Adler Staff Stars

Adler Staff Members pose for a group photo.

April 2018 Staff Star

Geza Gyuk - Adler Staff Star

Geza Gyuk

Astronomer

What do you enjoy the most about working at the Adler?
I think it is the variety. As an astronomer I’ve gotten to do a bit of everything over the years: show production, exhibits, building scientific equipment, speaking to large audiences, mentoring one-on-one, flying balloons to the edge of space, speaking with the media… it is aways something exciting. I never know what will be next. I can’t say it has been non-stop fun, but it has been deeply satisfying to reach so many people and help them make connections to astronomy that will last a lifetime.

Tell us a little bit about your research.
I’m interested in everything under the Sun! So it is difficult to pick just a bit. In years past I’ve studied the structure of our Milky Way galaxy, how really old white dwarves cool down, the outer atmospheres of extrasolar planets, the orbits of basaltic asteroids, the extremely high energy gamma-rays emitted by supermassive black holes and the effect of massive unstable neutrinos on the Big Bang. Right now I’m most interested in designing a series of quick, cheap missions to Near Earth Asteroids. What kind of information can you get back? What do you need to make sure the impactor hits the target asteroid? How long would the mission take?

What is your favorite sky show or exhibition?
There have been so many! I guess if I had to pick I’d say the “Touch the Solar System” kiosks. I find something profoundly exciting about being able to actually touch a piece of another planet. It connects me to the planets in a real, tangible way that just learning about or studying them doesn’t. And the story of how these pieces of Mars, the Moon and asteroids got to the Earth is exciting and beautiful.

What is your favorite Adler memory?
I try not to pick favorites! But this past summer, standing with hundreds of people staring up at the 2017 eclipse as it reached totality has to rank up there at the top! We had a perfect day: a balloon launch to 360º-video the eclipse from the stratosphere, a chance to talk with a crowd of hundreds, and then the eclipse itself. I’m looking forward to 2024!

Share one fun fact about yourself!
I’m a Libra… no seriously, I have no idea! How about: I spent much of my childhood in Kuwait. When I was 4 years old my parents decided to move the family for a couple years to Kuwait. I think it was a sort of lark for them. But two years turned into four and then six years. I went to a school for British expatriates and picked up quite a strong British accent. More than a third of a century later I still have traces of it! If you want something more recent, I seem to have a passion for “aerial” hobbies: racing drones, high powered rocketry, parafoil kites. Maybe I should have been a pilot?

Previous Staff Stars

Aubrey Henretty

Senior Writer

What do you enjoy most about working at the Adler?
Aside from the obvious fact that it’s a space museum—a benefit that speaks for itself—there’s always something interesting going on in the staff area. You might run into an elaborate balloon sculpture in the lobby, an informal staff survey conducted by sticky-note on any surface, or a bunch of very smart teenagers making waffles in the citizen science cube.

Learn more about Aubrey

What has been your favorite project?
It’s hard to choose just one! I got to interview Captain Lovell for our member magazine last year, which was very cool. My favorite projects are the usually the ones that give me an excuse to learn something I didn’t know about space, then find a memorable way to express it to the general public.

Why, in your opinion, is Space Freaking Awesome?
Because it’s everything and we’re part of it. Asteroids, black holes, books, flesh-eating bacteria, Alpha Centauri, Saturn, chocolate cake—it’s all matter and energy and the laws of physics, just like people are. That may sound obvious, but in quiet moments, it takes my breath away.

What do you like to do outside of the Adler?
I’d love to say “stunt-piloting” or “espionage,” but the truth is probably just more writing? I dabble in podcasting and live storytelling. I also enjoy cooking and baking and hanging out with people who are willing to eat the things I cook and bake.

Name one fun fact about yourself.
I can solve a Rubik’s Cube in less than two minutes.

Star Hawk, Adler Staff Star

Star Hawk

Facilitation Lead

What do you enjoy most about working at the Adler?
Our facilitation team is amazing. We strive to make science accessible for all ages. We are some of the first people you will meet as you explore the museum. Whether we are providing awesome customer service or sharing the wonders of science, every interaction is unique and personal.

Learn more about Star

What is one of your favorite memories from your time at the Adler?
Every day is full of favorite moments! However, I do have a favorite day to make memories at the Adler. Every Monday our team hosts Young Explorer’s Monday. It’s a special day where our younger explorers can experience science on their level.

