Speakers

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  • Shannon SchmollAstronomy Update - Dr. Shannon Schmoll
    The annual Astronomy Update Lecture, usually the highest rated conference event, provides the latest astronomical information, investigates what has changed in the past year, and explores current theories on the workings of the Universe. In a new format this year, the Update will focus on the top 10 developments in the field over the past year.

    Dr. Shannon Schmoll is the director of the Abrams Planetarium at Michigan State University where she has been working to expand both astronomy programming and learning of other subjects under the dome. She earned a joint PhD in Astronomy and Astrophysics and Education from the University of Michigan in 2013. Her research has focused on integrating field trips to informal learning environments into formal science curriculum. She is currently working on a research around extending learning beyond the dome after planetarium shows. She was also a member of the first cohort of the Astronomy in Chile Educator Ambassadors program and continues to provide outreach around why we build so many telescopes in Chile.

  • Gary TomlinsonI Believe (Spitz Lecture) - Gary Tomlinson

    Gary Tomlinson, one of the few people in the planetarium profession to hold a degree in planetarium education, graduated from Abrams Planetarium’s graduate degree program back in the 1970’s. Gary spent his entire professional career at the Chaffee Planetarium in Grand Rapids, Michigan helping it grow from an innovative 30-foot dome to a state-of-the-art 50 foot dome. Even though education was his strong point, one of his most innovative accomplishments was the invention of a rain "projector" where audience members actually got wet, as well as many other "old fashioned" special effect projectors.

    Gary is a past president of GLPA and has been GLPA's Conference Planning Chair for over 30 years. He is also been the Astronomy Day Coordinator for the past 35 years. When asked about his most significant accomplishment, he replied helping to construct GLPA's Astronomy Literacy: Essential Concepts for a K-12 Curriculum and getting all the other US planetarium regional associations to adopt it and speak with a unified voice. He is also the recipient of numerous awards.

    In this talk, you’ll learn Gary's opinion on what makes a good planetarium show, the difference between a movie and a planetarium show, the need for questioning and observation, myths and beliefs, and some of his favorite things.

    Gary Tomlinson is an accomplished, award winning educator with more than 40 years of experience championing science and science education among students, the public, colleagues, the professional community, and government decision makers. He served as the Associate Curator of the Chaffee Planetarium in Grand Rapids, Michigan from 1976 until 2003. He is also a past-president of GLPA and has been the GLPA Conference Coordinator for many years.

  • Jessica GarciaInclusion and Diversity in Education - Dr. Jessica Garcia
    In this interactive session, participants will have the opportunity to reflect on challenges they have faced during instruction and identify potential solutions for creating more inclusive, engaging learning environments rooted in best practices. Issues of identity and bias will also be addressed.

    Jessica Garcia, PhD, is the Founder and CEO of Hummingbird Solutions, LLC, a diversity and inclusion consulting firm. In this role, Garcia offers business and community members the tools and resources to create and sustain inclusive environments for their employees, clients, and constituents. She has consulted with and trained thousands of participants across a wide range of industries in the public and private sectors providing interactive, customized services on topics such as implicit bias and microaggressions; power and privilege; facilitating difficult conversations; inclusive leadership; recruitment, retention, and advancement; and inclusive teaching.

    In addition to her work with Hummingbird Solutions, LLC, Garcia serves as the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Manager for the Literature, Science, & Arts College at the University of Michigan. Prior to joining the University of Michigan, Garcia held a joint position in the Department of Sociology and the Office for Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives at Michigan State University. She earned her bachelor's degree and doctorate from Michigan State University in Sociology.

  • Robert DempseyThe Making of a Mission - Dr. Robert C. Dempsey
    Picture NASA's famed Mission Control Center and you think of men and women quietly sitting around computer consoles. Calmly sitting there whether vehicles are hurtling towards each other at thousands of miles per hour for a docking of two vehicles in orbit, perhaps not even from the same country. Tranquilly monitoring their data as a space walk is conducted to keep the International Space Station operating. Quietly controlling the vehicle as emergency alarms on the spacecraft are annunciating in red and yellow on the computers of the control room. But what is not seen is the years these women and men prepared for that mission. Designing the spacecraft. Developing the plans and procedures to operate it. Training. From the earth to low earth orbit. From Old Space to New Space. This talk will present some of the stories of these tough and competent people as they prepare for these different operations.

    Dr. Robert C. Dempsey has been with NASA since 1997. In his capacity as a flight director for the International Space Station since 2005, he has been responsible for all day-to-day activities, vehicle docking/un-docking, and complex space walks. He also served a 3-year stint as the lead flight director for the European Space Agency (ESA).

    For the last 8 years, Dempsey has served as lead rendezvous and docking flight director for the Boeing Starliner program, slated for its first unmanned launch in late September. The Starliner is part of NASA's Commercial Crew Program, a public-private partnership with Boeing and SpaceX to fly crews to the space station.

    Early in his career, Dr. Dempsey worked for the Space Telescope Science Institute as a resident astronomer on the Hubble Space Telescope (1992–1997) and for United Space Alliance as a flight controller (1997–2003).

    Dr. Dempsey earned BS degrees in Astronomy and Physics from the University of Michigan. He went on to earn a master’s degree and a PhD in physics from University of Toledo.

  • Karen BjorkmanTomorrow’s Astronomy for Everyone: From Deep Space to the Mountaintops to your Backyard - Dr. Karen S. Bjorkman
    Astronomy has changed in many ways over just the past 50 years. With the regular availability of space-based telescopes and instruments, from the large and powerful to the small and clever, astronomers have never had such an amazing suite of tools with which to explore the universe. From the ground, new telescopes and techniques are opening new areas of research. The development of high-quality off-the-shelf equipment has allowed more amateur astronomers to make significant contributions to the field. Citizen Science projects are bringing everyone into astronomy and encouraging them to join in the grand endeavor to understand the universe in which we live.

    Dr. Karen Bjorkman was named interim provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at The University of Toledo in January 2019.

    Since December 2010, she has served as Dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics and in 2015 was named as the inaugural holder of the Helen Luedtke Brooks Endowed Professorship in Astronomy. She is also a Distinguished University Professor.

    Bjorkman is an astronomer and astrophysicist who became fascinated with science, and particularly astronomy, as a child watching the Apollo moon landings in real time on grainy black and white TV images.

    She obtained her BS in Physics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, worked for several years at an aerospace company as a systems engineer, and then returned to graduate school for her MS and doctorate in Astrophysics at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

    In addition to her research, Dr. Bjorkman has provided significant service to the international astronomical community, and has been heavily involved in education and public outreach. She regularly gives public talks on astronomy, space, and science, and she was the original founder of the long-running “Universe in the Parks” program at the University of Wisconsin.

    She is a co-founder of the Northwestern Ohio chapter of the Association for Women in Science (AWIS) at UToledo. Her awards include a Cottrell Scholar Award, the Sigma Xi/Dion D. Raftopolous Award for Outstanding Research, a UToledo Outstanding Teaching Award, three NASA Group Achievement Awards, and an Ohio Excellence in Education award.