Adler Staff Share What Inspires Them

Megan Lothamer Digital Marketing Manager

It’s Astronomy Day! On such a day we could seize the opportunity to talk about what it feels like to look up through a telescope or how our collections experts preserve centuries-old astrolabes or the latest updates on our Adler teen-led underwater meteorite hunt… but as I watch the people around me do what they do every day the question that pops into my mind is, “Why?” What inspires each of us to be a part of this amazing community? And what road brought us here in the first place?

I started asking my fellow colleagues some of these questions and here’s a handful of their responses!

“Picture a 14-year old kid in a small industrial town in Portugal a few decades ago, watching in awe the episode of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos dedicated to the Renaissance astronomer Johannes Kepler. If you had told the kid that one day he would be overseeing a world-class museum collection that includes a book signed by Kepler himself, and sharing the stories of this and many other historic items with the world, he would likely have said: ‘yeah, sure…’. Well, here’s the kid now (or a grown-up and aging version of him) doing precisely that every day at the Adler Planetarium!”
–Dr. Pedro Raposo, Curator

“In 5th grade, our school librarian pulled me aside and said he thought I’d find a book on Saturn interesting. I read it and before the end of 6th grade I’d read every book in the astronomy section of the library! That’s how I got hooked.”
–Steve Burkland, Manager of Theaters & Digital Technology

“Like many little kids, I loved the subjects of space, rocks, and dinosaurs. And as an astronomer specializing in asteroids, I can combine all those interests and make them my job!”
–Dr. Mark Hammergren, Astronomer

“I think it was Einstein’s theory of special relativity. I probably had to memorize a version of it at some point as a kid, but I never really understood what it meant until I was in graduate school—for creative writing. I was reading Brian Greene’s book, The Fabric of the Cosmos, in a coffee shop when it finally sank in: Space and time were just two ways of looking at one enormously weird thing, our thing, the placetime where we live and read and drink coffee. It melted my brain in the best way, and I made a conscious decision to rearrange my life so I could learn more about physics and astronomy and shout what I learned to anyone who would listen.”
–Aubrey Henretty, Senior Writer

“I knew zero about space when I took this job (not like zero as in Will Ferrell, ‘my favorite planet is the Sun’ type zero), but my knowledge was VERY limited. So, I decided to take on the biggest challenge of my career: learning a new subject matter. As such, I can honestly say that over the course of the last four years, I’ve literally learned something new every day. Thank you to my colleagues for being so nice and being such great teachers! Space is indeed freaking awesome!”
–Erin Wilson, Director of Marketing

“When I first got into history and the museum world, I realized that I didn’t have access to the world-class collections and museums that many city dwellers often take for granted. In my current role, I get to help bring the amazing collections of the Adler to people across the world no matter where they are all while encouraging the same people to stop and look up. Our historical collections really show that humanity has made looking up at the sky an endearing endeavor and I’m proud to get to show that history in a place that continues to inspire people to look up. As our founder Max Adler said best, we get to show that we all ‘constitute part of one Universe and that, under the great celestial firmament, there is no division or cleavage but rather interdependence and unity.’ We are all one and we are all under one sky.”
–Jessica BrodeFrank, Digital Collections Access Manager

“My first love was physics. I was amazed to learn that we can describe how the Universe works with equations, everything from the motion of planets down to the motion of subatomic particles. Now I apply my knowledge of physics to study our very own Sun!”
–Dr. Maria Weber, Astronomer

“I loved Greek and Roman mythology and knew many of the stories by heart. One day in high school, my friend started telling me about different constellations and I was like, ‘I KNOW THESE STORIES!’ I got even more excited that you can still find many of these constellations today. A whole soap opera of Greek deities and their weird relationships happening ABOVE MY HEAD!”
–Reheynah “Rey” Maktoufi, Visiting Researcher

Responses were edited for length and clarity.

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Megan Lothamer Digital Marketing Manager

Megan grew up looking at the Milky Way from the comfort of her own backyard. While not exploring the Universe at the Adler Planetarium, Megan enjoys trying new food all around Chicago, attempting to grow plants on her back porch, and spending too much time at Target.

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