Why, in your opinion, is Space Freaking Awesome?
I have been a stargazer since I could look up. Before I knew constellations, I would connect the stars myself and create my own stories. Space can mean different things to different people. Whether you are an inspired artist like Van Gogh, or an astronaut preparing for your first visit to the International Space Station. It’s an honor to explore it’s wonder. Space belongs to us all.

What do you like to do outside of the Adler?
I was a volunteer at the Adler many years ago. I continue to volunteer for local museums and schools. I also like to organize events for conventions. However, I spend most of my time with my 3 children and my dog, Nova. I fondly refer to my children as my “satellites.”

Name one fun fact about yourself.
When I am not peering into the sky, I am flying kites in the sky. I own a myriad of sizes and designs. My favorite kites are stunt kites. I love the feeling of having an extension of myself high in the sky practically dancing in the wind.

Chris Helms | December 2017 Adler Staff Star

Chris Helms

Collections Manager

What do you like the most about working at the Adler?
Two days ago, I cleaned one of the oldest astrolabes in the world.  Yesterday, I took photos of one of the only known totally-ivory telescopes.  Today I prepared a mysterious gold medallion for exhibition.  How many people get to do that for a job?  I have to keep pinching myself and reminding myself that this is NOT a normal job, and how lucky I am to work at a place that allows me to do this every day.

Learn more about Chris

What is your favorite item in our collection?
I feel like I shouldn’t pick just one, but if I have to I think my favorite item in the collection is object A-398.  Object A-398 is a hollow brass celestial sphere that is one of a kind.  Made in what is now Lahore, Pakistan around 1679, this object is exceptionally beautiful and rare.  Normally, celestial spheres are solid or are printed on the inside of hollow spheres, but A-398 is cast in a much more ornate and delicate way.  It is a beautiful and striking piece that I love telling people about, and love to show off at Adler After Dark events whenever we get the chance.

What is your fondest Adler memory?
There’s too many to count!  My favorite days are Adler After Dark nights, partially because of all the fun and excitement that happens, but also because we set up “collections corner” stations and show off and talk to people about various objects in the Adler’s collection.  It’s awesome to see people who normally don’t know or care too much about historic objects get really excited and into the stories we tell.

What are your goals for the Adler in 2018?
Seeing people connect to the stories behind our objects is really inspiring, and it is increasingly the way forward for museum collections.  The Adler’s collection is full of objects that have really cool, interesting, scary, or bizarre stories that don’t get told often enough, and I want to share those with the world.  We’re working really hard on being able to tell those stories to the world, so we can keep impressing and “wowing” people.

Share one interesting fact about yourself!
I have no idea how to fold a fitted sheet.  Every laundry night I think “today’s the day”, but no matter how hard I try I just can’t do it.

Steve Burkland, Adler Staff Star

Steve Burkland

Theater Technician

What do you love about working at the Adler?
I love that everything I do works toward improving scientific literacy, and encourages people to ask questions about the world around them.

What is your favorite exhibition or sky show?
My favorite sky show is definitely Skywatch Live. I get to share the constellations with a theater-full of other people, and hear about what they see!

Learn more about Steve

Why, in your opinion, is space freaking awesome?
Space is freaking awesome when I think about the interconnectedness of systems – like Mars being without liquid water because of solar wind, or the orbits of exoplanets inducing wobbles in their stars.

What is your favorite Adler memory?
My favorite memory now is meeting all those amazing teachers and students in southern Illinois, during Galaxy Ride 2017!

Name one interesting fact about yourself!
I started a food and science blog called “The Hungry Physicist”, that focuses on using food to explore how and why the Universe works.

Gladys Crane - Adler Staff Star

Gladys Crane

Public Safety

What do you like the most about working at the Adler?
What I like about the Adler the most is being able to interact with visitors and assisting them in any way possible. I like being a part of the Safety Patrol Team, ensuring safety for our visitors and staff. I also like being able to explore the exhibits, both old and new. Overall, I like working at the Adler because it’s a friendly and an educational museum and a place for people of all ages.

Learn more about Gladys

What’s your favorite sky show or exhibition?
I really don’t have a favorite sky show or exhibit. I like them all. All the shows and exhibits are educational and inspiring. Something can be learned from each one of them. They all have a different history about the Universe.

What is one of your favorite memories from your time at the Adler?
One of my favorite memories of the Adler is when I saw Captain James A. Lovell Jr. in person for the very first time. Knowing all that he has done and contributed to the world, I felt lucky to be a part of the Adler staff.

