AVAST group, he also studies the composition of V-type (basaltic) asteroids, thought to be remnants of larger proto-planetary objects. Gyuk leads Adler's Far Horizons program, which is building a community of amateurs, students and volunteers who design, build, and operate space exploration missions.


Laura Whyte
Director of Citizen Science

The citizen science department at the Adler Planetarium is home to a development team who design and build Zooniverse websites - the worlds largest and most successful collection of citizen science projects. This team, who bring expertise in technology, education, science outreach and research, reach beyond the internet into the local community through school visits, youth programs and hack days events. As former astronomer, high school teacher, museum educator, and web developer, Dr. Whyte leads these initiatives and the opportunity they bring to engage a wider Chicago audience in actively doing science.