What do you like to do outside of the Adler?
Outside the Adler I like to go to restaurants, visit museums, and occasionally go to the movies or to the bowling alley.

Name one fun fact about yourself!
One fun fact about myself is I like to do fun things to make people smile or laugh (tell a joke or give a compliment to brighten their day).

Victor Little, Facilitator

Victor Little

Facilitator

What do you enjoy the most about working at the Adler?
I enjoy the Solar System as well as interacting with guests and fellow staff members.

Learn more about Victor

What is your favorite exhibition or sky show?
Planet Nine because it has revolutionized our understanding of the Solar System. It’s something totally different from what we thought because of the objects in the Kuiper Belt. They have different physical compositions than what we’ve seen before.

What do you do outside the Adler?
I make wine! My hobby is winemaking. I also like reading and I’m currently learning how to speak Spanish. I love to walk as well, it’s a source of physical stamina and mental stability.

What is one of your favorite memories from working at the Adler?
The staff members! I enjoy interacting with them and they have been a source of encouragement for me regarding my interactions with guests.

Name one fun fact about yourself!
I like to be a source of encouragement for others as they have been for me. This has helped my intellectual development and social skills, which will last a lifetime.

Adriana Guzman, Astronomy Educator, Adler Staff Star

Adriana Guzman

Astronomy Educator

What do you like the most about working at the Adler?
My favorite part about working at the Adler is shifting people’s expectations about what science and museums are supposed to be like. We want to welcome everyone to learn by DOING science. So yes – touch the telescope! Interrupt us with your questions! Make a mess! Give us a different answer than we expect, and let’s experiment to test it out! My job is so much more exciting because of how playful and collaborative this learning environment is.

Learn more about Adriana

What is your favorite Adler memory?
I joined the Adler’s Galaxy Ride program this summer in Carbondale, Illinois for the total solar eclipse. Watching totality with hundreds of people from all over the state and country gathered, and hearing everyone in complete awe, was just indescribably awesome.

What do you like to do outside of the Adler?
Exploring different neighborhoods in Chicago on foot is my favorite thing to do…especially if that long walk ends with good food.

What is the most mind-boggling fact about space you know?
Until very recently with the detection of gravitational waves, almost everything we knew about the universe was discovered by studying different properties of the light our telescopes saw. The quantity of information we can extract from just light–from chemical composition and temperature of objects to distance, speed, and age–is incredible.

Name one fun fact about yourself!
I’ve made almost every staff member here groan in response to one of my bad puns at least once. It’s pretty punbearable.

Lindsay Silk-Kemenak, Adler Staff Star

Lindsay Silk-Kremenak

Marketing Manager

What do you like the most about working at the Adler?
I love that the staff truly enjoys working here and that they can be themselves. The passion that each Adler employee has is truly amazing and contagious. Not only do we all love coming into work each day but trust me when I say this is a building full of geekdom!

Learn more about Lindsay

What has been your favorite project so far?
Last summer for the solar eclipse, the marketing team had this crazy idea to do something with very large solar eclipse glasses. We had several different ideas on the table but ultimately we came out with having sculptural pieces roaming the city of Chicago promoting the upcoming solar eclipse and encouraging everyone to #LookUp with us. It was one of the larger projects I’ve managed but the payoff was worth it seeing the photos streaming in on social media of people going out finding the glasses as they moved around the city plus the attention they received when we passed out those coveted solar eclipse glasses at the locations.

What is your favorite exhibition or sky show?
I love walking through Mission Moon. As someone who dreamed of becoming an astronaut as a child, the sounds and items in that exhibition make me so excited and I feel like a kid again! Not to mention I was a fan of the film Apollo 13, so seeing the story of Captain Lovell almost on a daily basis has its perks as well. And then as you’re exiting…Oh! There’s a piece of the Moon. No big deal. (BIG DEAL)

What are your plans and goals for the Adler in 2018?
Figuring out “what’s next?”. Just like with space science, I’m always asking myself that question. At the Adler, we’ve definitely succeeded over the past couple of years showing everyone that Space Is Freaking Awesome. But now what? What’s our next big move? We made those huge eclipse glasses last summer. What’s next that we could do this year to blow that out of the water that would be a fun way to engage the public and educate people? People assume that marketing is all about putting ads in magazines (it’s not) and playing on Facebook (yeah, no) but instead we’re trying to find some really inventive ways to bring the Adler outside of our walls and THAT’S when I get excited, thinking outside of the box about what the possibilities could bring for the future.

Name one fun fact about yourself!
Most people know I’m a comic book nerd, but a lot of people don’t know that I’m a huge musical theater nerd as well. And not just your popular ones like Hamilton, Les Mis, Phantom, either (though I’ve seen them, of course). I’m talking I love some musicals you may/may not have heard of. One of my favorite cast recordings is Bonnie & Clyde. Another is The Wild Party. One of my most loathed is Ghost. And the one I love to laugh at is Spider-man: Turn Off the Dark (it’s too easy). The Tony Awards are my Oscars. I’m never above flying into New York just to see a show on Broadway. I love living in Chicago where we get most of the touring shows or the pre-Broadway productions. My musicals playlist on Spotify could last 11+ days without repeating a song. It would probably be double that if they had everything I try and look up on there!

Kate Brueggemann, Adler Staff Star

Kate Brueggemann

Vice President of Development

What do you enjoy most about working at the Adler?
I’m deeply connected and motivated by our core value of every mind matters. I most enjoy seeing our visitors engage with science in new and unexpected ways.

Learn more about Kate

When I see young people exploring the Community Design Lab or a family learning first-hand about gravitational waves with one of the astronomers, I am reminded that we are part of building connections outside our walls and developing a community of explorers.

What is your favorite exhibition or sky show?
That’s a hard question! Destination Solar System is a great entry point for us novice astronomers. It’s also my kids’ favorite show! The character Jesse is a great avatar for the Adler experience, we’re all learning this together and everyone is included in the journey of exploration.

What are your goals for the Adler in the next year?
This is an exciting time to be a part of the Adler, we’ve seen great successes in our community outreach programs like ‘Scopes in the City and our local audience has grown thanks to our public program offerings and stellar marketing campaign, Space is Freaking Awesome. Now we’re looking forward to where we want to be in 5, 10, 20 years and what kind of resources we need to achieve our dreams. My goal is to help the Adler reach for the stars.

Name one fun fact about yourself.
I love to cook, especially for my family and friends. My kids all have celiac disease, so I am experimenting with several new gluten-free recipes. Some have been hits, others just one-hit wonders.

What do you like to do outside of the Adler?
Right now, my family is enjoying exploring Chicago! We’re especially enjoying the beautiful Chicago parks and beaches.

Curator of Experience Annie Vedder is this week's Adler Staff Star!

Annie Vedder

Curator of Experience

What’s your favorite exhibition or sky show at the Adler?
I love Destination Solar System! The visuals are breathtaking and the story is so much fun. Who doesn’t like to imagine space travel in the future?

Learn more about Annie

What’s your fondest Adler memory?
My fondest Adler memory was meeting Captain and Mrs. Lovell. They are both amazing individuals who have done extraordinary things personally and professionally. It was an honor to meet them and share their story and experiences with our guests.

Why, in your opinion, is space freaking awesome?
Space is freaking awesome because it is weird…and scary…and different than anything we experience on Earth. I am definitely an Earth dweller, but the opportunity to wonder and discover the uniqueness of space is mind-blowingly cool!

Senior Coordinator of STEM Teen Programs Nathalie Rayter is this week's Adler Staff Star!

Nathalie Rayter

Senior Manager of Teen Programs

What do you enjoy most about working at the Adler?
I work with the Adler’s suite of teen programs, which focus on STEM skills but are anything but limited to them.

Learn more about Nathalie

I love that I get the opportunity to work with youth-serving organizations from all across Chicago–from museums and libraries to community centers and arts organizations–to innovate new programs and projects. Just in the past month or so, I collaborated on an astrobiology-art-making workshop at Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art and led a session at Hive Chicago Buzz, a learning landscape-focused hack day. There’s so much room for creativity and partnership.

What’s your fondest Adler memory?
One of the ways that we involve our Adler teens behind the scenes is as Science Sommeliers. Students who have had multiple experiences in our programs volunteer to “serve” table-side science demonstrations to guests at various events. At last year’s Annual Meeting, our intern Alyssa did an awesome job of guiding a group of guests through completing a simple circuit using their hands. When she was finished, she came over to check in with me, and asked, “why was everyone taking pictures of that guy I was talking to?” Little did she know she was explaining basic physics to Apollo 13 commander Jim Lovell!

What is the most memorable thing you have done during your time at the Adler?
The mentoring relationships that we build with our students are, to me, the most important thing we do. When a young person comes back after graduating high school, whether it’s to say that they’re doing great in college, or that they’re struggling and need support, I know that we’re doing our jobs because we’ve created a safe space for learning, exploration, and growth.

What do you like do to outside the Adler?
I both cook and read to the point of distraction. I also like to bike whenever I can, go to off-the-wall (and usually free) art and culture events, and explore as much as possible.

Chanel Wilson, Adler Staff Star

Chanel Wilson

Staff Accountant

What is your favorite space fact you like to share?
You can fit over one million Earths inside the Sun. My point is the Sun is quite bigger than it seems.

What do you like most about working at the Adler?
The view of the skyline and lake. It is a REQUIREMENT to go outside for lunch in the summer.

Learn more about Chanel

What is your favorite sky show or exhibition?
Cosmic Wonder, but really any show in the Grainger Theater wins.

What does the Adler’s mission mean to you?
Diversity in science. I’d say half of the Astronomy department (and our CEO) are women! Also, with movies like Hidden Figures, we now know the people of different backgrounds who were involved in planet exploration. Also, our activities for teens and events like AAD and Reel Science engage EVERYONE to learn about the Universe!

Share one interesting fact about yourself.
I have this new obsession with purple hair. My co-workers have gotten glimpses in the past few months, but I’ve toned it down because it was getting out of control.

What do you like to do outside of the Adler?
Sadly, shopping. An expensive but therapeutic hobby. I wanted to be a Fashion major in college, but somehow veered off to Accounting. I guess they relate, right?

STEAM Teen Community Coordinator Chris Bresky is this week's Adler Staff Star!

Chris Bresky

STEAM Teen Community Coordinator

What’s your fondest Adler memory?
The first time I ever saw Jupiter and the Galilean Moons was through the Doane Observatory telescope…

Learn more about Chris

In that moment I felt as if I was connected to Galileo (who first discovered them). There is an undeniable ability to time travel when you are looking at the stars – to see the light that was born with our ancestors.

What is the most memorable thing you have done during your time at the Adler?
Working with Adler Astronomers, Gayle Ratliff, Alissa Bans and Lucianne Walkowicz to create an extra terrestrial mask engineering workshop at the Intuit Center for Outsider Art. We guided the engineering of aliens masks based on our knowledge of adaptation and astrobiology. Each guest was given the environment of their planet and they built an alien that could survive in that environment.

What goal do you have for the Adler in 2016?
To bring STEM education to underserved areas of Chicago and to infuse more creative arts into science education as to inspire the STEM curiosity of all learners.

Pedro M. P. Raposo, DPhil

Curator

What do you enjoy most about working at the Adler?
Working with a world-class historical collection.

Learn more about Pedro

A normal work day for me might involve preparing the oldest telescope located in America for an exhibit, browsing a book by Johannes Kepler signed by Kepler himself, or talking about astrolabes using a 12th-century astrolabe.

What’s your favorite exhibition or sky show at the Adler?
That’s difficult to tell. What I really like about the Adler’s offerings is their diversity. On a single day at the Adler, guests can attend one great sky show or more, talk to an astronomer or a curator, tackle an engineering challenge, take a close look at beautiful and rare historic artifacts, and much more. The Adler is a great place to learn about the past, the present and the future of astronomy and space science, and there is always something particularly engaging for everyone. Though if push comes to shove: I especially love the Atwood Sphere, the Medieval Classroom in Astronomy in Culture, and Planet Nine.

What’s your fondest Adler memory?
Looking at 17th-century Moon maps in the company of Captain Jim Lovell. Studying the history of lunar cartography cannot get any better than that.

What goal do you have for the Adler in 2016?
Make the Adler’s collection ever more visible and accessible while making sure that our wonderful instruments, books, and other artifacts are properly preserved so that the future generations will also have the chance to appreciate them.

What do you like do to outside the Adler?
Indulge in my musical passions–collect LPs, look for that great obscure band or record, play the guitar, and go to concerts.

Adler President & CEO Michelle B. Larson, Ph.D., is this week's Adler Staff Star!

Michelle Larson, PhD

President & CEO

What do you enjoy most about working at the Adler?
One word sums up why I love working at the Adler – people. I am passionate about helping others awaken their explorer within, and I couldn’t think of a better group to work on that with than my talented colleagues.

Learn more about Michelle

Whether by greeting you at the door, or helping you explore a distant world, my colleagues and the smiles they generate on the faces of our guests, make this place special every day.

What’s your fondest Adler memory?
One morning I was talking with a family at the Adler, and I asked if they were getting ready to explore the Solar System with us in our sky show. As they started to explain they were hoping to, their five-year-old daughter shared with me that she was too scared and so they couldn’t go. I talked to her about why she was scared, which had to do with space being dark, and asked if she’d be brave enough to try if I came along and sat next to her. She asked me some very good questions about what we were going to see, and if I really thought she would like it. I convinced her to give it a try, and she and I (and her family) made the journey together. Her joyful expression when we launched out of the space port and turned the ship around to see Earth from space was not only priceless, but radiated from her the entire trip. As we exited the theater, she gave me an energetic high-five and announced she is ready to go to space anytime!

What is one fun fact about you?
I have a 145 rubber ducky collection…and counting.

Ken Walczak Adler Staff Star

Ken Walczak

Far Horizons Project Manager

What do you enjoy most about working at the Adler?
All the adventure it entails, from exploring the stratosphere with our volunteers and students to challenging ourselves designing new experiments.

Why should kids and teens be interested in STEM?

Learn more about Ken

Nearly everything we take for granted in our modern world is built on scientific discovery and built by engineers. We need a new generation of students interested in science and engineering to keep progress going.

What is your favorite Adler memory?
One of my favorite experiences was when a high school student we mentored went all the way to the state level with his science fair experiment and then won a gold medal.

What goal do you have for the Adler in 2017?
To launch our most ambitious mission ever with the help of volunteers and teens. Our goal is to provide a live video feed from the stratosphere of the August 21 total eclipse. Also our teen interns this spring will be designing and testing a system to capture 360 VR video of the eclipse.

What do you like to do outside the Adler?
I love camping – with my trusty travel ‘scope – in the most remote dark sites in the US. My goal is to visit the darkest site in every state. 12 down 38 to go!

This week's Adler Staff Star is Reservations Coordinator Liza Trevino!

Liza Treviño

Reservations Coordinator

What do you enjoy most about working at the Adler?
I enjoy talking to people. Period. I love hearing the joy that comes out of visitors after expressing how wonderful our shows and exhibitions are.

Learn more about Liza

I also love how the Adler has transformed with new exhibitions, our Grainger Sky Theater, and shows, including our newest one, Planet Nine!

Why, in your opinion, is space freaking awesome?
“Space is Freaking Awesome” is when you see the expression on visitors’ faces when they see Saturn’s rings through a telescope—they are excited and wowed by the experience. I got to witness this at our Annual Perseid Meteor Shower Star Party, happening again this August.

What is one fun fact about you?
I’m a wonderful cook, baker, and drive a convertible classic Mustang!

What do you like to do outside the Adler?
I enjoy reading and taking long drives through the Magnificent Mile and Lake Shore Drive in my Mustang.

This week's Adler Staff Star is Mark SubbaRao!

Mark SubbaRao, Ph.D.

Astronomer and Director of the Space Visualization Laboratory

What do you enjoy most about working at the Adler?
I’m really lucky to do what I’m passionate about: Sharing what we know about the the Universe and finding new ways to do that more effectively.

Learn more about Mark

What’s your favorite exhibition or sky show at the Adler?
I refuse to answer that—it’s like choosing between my children! Right now we are really proud of Planet Nine. Cosmic Wonder was also very special because we created a new type of planetarium show. The Space Visualization Laboratory is central to everything we create because of the direct feedback we get from visitors.

What’s your fondest Adler memory?
Once, when I was sitting on the 146 bus waiting to go home, I met a couple who had just gotten married. They had walked all the way from City Hall to Adler after their wedding only to find it closed. So, I took them in after-hours and gave them and gave them a private tour.

What does the Adler mission mean to you?
As an Astronomer, we’re privileged to be part of the great endeavor of expanding humanity’s knowledge. Communicating our progress in that quest is what Adler is all about.

What is the most memorable thing you have done during your time at the Adler?
Giving a private tour to NASA Astronaut Captain Jim Lovell, his son, and grandson—that was pretty awesome.

Why, in your opinion, is space freaking awesome?
The Universe is BIG, incredibly, mind bogglingly BIG.

What goal do you have for the Adler in 2016?
We are doing some really cutting-edge science communication work at the Adler, and I’d like to make more people aware of this—from people in Chicagoland to our museum colleagues around the world.

What is one fun fact about you?
I was born on April Fools’ Day!

What do you like do to outside the Adler?
I’m a foodie, and enjoy exploring the great ethnic foods we have in Chicago.

This week's Adler Staff Star is Mark Hammergren!

Mark Hammergren

Astronomer

What do you enjoy most about working at the Adler?
I love sharing the excitement of my asteroid research with the public. There have even been times when we’ve observed asteroids through our telescope in New Mexico in front of a live public audience, and some visitors were the first ones to spot our target asteroids.

Learn more about Mark

What’s your favorite exhibition or sky show at the Adler?
I love our meteorites! There aren’t too many subjects in astronomy that you can actually touch with your own hands. The meteorites all have such interesting stories behind them, tooespecially our Park Forest meteorite that punched its way completely through a house, from roof to basement.

What’s your fondest Adler memory?
A few years ago, the International Astronomical Union named an asteroid after me. Later on at an Adler event, astronaut Capt. James Lovell came up to me, congratulated ME for my asteroid, then started telling stories from his time aboard Apollo 8 as the spacecraft rounded the Moon. I almost had to pinch myself to see if this was really happening.

What does the Adler mission mean to you?
It is a amazing experience to bring to life Max Adler’s vision for the Planetarium: “To further the progress of science, to guide to an understanding of the majesty of the heavens, to emphasize that under the great celestial firmament there is order, interdependence and unity.”

What is the most memorable thing you have done during your time at the Adler?
I presented my asteroid research at a conference at the University of Khartoum in Sudan, and followed that up with an expedition to hunt for meteorites in the middle of the Nubian Desert. I found eight fragments of a unique type of meteorite on that trip.

Why, in your opinion, is space freaking awesome?
Studying space means that we study the universe and everything in it, including stuff right here on Earth. Everything is related to astronomy in some way: geology, biology, art and culture…everything is connected.

What is the most mind-boggling fact about space you know?
There are more stars in the Universe than all the grains of sand on all the world’s beaches, but there are more molecules in a single grain of sand than stars in the Universe.

What is one fun fact about you?
I was the first westerner to board a Russian Navy ship at sea. I was brought there on a helicopter in gale force winds by a pilot who had never landed on a ship before. I did this as a consultant for the first Russian commercial space launch in 1992, and I participated in the recovery of an uncrewed space capsule that splashed down in the North Pacific.

What do you like do to outside the Adler?
My favorite hobbies are rockhounding and fossil hunting. I’ve panned gold at Sutter’s Mill, found emeralds, rubies and sapphires in North Carolina, and excavated dinosaurs in Montana.

Joseph Hernandez

Guest and Member Services Manager

What do you enjoy most about working at the Adler?
I love the people and the fun environment that the Adler staff creates. I get to work with so many unique people and interact with guests from all over the world.

Why, in your opinion, is space freaking awesome?

Learn more about Joseph

Space is freaking awesome because no matter how much we learn about it something new comes around and just blows our minds. Space teaches us that knowledge is infinite.

What’s your favorite exhibition or sky show at the Adler?
The Universe: A Walk Through Space & Time.

What goal do you have for the Adler in 2017?
To have the best customer service focused team of any attraction in the Chicagoland area.

What do you like do to outside the Adler?
Adventures! I love to explore new things and have fun. There is a crazy world under our feet just waiting to be discovered and I want to know as much of it as I can.

Andy | Adler Staff Star

Andy Dutil

Operations Manager

What do you like most about working at the Adler?
I love working for an organization that is making a positive impact on the world! I am really proud to work towards making the Adler a fun, safe, and awesome place for our guests and staff. I think we have great people working here and I’m happy that I get to be a part of that group.

Learn more about Andy

What is your favorite sky show or exhibition?
I have always liked Destination Solar System, just because it is really fun. I think having the Gemini Capsule is pretty great, too.

What is your favorite Adler memory?
One of my favorite days at the Adler was also one of the busiest days I’ve had here—my first Celestial Ball. We had worked on planning for months and it was really cool to see the building completely transform for the event. Everyone on staff was working hard to get the building ready and looking great. It was a long, hard day but in the end we put on a really great event and raised a lot of money for our programs.

Why, in your opinion, is space freaking awesome?
Space is freaking awesome because of the shear scope of it all. Space is freaking huge! There really are no limits to what we can still explore and learn more about.

What do you like to do outside of the Adler?
I love to cook! You can find me making overly elaborate dinners several nights a week. I also love to travel, be outside, and explore Chicago. I am getting married on August 26, so that’s pretty much my life right now.

Manager of Program Development Kyle Sater is this week's Adler Staff Star!

Kyle Sater

Manager of Program Development

What do you enjoy most about working at the Adler?
No two days are ever the same!

What’s your fondest Adler memory?
The Curiosity Landing Party we hosted in August 2012. It was amazing to share that experience with over 1,000 guests!

Learn more about Kyle

What does the Adler mission mean to you?
It means we’re all explorers, and have an innate desire to learn and expand our horizons. I like that.

What is the most memorable thing you have done during your time at the Adler?
That’s a tough one, but geeking out with hundreds of Star Wars fans (and some Stomtroopers) at our December 2015 Adler After Dark to celebrate the opening of The Force Awakens was up there on my list.

What goal do you have for the Adler in 2016?
To continue the great work we’re already doing, while bringing new, relevant, exciting content to even more audiences.

What do you like do to outside the Adler?
Spend time with my wife and our baby girl, read (and watch) classic sci-fi, travel, and running long distances “for fun.”

Astronomer Lucianne Walkowicz is this week's Adler Staff Star!

Lucianne Walkowicz

Astronomer

Why do you love working at the Adler?
I love working at the Adler because I get to pursue cutting-edge research while being an “Ambassador to the Stars!”

What is the most memorable thing you have done during your time at the Adler?

Learn more about Lucianne

The Adler Galaxy Ride! Last fall a team of us created a biking science roadshow, where we cycled from Chicago to St. Louis as a way of mapping out distances in space. We put on free fun science events in cities and towns along the way, and made a lot of people really happy.

What is the most mind-boggling fact about space you know?
Did you know that all gold is created when stars die in gigantic explosions called supernovae? The fact the the Earth has enough gold for us to make jewelry out of means that the stuff our planet (and entire solar system) formed from was sprinkled with gold from a nearby stellar death explosion, billions and billions of years ago.

Master Educator Michelle Nichols is this week's Adler Staff Star

Michelle Nichols

Director of Public Observing

Why do you love working at the Adler?
I am surrounded by amazing, enthusiastic colleagues, our programs are fun and innovative, and our visitors are the best because they are as geeked-out about science as we are! Who wouldn’t want to work here?

Learn more about Michelle

What is the most memorable thing you have done during your time at the Adler?
Watching a total solar eclipse from the deck of a ship in the Black Sea in 1999, along with about 150 other Adler members and others who came with the Adler group. It was an incredible experience!

Why, in your opinion, is space freaking awesome?
If you try to think of the strangest or most amazing place you can come up with, there’s probably a place in the Universe that is even stranger and more amazing!

What is the most mind-boggling fact about space you know?
The water that you drink is made of two atoms of hydrogen and one atom of oxygen. The atoms of hydrogen you are drinking were made in the Big Bang. The oxygen was made inside a star.

What do you like do to outside the Adler?
I love to garden and cook!

Lynette Morse

Manager of Program Development; Innovator

What do you enjoy the most about working at the Adler?
I love the creative nature of my job—figuring out ways to make space science engaging and relevant for all audiences. I also love that the Adler is truly a community of explorers. Of course, our astronomers are always exploring our universe, and we invite visitors to explore space with us both inside the museum and through our various outreach programs. But staff are also empowered to explore—new ways of sharing stories, creating experiences, rethinking systems and procedures, and brainstorming ideas of all sorts.

Learn more about Lynette

What is your favorite Adler program?
Any program that I’m excited to create and guests are excited to experience. I’m fortunate to work with passionate colleagues, and we have fun developing physical games and activities, science experiments that can lead to many different discoveries, interesting ways of telling stories, and hands-on experiences to help make the vastness of space a little more reachable. So it’s tough to pick a favorite program!

What does the Adler’s mission mean to you?
We strive to create experiences and programs and exhibits that spark curiosity, invite participation, and inspire exploration. Hopefully, this means that visitors will see and experience things at the Adler that they won’t see or experience at home or in school or even at other museums. We truly see ourselves and our guests as being together on an exciting journey of learning and discovery.

What do you like to do outside of the Adler?
I’m a cultural fun-haver. I enjoying traveling and experiencing new places, visiting other museums, attending theater, dance, and arts events, and—especially since I’m still relatively new to the city—exploring Chicago.

Name one fun fact about yourself!
Although I always knew I was destined to be an educator, I like to say that while growing up I wanted to be 5 things that begin with the letter ‘A.’ Seeing the movie Space Camp as a kid—at about the same time I visited my first space museum—made me want to be an Astronaut. Working at the Adler comes pretty close. (Can you guess the other 4?)